The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter
Capitol CDP 724383702527 Lounge/Easy Listening
can one say about perfection? Thy name is Les Baxter?
can arguably be called the Father of Exotica music. Authentic beats,
influenced melodies and Hollywood orchestrations and vocal choruses
all meet for this 1950s suburban view of the world beyond the back
yard. It's hard to understand how anyone who produced such camp
music can also be so good. As a vocal chorus, with all the soul
of the New Christy Minstrels, wails above a barrage of "jungle"
beats and a jazzy saxophone, it's hard not be sucked into this unique
easy to imagine "sis" in a black leotard, pony tail high
atop her blond head, doing her Afro-Cuban jazz routines, or an urban
bachelor making the moves on his stewardess date by candlelight,
or Dad, who's relaxing in his Barca-Lounger, listening intently
as he enjoys an exotic "tone poem". Just when things get
camp and slightly out of control, Baxter throws in a riff or melody
that's so musical, you wonder how he manages the balancing act.
two-CD set is just about perfect at capturing the more exotic aspects
of Les Baxter's personalities. From the cover to the liner notes
to the actual remastering, it's all great. Of course (as always),
we'd have preferred a re-issue of entire albums, but we're more
than happy to make do with The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter.
We heard some grumblings about how the sound had been doctored from
the originals but we're amazed at the consistency and clarity. The
Capitol Records production values are state-of-the-1950s-art and
the recordings are so deep you wonder how far we've really come
in audio technology. Our one gripe about this and many of the albums
in the Ultra-Lounge series is the irritating habit of making
medleys out of two or three unrelated tracks. It adds nothing and
ruins the integrity of the original recordings.
sadly admit that we actually have friends we consider quite dear
who don't "get" Les Baxter. It's sad, but we pity them,
really. Put on Baxter's nifty version of Taboo at top volume,
and allow yourself to be carried through a dense tropical forest
by a train of elephants. Ahead you see strange lights through the
mist. The mist clears and reveals a fantastic treasure of gold coins
and fabulous jewels which are yours by birthright. A (rather good-looking)
slave helps you descend from your elephant and you examine your
newfound wealth when all of a sudden the angry Gods above strike
you with lightning and you expire, clutching the large medallion
you'd heard about from the wise but stern medicine man back at your
blame us, it's the music.
review appeared Winter 1996
EMI (Brasil) 7243 8 41441 2B Brasil
of us know Carlinhos Brown from his Afro-Brazilian group Timbalada
or Bill Laswell's great Bahia Black project. We think he's
one of the most exciting things to come out of Brasil in years.
Always close to Bahian roots, he experiments with popular Brasilian
music in a unique way that sometimes misses the mark but it's never
expecting Timbalada or jazz will be a bit disappointed by this new
solo album but that's to miss the point. It's pop music with a Brazilian
edge and after a week or two in our CD player, we still can't get
enough of it. The best tracks come later when he does the Bahian
blocco thing with dozens of pounding drums, but there's great singing
and songwriting throughout. A common complaint about foreign music
to Anglo ears is the tendency towards sameness, but that's hardly
the case here. Brown goes from straight ahead pop to samba. On the
sublime Quixabeira, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa and Maria Bethâna
sing along with Brown, and Marisa Monte guests on the equally wonderful
Seo Ze. It has the potential to be an all-star mess but it's
not. In fact, it's just grand.
Dimeola Plays Piazzolla
Blue Moon 2-92744 Jazz/New Age
a lad, when dining in a better San Francisco restaurant with our
dear pater, we once took a chance and ordered sweetbreads. You may
or may not know, but sweetbreads are the thymus glands of a baby
cow. We'll never forget the knowing nod from our waiter as he said,
"Very good, sir". We felt as if we'd been let into an
exclusive club that knows better. The sweetbreads themselves were
pretty good but it probably was all the cream and stock that appealed
to our chubby soul. We ordered sweetbreads in several other fine
establishments and rarely failed to receive the knowing nod, indicating
that indeed, we had ordered the correct item.
ramble is to illustrate the point that Astor Piazolla is like sweetbreads.
He revolutionized the tango in Argentina and was criticized and
later celebrated for it. "Those who know" are in a pretty
exclusive club because he's hardly a household word, but the mention
of his name gets the "knowing nod".
always wanted to like Al DiMeola but the recordings we've been exposed
to are either a pseudo-flamenco mixed with 1970s fusion or airy
fairy guitar ramblings with no direction.
nothing earth-shattering occurs on DiMeola Plays Piazzolla,
it's definitely a best case scenario for New Age music. Piazolla's
melodies and the tango rhythm keep things disciplined while DiMeola
shows off his chops. Dino Saluzzi on bandoneon is great throughout
and the recording is rich and full, despite the fact that the sessions
occurred between 1990 and 1996 at different studios.
this album can be embraced by New Age fans but the rest of us can
play it loud and follow the interesting arrangements and DiMeola's
The Young Flamencos (Los Jovenes Flamencos)
Hannibal HNCD 1370 Spain
really do love the Gypsy Kings and think the world of their talent,
but have you noticed how many otherwise fine restaurants play nothing
but their first album? Honestly, they have several other fine discs
and the whole genre of Spanish pop with a Moorish attitude includes
more than their first release. The Young Flamencos is another
great example of this music that ranges from traditional flamenco
to fiery Spanish pop that is quite a few notches above the duo Azucar
It's a treat to be exposed to this music. If MTV Unplugged
wasn't so busy trying to legitimize mediocre rock bands, they could
take a look at what inspired acoustic music can be. These tracks
are new and exciting. The Moorish influence is there, but the modern
vocals are much easier for non-flamenco fans to digest.
Bachelor in Paradise
Rhino Movie Music/Turner Classic Movies
R2 72464 Soundtracks/Lounge
recent converts to the musical genre of Space Age Bachelor Pad Music
are expecting wacky arrangements and inspired lunacy, they will
be disappointed in this Rhino collection of 18 tracks either from
or associated with M-G-M films. That's the bad news. The good news
is that they will learn that there was an even more omnipresent
Bachelor who wasn't Space Age. He drank martinis instead of banana
daiquiris, he wore a white dinner jacket instead of a sharkskin
suit and he made out with icy blondes instead of cheesy bimbos.
Bachelor in Paradise is a near perfect collection of music
a typical movie bachelor may have used for making time with a dreamy
it's on the mark, it's pretty amazing. The best tracks are the instrumentals
by the M-G-M Studio Orchestra. Muted horns and silvery strings are
accompanied by a subtle yet steady beat. You could easily play Bachelor
in Paradise as background music for cocktails or an adult dinner
party. You just feel pretty swank drinking and holding witty conversation
with these tunes playing. Suddenly your world is in vivid Technicolor.
favorite track is Fashion Show from the film North by
Northwest. It's really background music but it swings in a gentle
effective way and at five minutes and 18 seconds, it's just about
the time needed to finish your first martini.
you find yourself confused by some of the tracks, you need to read
the album credits carefully. Neal Hefti's Over the Rainbow
sounds wrong with its vague rock beat and Percy Faith-like arrangement.
Yes, the original melody was from an M-G-M musical, The Wizard
of Oz, but this track has nothing to do with shawl collars on
a tuxedo. Ol' Man River fares better with its cha-cha-cha
treatment but associating it with the rest of the concept seems
a push. Personally we would have dropped the M-G-M connection, but
we're probably nitpicking. If you're up for some easy listening
in the best sense, you can't really go wrong with Bachelor in
Smith and Louis Prima
Twist with Keely Smith/Doin' the Twist with Louis Prima
Jasmine JASCD 334 Vocals
is pretty much high camp. These two 1962 releases were recorded
separately by Louis and Keely to cash in on the popularity of the
twist. Anyone expecting the thrill of Louis doing Just a Gigolo
or Keely melting butter on It's Magic will be pretty
horrified. Still, fans should consider this re-release because quite
a few of the numbers are worthwhile.
approaches the twist with a more rock-and-roll feel that probably
sounded somewhat dated even in 1962. I Know is a pretty good
1960s pop song and her version of What'd I Say is actually
great. Twistin' Cowboy Joe is a clever take on the old chestnut
Ragtime Cowboy Joe. On the whole, Keely sounds pretty silly
taking on a teenage sensation like the twist but she's in good voice
and now and then it works.
version of the twist is closer to boogie woogie at times and he
remains closer to his own sound than Keely. This is partly due to
the fact that his band is again Sam Butera and the Witnesses. Still,
there's not a lot of heat generated and he sounds almost bored.
all very silly and not bad but we can't quite recommend it.
Mango 1625399342 World beat
Kidjo's infectious "world beat" hit Batonga was
the kind of number that got under your skin. A lot of African musicologists
were horrified but the rest of us were dancing. What Kidjo does
is not folkloric and it's not even very African except for the language
and the reliance on beat, but it sounds great. This new album is
even less ethnic, which seems fine for the dance numbers, but things
grind to a halt on the few ballads. Almost every track has a moment
that's so clever and new, you wonder how she gets away with it.
of the world music we get is recorded in Paris and too often that
means taking away the edge. Aye needs to be judged as a Pop
record, and we bet you'll be dancing, too.