2007   APRIL 28   #118

The Montego Beach Hotel Calypsonians

1. Maintenance (2:45)
2. Bloodshot Eyes (2:44)
3. Jamaica Fashion (2:31)

I found this album at a flea market in Grand Bend, Ontario a few years back. I didn't have particularly high hopes for it (a hotel band?), but as it turns out, one of the Montego Beach Hotel Calypsonians (the singer) was a fellow by the stage name of Lord Lebby. Lebby was one of the pioneers of Mento, a rural Jamaican folk music that both preceded and helped to inspire reggae and ska. Performed on guitar, banjo, bamboo flute, maracas, bongos and a crude portable piano called a rumba box (the second guy from the left on the back cover photo is holding one), the music on this album is charmingly ramshackle, the Jamaican country music of its day.

A lot of the material on this album, aside from being pretty good, is also quite risqué for stuff that was, presumably, performed for the benefit of well-to-do tourists. "Maintenance" is the heartwarming tale of a guy who would rather be locked up in jail than help pay to support any children he might father.

Fortunately for him, the girl ("related closely to ink") who claimed he was the father of her baby gave birth to a child "whiter than snow". Her mother said this was because she was drinking Milk of Magnesia every day, but the singer, unconvinced, concludes "For me to mind a child, well you got to know/That scamp had to be born singing Calypso". And "Bloodshot Eyes" is downright ghastly, a kiss-off song addressed to an ex-girlfriend who got beaten up by the guy she left the singer for. It's kind of disturbing to imagine tourists happily sipping their daiquiris and tapping their feet to lyrics like "For your eyes look like two cherries/In a glass of buttermilk" and "Now you better shut your peepers/Before you bleed to death". On the other hand, "Jamaica Fashion" - a lighthearted tune singing the praises of a few pretty girls scattered throughout the Caribbean - has a great flute solo and absolutely no objectional content.

- Contributed by: Beau Levitt

Images: Front Cover, Back Cover, Label

Media: LP
Album: Souvenir Album
Label: Montego Beach Hotel Gift Shop
Catalog: LOML.502
Credits: Maintenance (Composed: Joseph Clemendor; Copyright owned by Stanley Motta Ltd.), Bloodshot Eyes (Composer: Mann-Glover; Copyright owned by Vogue Record Co.), Jamaica Fashion (Composer: Member of Montego Beach Hotel Band)
Date: 1950's