Pure Exotica album review

Various: Pure Exotica As Dug By Lux & Ivy (Righteous / Cherry Red)
Dbl CD | DL
Rel Date 19th February 2021

Buy HERE (LTW has an affiliate agreement with Sister Ray Records, London)

Another compilation from Righteous that is aimed at the fervent Cramps fanbase; tagged on the sleeve ‘As dug by Lux and Ivy’ – this one however will really test both the Marketing Dept. and the taste buds of the gore hounds out there!

Exotica; a much mis-understood musical sub-genre, written off by many who’s only real exposure would be to the novelty efforts that sound-tracked swinging 60’s bachelor pad film scenes – at the other end of the scale exotica can track its lineage from experimental jazz and its willingness to include modern orchestration alongside studio wizardry; it’s essentially easy-listening lounge music with added ethnic sounds blended into pop, the sort of thing that evokes far flung traveller destinations – a world away from the bug eyed rockabilly, doo wop and induced madness of the previous Righteous releases.

All the tracks are remastered from the original sound sources with sleeve notes by MOJO magazine’s Dave Henderson.

This two CD compilation includes contributions from the major artists of the genre, including Martin Denny, Les Baxter, and Arthur Lyman. Denny is credited with creating and titling the genre; a child prodigy he studied piano under Lester Spitz and Isadore Gorn, and later spent many years touring South America with the Don Dean Orchestra. Following a spell with the US Air Force he subsequently relocated to Hawaii and whilst performing there he realised that the croaking of bull frogs fitted perfectly with Denny’s exotic musical outlook; these sounds were then supplemented with traditional South American instrumentation and Exotica was born.

Denny has four of his compositions included on Disc One – Exotica Lite, opening with ‘Bali Ha’I’, this captures the genre perfectly, you literally unwind as the music washes over you, the bird calls, the animal yelps, which leads perfectly into Arthur Lyman’ ‘Magic Islands’ – Lyman was initially a member of Denny’s group, playing the wonderfully named vibraphone, though on this quicker paced piece he draws more on his jazz background. Lyman has another couple of tracks featured including the suitably spooky ‘Moon Over A Ruined Castle’, and ‘Legend of The Rain’. Lyman actually had a Top 10 hit in the early 60’s with ‘Yellow Bird’ which isn’t included – aside from Denny’s ‘Quiet Village’ these were the only Exotica tracks to really trouble the charts.

‘Ebb Tide’ from Living Strings, sounds like the soundtrack to an early 60’s MGM romp featuring an array of buxom ‘island beauties’; Living Strings were essentially arranger Johnny Douglas who has been responsible for more than 100 albums and more strangely has two releases credited to Living Strings and Noel Edmunds!! He also has the track ‘Ochun’ included here under his own name lifted from his 1958 album ‘The Rites of Diablo’ which itself is a sought after release and saw Douglas interpret the rituals of the Bantu people of Southern Africa, with an array of percussionists and multiple vocalists in a suitably ‘tribal’ manner.

Les Baxter was another pioneer of exotica, once a member of Mel Torme’s band, he also worked on early hits for Nat King Cole – he differentiated his sound with influence from Africa, Polynesia and South America and introduced a theremin into the instrumentation. Three tracks are featured, including the darker ‘Papagayo’, and the effects heavy ‘Dawn Under The Sea’ – another aspect of exotica was the use of striking sleeves, Baxter’s ‘The Passions’ being a case in point, everything was lavishly packaged in fire lit tropical scenes, semi clad temptresses inviting you in.

The fantastically named Jack Fascinato is included with ‘Foggy Recollections’, this from his 1959 album ‘Music From A Surplus Store’ which was released via Capital Records and is now regarded as a space-pop classic. Originally a high school music teacher, he served in WW II before forming a jazz ensemble upon discharge. Fascianato was clearly a visionary, the ‘Surplus Stores’ album was composed and performed utilising sound effects from items found in local junk stores; he went onto have a hugely successful career as a jingle score writer, composing hundreds prior to his death in 1994.

Stan Kenton appears courtesy of ‘La Suerte De Los Tontos (Fortune Of Fools)’ which was released in 1956as apart of his ‘Cuban Fire’ album; Kenton was a controversial figure, lauded by some yet reviled by many jazz purists for his desire to push boundaries; In 1950 he put together, the 39-piece Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra that included 16 strings, a woodwind section, and two French horns!

Righteous have brought together an excellent selection of material that showcases all aspects of Exotica, it is a brave release, the 34 collected tracks will certainly challenge the boundaries of your average Cramps fan, that said there is enough here to delight or just plain confuse, and maybe even link into a couple of Lux and Ivy’s own compositions.

Track Listing:

DISC ONE – EXOTICA LITE
1. BALI HA’I – Martin Denny
2. MAGIC ISLANDS – Arthur Lyman
3. EBB TIDE – The Living Strings
4. BALSA BOAT – Elisabeth Waldo
5. MOON OF MANAKOORA – Henry Mancini
6. DAY DREAM – Phil Moore
7. I TALK TO THE TREES – Ruth Welcome
8. VOODOO DREAMS – Martin Denny
9. SINGING BAMBOOS – Martin Denny
10. PAPAGAYO – Les Baxter
11. CARAVAN – Tak Shindo
12. PALM SPRINGS – Ray Anthony
13. TEMPLE DANCE – Webley Edwards
14. STONE GOD – Martin Denny
15. ALGIERS – Bianchi
16. MOON OVER A RUINED CASTLE – Arthur Lyman
17. NOW IS THE HOUR – Leo Addeo
18. DAWN UNDER THE SEA – Les Baxter

DISC TWO – EXOTICA DARK
1. ROOM 43 – Ray Anthony
2. DESPAIR – Les Baxter
3. OCHUN – Johnny Richards
4. HAIL THE KING – Olatunji
5. POLYNESIAN SUITE – Buddy Collette (with narration by Robert Sorrels)
6. BESAME MUCHO – Ralph Font
7. LEGEND OF THE RAIN – Arthur Lyman
8. VOODOO – Robert Drasnin
9. HEAD HUNTERS – John McFarland
10. FOGGY RECOLLECTIONS – Jack Fascinato
11. HYSTERIA – Richard Shores
12. 125TH STREET PROPHET – Phil Moore
13. LA SUERTE DE LOS TONTOS (FORTUNE OF FOOLS) – Stan Kenton
14. PERDIDO – Marty Gold
15. ANGER – Bill Russo
16. INCANTATION – Richard Hayman

More writing by Phil can be found at his Louder Than War Author’s Archive

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here