Andre Toussaint,
Bahamian Ballads
(Noxos, 2002)

This collection of recordings by Hatian-born lounge singer Andre Toussaint evokes another place and time. Toussaint was a regular singer in the ritzy tourist hotels in Nassau during the heyday of jet-set tourism in the 1950s and '60s. The liner notes promise "you'll find Toussaint's golden voice transports you to sandy beaches...."

Yes, that does sound pretty hokey, but when he's singing Bahamian songs like "Cu Cu Ru Cu Cu Paloma" and "Calypso Island," Toussaint's smooth, sophisticated style and rich voice -- which has been compared to Harry Bellafonte's -- really does evoke the Caribbean islands and all the scenic cliches your imagination can conjure up.

This collection is more than an aural mini-cruise to exotic places. Some of the 22 songs are Tussaint's, some are his arrangements of traditional songs. A consummate world musician, Toussaint sang in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Spanish. I must admit that I like the English songs the least -- Toussaint's accent gets in the way. My favorites include the timeless "Cest Si Bon," "Perfida" and "Granada." The biggest surprise is "Mi Yiddishe Mama," which he somehow manages to sing without sounding kitschy.

This album isn't for everyone, but is worthwhile checking out if you're interested in world music. There are very few recordings of Toussaint's songs available today, so this is the one to buy if you want to fill a niche in your collection.

- Rambles
written by Janice Snapp
published 7 December 2002

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