Good Music We Can Know

Friday, July 2, 2010

With A Chihuahua in His Hand, He Conducted Our Dreams of Exotica: Xavier Cugat- Viva Cugat! (1961)

A friend of mine just hipped me to Xavier Cugat and his saucy, cartoonish rhumba/Exotica album, Viva Cugat! If you have never heard of Mr. Cugat, do yourself a quick and entertaining favor and check out his wikipedia article. This dude is a nut and a knucklehead from the day... he's basically the original Perez Prado, for one thing, as well as sort of the main fellow of Latin music from the 40s through to the 60s. His fourth wife was Charo, of all people, and he was known for conducting orchestra while cradling a chihuahua in his arms. A first class Character, and a former cartoonist to boot. Just like Fellini.

This album is prototypical, or at least typical, Latin-flavored Exotica, a 50's/60's trend we find Cugat getting in on-- interestingly, both as its grandfatherly progenitor and as a carpetbaggin' jumper of the bandwagon. Heavy on Rhumba, Mambo, and Conga, with big drums and bold brass, the album has that hard swingin' Latin sound but it's actually most interesting for its dreamier, string-drenched numbers-- such as the nearly perfect "Jungle Drums," "Poinciana," and a wonderful rendition of "Perfidia". The latter being a song which was a big hit for Cugat in the 40s. Viva Cugat! finds him returning to "Perfidia" 20 years later, and it's an achingly gorgeous revisitation.

If you are a fellow or lady with an Exotica addiction, you will likely feel inclined to slam some gooey Cugat into your brains. This is a great record.

Viva! CUGAT! (192)

The fine friend who got me to know this record has started a Tumblr called "MENTAL TOOTSCAPES." Their mission is to sort through the "bad" of new age culture and present what they find interesting. Doubtless such a treasure chest may be of interest to some readers here, so check it out. I will see you there, old chums.


Anonymous said...

This is good but not as good as the Perez previously posted. Still, that's a great cover art!

Tootscpaes was worth the look, too. Thanks for the tip.

Anonymous said...

ha! thanks for the toot-tip

~ding dang doi

Henk Madrotter said...

Man, I'm loving your blog, I've been buying lots of the stuff you're posting and posting it on my blog for a while now and it's great reading about all of these incredible artists, learning more about them.... I've been lucky so far as nobody here in Bandung, West-Java, was buying this type of music at the 2nd hand vinyl places but it looks like I've almost emptied out all the places now although you never know what new stuff comes in tomorrow (hunting on a daily basis)... Things have certainly changed here, when I started collecting vinyl here, mainly Indonesian vinyl, nobody cared, it was all just lying there collecting dust but since two years or so the upper middle and rich kids have started collecting, mostly they don't even listen to what they buy, they just put it up for sell on the internet, for crazy inflated prices, it sucks big time.... i get anywhere between 35 to 50.000 visitors at my blog a month and i keep getting requests from foreigners asking if i want to sell certain records (no) or if i can be a crate digging tour guide (hell no, took me years to build up my contacts) and they all come looking for the same records, 70's psychedelics like AKA or 60's garage like Dara Puspita and i can't help but laugh 'cause you just don't find that stuff anymore, and if, by some miracle you do you'll be paying hundreds of dollars per record....

anyway, i really appreciate the work you put in, specially all the information which for me, as a person relatively new to exotica, is priceless... been a jazz lover for many, many years though and pretty fanatic when it comes to the great kenyon hopkins....