discovery of the good taste of bad taste can be very liberating. The man
who insists on high and serious pleasures is depriving himself of pleasure;
he continually restricts what he can enjoy; in the constant exercise of
his good taste he will eventually price himself out of the market, so
to speak. Here Camp taste supervenes upon good taste as a daring and witty
hedonism. It makes the man of good taste cheerful, where before he ran
the risk of being chronically frustrated. It is good for the digestion."
Against Interpretation "Notes on 'Camp'," Note 54 (1964; repr.
last few months, discriminating consumers have been hit by a deluge of
re-issue compilations from various record companies celebrating "Lounge"
music in all of its glory. After hearing an estimated 25 hours of these
re-issues, we have nothing short of a hangover. It's a very mixed blessing.
At last some of our favorite obscure tracks are available on compact disc
and we've discovered some new choice cuts, but we're also confused by
some of the programming choices.
Lounge is is hard to put into words. It's apparently even harder to program.
In addition to Space Age Bachelor Pad, Space Age Pop, Easy Listening,
Exotica and Mood Music we have to add two new distinctions: Jet Set Discotheque
and Arthur Murray's Music for Dancing. It's all related but it's not the
same and we're not sure everyone understands this. Like the distinction
between camp and kitsch, it's hard to explain but there's definitely a
songs in these collections work on many levels. To our heart, the most
enduring aspect is that the artists were 100 percent sincere in their
goals to provide you with hours of listening pleasure. There are some
hack versions and occasionally a reference to the lowest common denominator,
but on the whole you can hear that the musicians really loved what they
were doing, often while yelling "Hey look! No hands!" While
all of the discs succeed on some level, there needs to be a moratorium
on lame liner notes. The clichés run rampant while information on the
featured artists is almost non-existent or glossed over. These collections
need to be judged on several different levels. Is it a decent well-rounded
collection that can be enjoyed as a whole without skipping a lot of tracks?
Are the recordings new to CD or available on other CDs? Is there a theme
to the collection and does the playlist stick to that theme or are the
words "cocktail" or "lounge" just put on the cover
as a marketing tool? Do we feel like drinking and having a swell time
while listening? With this criteria, we have to credit the previously
reviewed History of Space Age Pop series on RCA as being one of
the best. From the notes to the graphics to the distinct focus of the
selections, it's top notch.
Mix collection of three discs on the generally excellent Rhino labels
starts out with a bang and ends in a whimper. Donning some of the worst
graphics on any of the collections reviewed here, the covers feature
contemporary young people frolicking around in their Salvation Army
finest with "hair-don'ts", cigarettes and restaurant-supply
cocktail glasses. The liner notes, however, are the best of show with
solid information on each track. The actual music ranges from some choice
hard-to-find nuggets to overly exposed pop music.
Cocktail Mix, Vol.1:
Bachelor's Guide to the Galaxy
Rhino R2 72239This is an absolutely great collection of off-beat, nutty
and swinging Lounge, mostly Space Age Pop but the well-balanced presentation
runs the gamut. There are lots of previously unissued on CD tracks and
the inclusion of Bob Thompson's exciting orchestra pieces, Star Fire
and Early-Bird Whirly Bird provides welcome relief from the rest
of the antics. A lot of care was taken in the programming. Just when things
start getting silly, compiler Irwin Chausid throws in something more musical,
making this disc essential to your collection.
Cocktail Mix, Vol.2: Martini Madness
Rhino R2 72238
The title of the disc is Martini Madness but the cover features a green
drink, a red drink and something in a brandy snifter. Where's the martini?
The disc is like the cover: something Latin, something go-go and something
silly but no martini. That's about the only thing wrong with the disc.
It doesn't really belong in the Lounge genre but it's great fun and exposes
lots of tracks that haven't been released before on compact disc. Highlights
are Quincy Jones' Soul Bossa Nova, Connie Francis' surprisingly
good Bossa Nova Hand Dance and Cal Tjader's Hot Sauce. All
of the tracks make sense. This would make a great party platter.
Cocktail Mix, Vol. 3: Swingin' Singles
Rhino R2 72239
This is probably the weakest and easily the most confusing of all the
compilations. We found most of the really great cuts already available
elsewhere and most of the unfamiliar ones pretty weak. A fun instrumental
version of Fascinating Rhythm by Don Ralke & His Orchestra
and Mel Tormé's beatnik version of 42nd Street are both tops, as
is Diana Dors' Come by Sunday. There's a lot of pedestrian 1950s
vocalist material that might please new listeners but we were left cold.
When we show the covers and play these discs for our friends, they
often say, "Did you make these?" The Ultra-Lounge series in
Capitol Records is about as close to nirvana as one gets. We should state
that our web site ran a contest in conjunction with Capitol Records to
promote the series, but even if we hadn't, we'd eagerly recommend the
entire series. The Capitol sound is distinct and rather upscale in the
Lounge world, so if you were stuck with these six discs, you wouldn't
get the big picture, but you'd have several hours of great music.
Ultra-Lounge, Vol. 1: Mondo Exotica
Capitol CDP 7248 8 32563 2 7
Let us say here and now: Les Baxter was a genius. Our first exposure to
him was on our parents' ten-inch version of Ritual of the Savage.
By the time we had discovered this disc in their collection of mostly
Lps, we were true believers in the Partridge Family, Janis Joplin and
Melanie (we admit we were a bit of a mess). Hearing Busy Port for
the first time on our trusty console stereo was a revelation. It was so
exciting and we could really see the bustling port with ships unloading
bananas. Our Mater thought us nuts and insisted we put Carole King's Tapestry
back on the turntable but deep within our soul a little bell went off
and we've spent the better part of our reasonably young life trying to
hear that bell again.
Mondo Exotica is like a chorus of bells. It's a first-class collection
of suburban exotica that travels from Polynesia to Latin America and back.
In our mind, we've choreographed countless floor shows, even the costumes.
All the greats are represented and you just can't go wrong with this CD.
Personally we would have left off Yma Sumac's mood-jarring version of
Ultra-Lounge, Vol.2 Mambo Fever
Capitol CDP 7243 8 32564 2 6
With the huge Capitol catalogue available, it would be hard to whittle
down the best of the Latin genre to a single disc. On its own merit, Mambo
Fever is a winner but we can't help but think of all the great Lps
we own that need to be reissued on CD. Nevertheless, tracks like the Peter
Gunn Mambo by Jack "Mr. Bongo" Constanzo, Chihuahua by
Luis Olivera and Don Swan's fiery Tico Tico are sure to get you
dancing. The percussion is always tight and rather authentic while the
arrangements are strictly 1950s Americana. It's a great marriage.
One of the best tracks is Glow Worm Cha Cha Cha by Jackie Davis.
Glow Worm is hardly a number you think of to ignite your Latin
fire and the organ's role in the Mambo movement was non-existent but you
can't help but smile as Davis "rocks out" with the help of a
great steady beat. Serious students of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music
will not be amused, but the rest of us will be dancing.
Ultra-Lounge, Vol. 3: Space Capades
Capitol CDP 7243 8 35176 2 6
This is the closest the Ultra-Lounge series gets to Space Age Bachelor
Pad music and in comparison to the other collections, its focus is the
least specific, but there are many great tracks, starting with the opener,
Gay Spirits. It has the power to put one in a grand mood, no matter
what other circumstances stand in the way. We actually considered buying
a CD/Alarm clock for our boudoir in order to wake up to this anthem!
The song Calcutta may not sound familiar but once you hear the
chorus go "la-la", you're bound to be sent back on a nostalgic
trip. What's really fun about Calcutta is that it's a samba with
no Indian feeling at all. About three-quarters of the way through the
song, there's a break with hand claps and a folk/rock mood and then the
orchestra comes on bigger than ever. It's very infectious and we found
ourselves shaking our head, wondering "What were they thinking?"
Probably not much and that's just fine.
Other highlights include a vocal version of David Rose's Holiday for
Strings (now you can sing along!), Les Baxter's Saturday Night
on Saturn and an epic version of Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
by Joe "Fingers" Carr.
Ultra-Lounge Vol. 4: Bachelor Pad Royale
Capitol CDP 7243 8 35177 2 5
We wish we could be more discriminating but you really have to have this
disc as well. The title suggests you might play this one at your home
but we find it works best in a car, preferably a convertible. The music
goes from Big Band to quasi-James Bond to sexy jazz. There are no duds
here and we like more than a little Cy Coleman's cool and manic Playboy's
Ultra-Lounge Vol. 5: Wild Cool & Swingin'
Capitol CDP 7243 8 35972 2 2
This collection of 1950s and 60s vocals is the least interesting bunch
of the Capitol series. Like Rhino's Swingin' Singles, most of the
really great tracks are available elsewhere, but at least here the guests
all sound as if they had been invited to the same party. New to our ears
is Bobby Darin singing More and Sunday in New York, both
excellent. We would never have purchased a Wayne Newton collection so
we're thrilled at the inclusion of his Danke Schoen because he
swings like his mentor Darin and because the lyrics are so weird.
If your collection of classic vocalists is weak, you probably will enjoy
this mix. The rest of us probably already have most of these tracks.
Ultra-Lounge, Vol.6: Rhapsodesia
Capitol CDP 7243 8 36128 2 6
MrLucky once made a mixed tape called MrLucky's Make Out Session.
We'd almost swear that the programmers at Capitol got a hold of a copy
and proceeded with Rhapsodesia. If tasteful romance is in your
heart, this is the disc to play. Crisp martinis, slow dancing and gentle
ear nibbling are all in order. Hopefully, the George Shearing track with
its gentle rumba beat and perfect arrangement will spark some interest
in re-releasing more of his catalogue, Latin Affair and Latin
Escapade in particular.
One of our favorite film memories is of Kim Novak and William Holden in
Picnic, dancing alone on a river float. It's a hot summer's evening
and they are surrounded by the glow of paper lanterns as they dance to
Moonglow and the Theme from Picnic. You can recreate this
moment yourself with Rhapsodesia.
for a Bachelors Den
This is the granddaddy series of Lounge and is in our view the most
authentic for an overview of the entire category. The well-balanced programs
feature rare treats and familiar standards. Best of all is the balancing
act of featuring "show off" cuts that really were designed to
maximize the new stereo sound and just plain great music. The notes are
concise and not too cute, which is a real plus. Volumes two through six
feature "enhanced CD" files that can be viewed on a computer's
CD-ROM drive while hearing the music but we found this very buggy on our
system and what we could find were only ads for more DCC releases. This
isn't so bad except the programming somehow interferes with the CD player
in our car so the Bachelor's Den series has to be an "at home"
experience for us.
We are reviewing the first four volumes in this series. Also available
are two excellent Arthur Lyman retrospectives that we'll review at a later
Music for a Bachelor's Den
DCC Compact Disc DZS 079
While some of the music on this disc is pretty nutty, it's all solid.
It's worth it alone for the extended version of Moonglow/Theme from
Picnic from the films soundtrack and exotica fans will want the long
version of Martin Denny's seminal Quiet Village.
After one listening, we couldn't get Arthur Lyman's Yellow Bird
out of our head. In fact, just typing the title is starting it up again.
We could have worse problems.
George Shearing's As Long as I Live and Jackie Gleason's Theme
from the Honeymooners are brilliant.
Music for a Bachelor's Den, Vol. 2: Exotica
DCC Compact Disc DZS 092
featured on this disc is generally more low key than on Capitol's Mondo
Exotica, making it a better all around disc to play while enjoying
your exotic drinks and poo poo platters. In fact, this version of exotica
is almost all from the islands. The Cuban standard, Taboo (Tabu),
is adopted by the South Sea Seranaders (and elsewhere by Martin Denny
and Arthur Lyman) probably because praying to a powerful icon translates
into any language. Les Baxter's Simba is actually gorgeous, even
with the camp chorus. A nice touch is using a non-Billy May arranged cut
by Yma Sumac. Much of her recorded output was done with hubby Moises Vivanco
as arranger and composer and this is the only example of their collaborations
on any of these discs.
Music for a Bachelor's Den, Vol.3: Latin Rhythms in Hi-Fi
DCC Compact Disc DZA 093
but enjoyable collection is all over the map, featuring rumbas, authentic
Afro-Cuban music and Lounge camp.
Many listeners will be surprised to hear Miguelito Valdés' superior version
of Babalu. Desi Arnaz took the credit, but Valdés was singing the
song back in the 1930s with his Orchesta Casino de la Playa back in Cuba,
then when he was a vocalist with Xavier Cugat's band and here with mambo
great Machito's Afro Cubans. The Arnaz version is more of a true "Afro"
beat but the slower pace of the Valdés version shows off his vocal chops.
Great for dancing are Hugo Montenegro's Guaglione, John Buzon's
Mambo Rock and in a sexier vein is Absinthe by Duke Ellington.
Space Age Pop is represented by a whacked-out Richard Hyman version of
The Peanut Vendor.
Music for a Bachelor's Den, Vol.4:
Easy Rhythms for Your Cocktail Hour
DCC Compact Disc DZS 094
The title of this disc would leave you to believe it belongs in the same
vein as Rhapsodesia, but the rhythms are anything but easy. Easy
Rhythms is really a collection of mostly goofy novelty numbers that
are fine on their own but would probably give you an edge if played during
your cocktail hour. Many of the cuts are great for testing the separation
of your stereo system and all of them are fun. It's just not very sophisticated
and perhaps easier in small doses.
of any series but relevant to our needs is:
Shaken Not Stirred
HiFi/Rykodisc RCD 50337
Right off the bat we found this disc off due to its silly title: any fool
knows a martini is stirred not shaken, except James Bond, who's a fictional
English character and what do the English know about cocktails anyway?.
Have you ever tried to get ice in an English pub or cocktail lounge? Then
there was the music- what's the connection here? We have jazz in two minute
snippets, Big Band themes, exotica , Latin and folk. It turns out that
the numbers were pulled from the collection of audiophile label HiFi.
Like Campari, which tastes bitter and medicinal at first, Shaken Not
Stirred, has become one of our favorites. True, the jazz pieces could
be expanded and the silly version of If I Had a Hammer could have
been omitted, but we wouldn't miss Arthur Lyman's cool version of Sunny
or the energetic musings of Jack "Bongo" Burger for anything.
The mood is somewhere between Lounge and easy listening and in the end
we think it's very clever.
to take out your CD when the last track, Orchids in the Moonlight,
ends. There's a secret bonus track that's possibly the best thing on the
(Review originally appeared in the Spring 96 Number of MrLucky)