Various: Total Exotica – As Dug by Lux & Ivy (Righteous / Cherry Red Records)
CD | DL
Rel Date: 17th September 2021
Buy HERE (LTW has an affiliate agreement with Sister Ray Records, London)
The companion piece to the Pure Exotica two-CD compilation released back in February 2021, and another link in the ongoing ‘As Dug by Lux & Ivy’ chain, once again all the tracks being remastered from the original sound sources and with sleeve notes written by MOJO magazine’s Dave Henderson.
Exotica’s own superstars Martin Denny, and Arthur Lyman feature heavily, across the thirty-two tracks though there are welcome inclusions from both Elisabeth Waldo, and Les Paul. Each disc focuses on a particular exotica vibe, Disc One looks to the ‘ambience of island life’ opening with the appropriately titled Tobago courtesy of Eden Ahbez, Ahbez lived in California, claiming to actually live under the ‘L’ in the Hollywood sign, and followed a Hindu spiritual guru, his free-spirit lifestyle was decades ahead of, but became an influence upon the original hippie movement within which he was simply known as Ahbe” – prior to that he composed the track Nature Boy which provided Nat King Cole with a #1 hit for eight weeks in 1948. Tobago was released via Del-Fi Records in 1960, and a decent copy will easy cost you £50 to hear this water lapping the isles instrumental snake charmer romp that has an off kilter spacey edge to it. Arthur Lyman’s first contribution is Legend of The Rain – he doesn’t fail in the obvious, the entire track has the sound of a thunderstorm running through it as a glockenspiel weaves its way through some bongos and a smoky jazz piano. Elisabeth Waldo utilises the same thunderstorm to announce Seri Lullaby lifted from her 1959 album Maracatú, this track showcases her bringing together of ancient and contemporary styles, the repetition and use of primitive song structures immediately had me thinking of a more palatable Throbbing Gristle – albeit minus Gen’s lyrical contributions, whilst her second track Dance of The Ustras takes on a more Eastern European feel, with dance firing hand claps.
Martin Denny offers Primieva which takes its base from the tribal drums that drove traditional island dances and weaves in an upbeat jazzy vibe amongst the yelps and animal cries whilst Alex Strodal remains in the vein with Pagan Love Song which immediately sent me off to dig out my Virgin Prunes albums! This particular Pagan Love Song is a bizarre big band sounding effort from an artist I can find absolutely nothing about, equally odd is Train To Ranchipur from The Markko Polo Adventurers which sounds like a collision in the mixing room between an album of train spotters aural delight and an yet more snake charmers, weirder still is Yma Sumac a Peruvian soprano who warbles, and wails over this glacially slow repeated drum pattern with all sorts of ominous noises in the background – this really has to be heard to be believed.
August Colon deserves a mention for never bothering to change his surname, aside from that he was a backing vocalist for Martin Denny but went out on his own with Tabu lifted from his 1959 album The Savage Beat of Augie Colon taking on a more Latin rhythm than Denny’s work. Leo Addeo was an RCA in-house arranger with a penchant for the tropical, his Adventures In Paradise is all soporific slide guitar – but I do want to hear his Play Christmas Carols album!
Disc Two looks at the tunes any discerning bachelor pad would have wafting from its hi-fi, Mel Henke’ The Twisters opens proceedings – Henke was a jazz pianist who later worked for the Disney TV Dept and composed the music for commercials, and as with the very suggestive The Twisters added sound effects, and snatches of dialogue to his musical passages; this from his 1962 album La Dolce Henke: The Mad Musical World Of Mel Henke – the cover of which features Mel as a reclining Roman Emperor surrounded by 4 scantily clad ladies variously feeding him grapes and stroking a lyre; The Twisters sound like Soul Bossa Nova (released the same year) but with breathy lyrics Finbarr Saunders would be proud to utter!
Ahmed Abdul Malik’s African Bossa Nova leads us to distant shores with what is essentially a nod to what would later be termed as world music, albeit through a jazzy lens, whilst his second track Oud Blues does exactly what it says on the can over a nice whispy jazz fingered bass. Cal Tjader was an American Latin jazz musician best known for his talents on the vibraphone, but as displayed here with Algres Conga he was also an accomplished drum and bongo player; this track is just bongo and sounds like a field recording right down to the almost dirt floor shuffling! Martin Denny offers up Mau Mau which is equally bongo heavy, whilst Bill Russo and Esquivel lean to a more big band, even lounge sound, you can almost feel the crimplene and shag pile. Yusef Lateef was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist, and composer who use of non-western instruments such as the bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, xun, arghul and koto made him a rarity in jazz circles – he himself disliked to be hemmed in under the jazz term, no doubt some of those instruments feature on his Prayer To The East which has an easy-listening tinge to proceedings, ahead of closer Jardin De La Noche courtesy of Robert Drasnin who is perhaps better known for writing the scores to the television series The Twilight Zone, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible, and Lost In Space – this from his 1959 album, the exploitative titled Voodoo Exotic Music From Polynesia And The Far East, and does sound like you have tumbled into a Tiki bar to be confronted by an olive skinned temptress!
Another interesting compilation from Righteous, though on the quite I’m hoping the journey into Exotica is now complete – lets get back to the more palatable gore hound delights!
Disc One – Island Life
01 – Eden Ahbez – Tobago
02 – Arthur Lyman – Legend Of The Rain
03 – MarEn Denny – Ebb Tide
04 – Elisabeth Waldo – Seri Lullaby
05 – Arthur Lyman – Return To Paradise
06 – MarEn Denny – PrimiEva
07 – Alex Strodal – Pagan Love Song
08 – The Markko Polo Adventurers – Train To Ranchipur
09 – Jimmy Namaro Trio – Balikpapan
10 – Ethel Azama – Green Fire
11 – Yma Sumac – Hampi (Medicine)
12 – Babtunde Olatunji – Mystery Of Love
13 – Augie Colon – Tabu
14 – Arthur Lyman – Happy Voodoo
15 – MarEn Denny – Jungle Flower
16 – Arthur Lyman – Pua CarnaEon
17 – Leo Addeo – Adventures In Paradise
18 – Henry Mancini – Oﬀ Shore
19 – Esquivel – Nature Boy
20 – Elisabeth Waldo – Dance of the Nustas
Disc Two Bachelor Pad Jazzotica
01 – Mel Henke – The Twisters
02 – Ahmed Abdul Malik – African Bossa Nova
03 – Cal Tjader – Alegres Conga
04 – MarEn Denny – Mau Mau
05 – Johnny Richards – Kele Kele
06 – Bill Russo – Envy
07 – Esquivel – Night And Day
08 – Phil Moore – Mood For You
09 – Ahmed Abdul Malik – Oud Blues
10 – Yusef Lateef – Prayer To The East
11 – Les Baxter – Blue Jungle
12 – Robert Drasnin – Jardin De La Noche
All words by Phil Newall. More writing by Phil can be found at his Louder Than War Author’s Archive
Various: Total Exotica – As Dug by Lux & Ivy – album review