London Is the Place for Me
is a remarkable collection of the varied and irrepressible music that London's calypsonians were producing in the first half of the 1950s. Lord Kitchener
himself sings on nine of the 20 tracks while Lord Beginner has five and the rest are shared between Lord Invader, Mighty Terror, Young Tiger, the Lion and someone who bucked the trend by simply calling himself Timothy. Apart from the different voices what impresses most is the variety in both words and music. The best-known of these songs is surely Lord Beginner's "Victory Test Match" (...cricket, lovely cricket, at Lord's where you find it...) but the others cover subjects ranging from landladies and the Underground to independence in Africa, the colour problem, a hurricane in Jamaica and, very topically, the Coronation. The record also exhibits extraordinary musical skill. Such fine Caribbean jazz musicians as saxophonist Bertie King, trumpeter Cyril Blake and clarinettist Freddie Grant have ample opportunities to shine and on some tracks the music seems to foreshadow the Brazilian bossa nova's meeting with jazz a few years later or the joyous sound of the African Jazz Pioneers
. Jazzmen with West Indian origins continue to flourish these days but this sort of wide-ranging approach to lyrics and their content seems to have died out. So this release is a timely reminder that (as Bob Dylan also demonstrated subsequently) there is more to life than romance and sex and can be much more to lyrics than the "love" and lust that preoccupies most commercial music. --Graham Colombé
Long before there was reggae, or even ska, the official soundtrack of black Britain was calypso. Not just records coming from "back home" into newly-arrived immigrant communities, but a genuine London/Port Of Spain hybrid with some of the Caribbean's greatest entertainers composing songs about Lyon's Corner Houses, riding on the Underground, nosey landladies and--of course--the British weather. Calypso provided a vibrant, exciting, often hilarious commentary on 1950s London life. This music couldn't have happened anywhere else, and yet it is customarily forgotten. Until now, that is. Honest Jon's has unearthed recordings by the likes of Lord Kitchener, Lord Beginner and The Lion and put them together as London Is The Place For Me
. A timely reminder, in such proximity to the 40th anniversary of Jamaican independence, that 50 years ago the voice of Britain's West Indian communities had a distinctly Trinidadian lilt. Spin a few of these tunes and you'll find out as much about life in the mother country in those days as you could from any textbook--and you can dance to them.