Good Music We Can Know

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sophisticated Daydream of Exotica: Les Baxter- Tamboo! (1954)


When I was a younger man, I picked this record up at a waterside thrift store in Maine. I had heard Martin Denny's Exotica several times and it had begun to pique my interest in the genre, but I still had no idea who Les Baxter even was. Baxter, I now know, is basically the main genius of Exotica. At his best, he elevates the escapist vacation and musical tourism of of the genre to the level of sublime. It is the complexities of this, his best album, that initially made me believe in this type of music as an art beyond kitsch-- a notion I now can refute entirely.

Baxter was, at heart, an unpredictable experimentalist. And while no one could be too surprised at the kind of music to be found on Tamboo, dig a little deeper and you find unbelievably complex and delicate arrangements perhaps unlike anything else he has ever done. Cinematic, evocative, and lushly exotic with velvety strings, deep dark drums and scampering bongos, haunting flutes, and "native" instruments lurking in every shadow... ominous yet friendly vocal arrangements with that heads-of-Easter-Island sound, complemented by extremely white, lovely female harmonies, humming and ahh-ing with heart melting loveliness.

This is too good to be easy listening, too complex to be a musical vacation: this is a sonic adventure, exploring a mangrove swamp in a dugout canoe, a jeep caravan across the Serengeti, hunting Tigers in India, lounging with island girls, searching for Aztec idols... this is an amalgamation of the perfect journey through all lands exotic; India, Africa, South America, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, all rolled into one cleverly forged piece of popular music for white American dads. This is a forgotten masterpiece, and the tip top of the genre.

Too bad: I've been asked to remove this link by the copyright owner. I highly encourage you to go buy this album or find it for yourself. It's out there, and it's worth the trouble.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

God damn it! I really wanted this!

... and I found it, with a simple search. Thanks for the tip, if not the link. too bad it got taken down.

Anonymous said...

This really is the best! Do you like it better than Ritual? I do, but most people consider ritual to be the zenith.

Flash Strap said...

Yes, I do like it better than Ritual. Which is not to knock Ritual of the Savage, especially as a perfectly crystallized manifesto for the genre, but Tamboo! is just a perfect record: focused, complex, yet simple, and consistently perfect sounding. What can I say? I'm in love with Tamboo!

Sandra Canzone said...

I just rediscovered a piece of musical heaven. As a very young girl I remember growing up to the exotic sounds of Les Baxter, Martin Denny and the sultry fluidity of Bob Romeo's flute. My mother and her brother grew up in a strict italian household where only classical music was tolerated. As adults they ventured into musically forbidden pastures searching for new and exciting sounds that were more sophisticated than radio standards. I was a fortunate bystander being exposed to these harmonically lush and rhythmic masterpieces and such a tender age. They truly had an influence on my own musical tastes in later years. How ironic to discover that Tamboo had been released in my birthyear. I enjoyed reading the articulate critique of this album.

Mitch Lee said...

There is a lot to like in Exotica. For me this Les Baxter's Tamboo and Ritual of the Savage are tops. Please give a listen to Jungle Jalopy some time and then sample a little Philip Glass; it hardly matters what--unlike Les Baxter! Les Baxter was experimenting with repetition and metrical variations that became genres 30 years later! NO, I am not saying he influenced Glass! BUT he was playing with the same sorts of ideas. The difference, of course, is that unlike respectable musicians, Baxter has the good sense to get bored and move on after he has worn out his latest toy!

Anonymous said...

tamboo! in 320:
http://www24.zippyshare.com/v/19643087/file.html

Scalo said...

please reup....thanks