“Ghetto Vibes” by King Short Shirt - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1976Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

What a glorious offering from the 34-year-old McLean Emmanuel, surely one of the very finest Calypsonians ever to emerge from the Caribbean, never mind Antigua. He never holds back for a second – with gusto, integrity and skill he delivers his message in a killer style every time, no matter whether it’s light-hearted fun or laying sticks of gelignite ‘neath the St. John’s parliament. This set gets off to a flyer with “Tourist Leggo”, a massive hit for him at home and a song which even placed second at Trinidad and Tobago's Road March, causing such a stir that it forced that country's authorities to initiate a ban on all foreign tunes from the competition! It’s really quite hilarious, as Shorty, in a good-natured fashion, takes the mickey out of a “pretty little yankee tourist… she says she’s come down from Halifax… jumping without timing, singing with a strange harmon-eeee”. As a whitey at Sunsplash I’ve been that tourist, I’ve got to laugh.

West Indies pride is to the fore on “Vivian Richards” with the unforgettable chorus “No bowler holds a terror for Vivian Richards!” and classic lines such as “He don’t give a France how you bowling him, fast or slowly, you’re going back to the boundary”. Preserving cultural heroes is important to Shorty and he’s positively raging at the treatment of a pan band on “Hands Off Harmonites”, which blasts the politically motivated judges from the ’75 Panorama Finals where the Harmonites Steel Band were placed second to last, apparently a travesty of justice: “Insulting our competition… humiliating a steel band… flow, tempo and rhythm… what more could you want from a steel band… the sweetest band in the land”. Shorty’s been stood up on “No Promises”: “gal, I walk the whole a de beach like a crazy man and all I find was shell and sand”. Hee-hee, he has a way with his storytelling which gets you onside with all of his issues; personal, political and otherwise.

Side 1 closes with “Power And Authority”, which opens by quoting an old Lord Acton proverb: “Power rules the world today and power corrupts they say and absolute power corrupts you absolutely” before going on to blast the uncaring Antiguan parliamentarians for encouraging and being a part of the massive social inequality prevalent in the land. The first side of this LP is so breathtakingly good that you fear it can’t possibly be maintained. However, “Nobody Go Run Me” opens side 2 sensationally with a defiant fist that makes it clear – London’s not the place for him, or his Mumma, or his Puppa, or his woman, or his pickney dem. It could almost be the new national anthem for Antigua. I’m proud for him. We’ve really got no rights to expect any more from this amazing LP but “When” defies these expectations once again. It’s a stupendous statement in so many ways – the delivery, the lyrics and the music is all first class. “WHEN will mankind turn from their evil? WHEN will the children rise and shine? WHEN will crime violence and corruption, WHEN will they leave the hearts of mankind?” Shorty feels like he could SCREAM, we FEEL that. Towards the end, a mournful harmonica, some spoken word and some of his trademark brrrrrrrs send a shiver down my spine.

What an album, completely amazing. It dances, it laughs, it scowls, it barks and it’s all down to the incredible King Short Shirt. If you only own one Caribbean album it has to be “Ghetto Vibes”. It has everything – what more could you want from the neatest Calypsonian in the land?

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [03:50] 9.3.png King Short Shirt - Tourist Leggo (Mclean Emmanuel) Caribbean
A2 [03:21] 8.8.png King Short Shirt - Vivian Richards (Mclean Emmanuel) Caribbean
A3 [03:57] 8.3.png King Short Shirt - Hands Off Harmonites (Mclean Emmanuel) Caribbean
A4 [03:20] 8.9.png King Short Shirt - No Promises (Mclean Emmanuel) Caribbean
A5 [03:36] 9.0.png King Short Shirt - Power & Authority (Mclean Emmanuel) Caribbean
B1 [05:00] 9.1.png King Short Shirt - Nobody Go Run Me (Mclean Emmanuel) Caribbean
B2 [04:20] 7.1.png King Short Shirt - Inspite Of It All (Mclean Emmanuel) Caribbean
B3 [04:11] 9.0.png King Short Shirt - When (Mclean Emmanuel) Caribbean
B4 [03:31] 6.8.png King Short Shirt - Fantasy (Mclean Emmanuel) Caribbean
B5 [03:42] 6.4.png King Short Shirt - Carnival ’76 (Mclean Emmanuel) Caribbean

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