Thursday, July 21, 2011


YEAR: 1996

LABEL: Capitol

TRACK LISTING: Swamp Fire - Martin Denny, Moon Mist - The Out-Islanders, Caravan - 80 Drums Around the World, Hypnotique - Martin Denny, Atlantis - Les Baxter, Alika - Webley Edwards, Misirlou - Martin Denny, Lust - Bas Sheva & Les Baxter, Hana Maui - Chick Floyd & His Orchestra, Voodoo Dreams/Voodoo - Les Baxter, Jungle Madness - Martin Denny, Babalu - Yma Sumac, Simba - Les Baxter, The Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish - Martin Denny, Bali Ha'i - Tak Shindo, Pyramid of the Sun - Les Baxter, Quiet Village - Martin Denny, Wimoweh - Yma Sumac

IMPRESSIONS: Something happened in the mid-90's. A huge interest in so-called "Lounge" music or "Mondo Exotica" or "Space Age Bachelor Pad" music swept the nation. Suddenly that long dismissed and discarded music from the 50's and early 60's became vastly popular. Old LPs went for top dollar and forgotten albums suddenly appeared on compact disc. One of the strongest sparks for this renewed interest was probably the two volumes of books entitled "Re/Search: Incredibly Strange Music"; two of my musical bibles. Capitol Records scanned its vaults to come up with a new series of cds entitled "Ultra-Lounge" which featured various artists per cd featuring a different theme. The first cd in the series was "Mondo Exotica" featuring one of my favourite "genres" of lounge music: the tiki tropical exotica sound. This is one of the best "samplers" I can think of to introduce anyone to this particular style of music and one of my all-time favourite albums. The vibraphones, the screeching parrots, the bongos, and all the other "exotic" instruments bring the smell of tiki torches and the taste of tropical cocktails vividly to life via this delightful naive music. Sure, the cd is a little heavy on Les Baxter and Martin Denny but two more proficient practitioners of the genre cannot be found. This is only an introductory sampler, after all, which hopefully will open up the vast exotica landscape for a curious listener. Mix yourself a cocktail with plenty of fruit and umbrellas, recline in the bath and listen to this ultimate brain soother.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Hypnotique - Martin Denny, Alika - Webley Edwards, Babalu - Yma Sumac, Simba - Les Baxter, Bali Ha'i - Tak Shindo, Pyramid of the Sun - Les Baxter, Quiet Village - Martin Denny, Wimoweh - Yma Sumac

FACT SHEET: The "exotica" phenomenon originated mainly from returning G.I.'s in World War II who had gained a taste for all things South Pacific. The statehood of Hawaii also spurred a huge interest in everything tropical and exotic; backyard luaus with wooden tiki idols and tiki torches were all the rage. A mania for exotic cocktails spread across the nation's bars sparked by the innovative creativity of Don the Beachcomber. Also the new technology of "high fidelity" and "stereophonic sound" found a perfect medium with the multi-instrumental tiki lounge music testing ones speakers like nobody's business. The Grammy-winning Ultra-Lounge cd series is still going albeit only in online download format. All the tracks naturally are culled from Capitol Records' library of master tapes. "Swamp Fire" is from Martin Denny's c. 1958 LP "Afro-Desia". "Moon Mist" is from the Out-Islanders' 1961 LP "Polynesian Fantasy"; the song (written by Johnny Mercer and Duke Ellington) features vocalisations by Loulie Jean Norman (Vampira on the 1959 "Spike Jones In Stereo" LP) and Charlie Barnet on saxophone. Duke Ellington's perennial "Caravan" is a previously unreleased track from 1961 by 80 Drums Around the World. Martin Denny's superb "Hypnotique" is from his c. 1967 album "A Taste of India". "Atlantis" is from Les Baxter's 1953 LP "Kaleidoscope". "Alika" is from Webley Edwards' 1960 LP "Hawaii Calls: Exotic Instrumentals". "Misirlou" and "Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish" are from Martin Denny's c. 1960 LP "Exotic Percussion". "Lust" is from the Les Baxter/Bas Sheva LP "The Passions" from 1953. "Hana Maui" is from Chick Floyd's 1959 "Little Grass Shack" album. "Voodoo Dreams/Voodoo" is actually a medley of two Les Baxter tracks edited together: the former from Les Baxter's 1959 "Jungle Jazz" album and the latter song an unreleased track from 1958. "Jungle Madness" is from Martin Denny's 1959 "Hypnotique" album. "Babalu" is an Yma Sumac single from 1952. "Simba" is from Les Baxter's 1955 LP "Tamboo!". "Bali Ha'i" is from Tak Shindo's superb 1959 "Brass and Bamboo" album and is my favourite version of the song. The exquisite "Pyramid of the Sun" is from Les Baxter's 1959 "The Sacred Idol" album. The exotica classic "Quiet Village" was originally written and recorded by Les Baxter but it's Martin Denny's 1958 version from his "Exotica" album which was the smash hit and remains the classic version. Yma Sumac's "Wimoweh" is another Capitol single from 1952. The Ultra-Lounge cds also featured recipes for two tropical cocktails in each cd booklet; the Mondo Exotica cd thoughtfully includes recipes for a "Blue Hawaii" and a "Zombie". Yum!

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