Good Music We Can Know

Monday, November 28, 2011

Flash Strap Presents: Black Art + Machine Gun Funk Volume Two


Here is part two of my series, Black Art + Machine Gun Funk (Check out part one here). While some repeat offenders can be found here, I've taken pains to insure that this is more than a just retread of the first one- this is a mean batch, friends.

Thanks to Nicholab of Ghostcapital for the hot tip on Kool & Together. The cover photo for this one is by Danny Lyon, from this Documerica series.

Part One
1. The Meek Ain't Gonna- The Watts Prophets
2. Mean Machine (Chant)- The Last Poets
3. (For God's Sake) Give More Power To The People- The Chi-Lites
4. Who's For The Young- Brothers Unlimited
5. Raising Hell- Norma Jean & Ray J
6. Hard Times- Baby Huey
7. I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun- Rotary Connection
8. Mary Don't Take Me On No Bad Trip- Fugi
9. My People... Hold On- Eddie Kendricks
10. Ball Of Confusion- The Undisputed Truth
11. Peace And Love (Movement V)- Mandrill
12. East- Billy Paul

Part Two
1. Black Noise- Rotary Connection
2. Good Ole Music- The Parliaments
3. Sittin' On A Red Hot Stove- Kool & Together
4. Lying- Black Merda
5. I Can't Stand The Rain- Ann Peebles
6. Feels Like The World- Isley Brothers
7. F.U.N.K.- Betty Davis
8. I Walk On Gilded Splinters- Johnny Jenkins
9. Dance With Your Parno- Bohannon
10. What It Is?- The Undisputed Truth
11. Pretty Soon- The Black Haze Express
12. Wino Man- Kool & Together
13. Life, Dreams, Death- Brothers Unlimited

PART 1PART 2

Monday, November 21, 2011

More Libaek for the Walkabout Masters: Sven Libaek- Nickel Queen (1971); The Set (1970?)


This record can be found elsewhere amongst the blogs, if you look, but here at Flash Strap we (and I do mean I) have a compulsive desire to display all the Sven Libaek, and in turn make it available to you. Today's post will feature some stragglers of the Libaek catalog.

Nickel Queen is a logical straggler. It's a hard-to-find soundtrack to an obscure Australian film about a wacky-ish mineral-boom rush, and it features more than just a few vocal tracks. It's the vocals, more than anything, that drives down the stock of this Libaek effort- polished, cheesy choruses, folk-pop lite sentiments and melodies... not his best stuff, by a long shot, and not at all what anyone is hoping to hear from a composer with such a masterful ability to weave gorgeously evocative instrumentals. Yet these, the worst selections, aren't really that bad. They've grown on me, anyway. "Look (Every Day)" actually manages to pull off a pretty good take on sunshine pop a la Free Design, and honestly, it's sort of great. Especially when it pops up in the midst of some of Sven's most sunnily optimistic instrumentals, ever.

Lest all this talk of vocal tracks gets you feeling doubtful, though, it's mostly instrumental. Know that.

There's one track in particular that makes me know I absolutely needed this record, after all. "News From The Exchange" stands out from the rest of the album. An achingly gorgeous, perfect diamond teardrop of a composition, this effortlessly belongs with the very best of Mr. Libaek's work. Essential.

A quick note: I can't remember where I grabbed this rip-I know it wasn't Digital Meltd0wn- but it is Digital Meltd0wn's upload (though it may have come to him via Owl of the Warbles, it seems), so be sure to thank him if you have a mind to. Also, I remember there was a bit of a stir (I feel Mr. Zer0 II from Meltd0wn addresses this as well as I could, so I'll be brief) a while back on Pecks Pet Rips over the original ripper feeling the credit due him had not been paid, causing the links there to disappear- so I'd like to thank all the hands this has passed through to keep it alive and moving through the sharing loop. As anyone who has seen Zardoz knows, zealous guardianship of art and beauty can only lead to the invasion of Vortexes by Brutals, the felling of flying stone heads and their wizard pilots, and a realization by the erectionless cultural elites that their main desire is death, anyway.

NICKEL QUEEN
(320)



Here's another soundtrack from Mr. Libaek, this one for a film about, I believe, homosexuality and the sexual revolution/youth culture in Australia. It's been made slightly less obscure due to having a few tracks from it included on the Inner Space: The Lost Film Music of Sven Libaek compilation. As far as soundtrack music goes, this is the superior record. A surprisingly wide range of emotions and evocations of scene and mood can be found within these 19 selections, all delivered in a warm, jazzy, smoky sound. Velvety, even. It is, at times, marvellously sophisticated stuff, even for Libaek. It also has less vocal pieces. There is one, which is mainly fine. The rest is fuckin' fabulous.

This rip was given to me on the down low by a friend (if I may) who feels differently than I (or Zer0 II) about rip credits and control. Since it wasn't his rip, he said, I could post it if I wanted, although he mightn't agree with the decision. Fair enough- after all, this album is no longer much of a task to find out there (though there may be a higher quality rip out there that I don't know about). Thank you, friend, for sharing. Everybody please thank this friend.

THE SET (192)



A major piece of the puzzle, which I would love to fill in, is this mysterious and awesome-looking record. I have no information, except that it exists, and I want to hear it so very badly. If you have a line on this, please share.

If you haven't yet acquired the essentials of the Libaek catalog, I encourage you to do so. I can help, here.

ALL THESE LINKS ARE DEAD. I DIRECT YOU NOW TO THE NEW LIBAEK MEGA-POST.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Once More Into the Sleepy Lagoon: Miriam Burton- African Lament (1961)


This record is a minor legend in the Exotica pantheon, one that's managed to stay extremely rare even within the seemingly limitless bounty of the blogosphere and all the other assorted outlands of the internet. I've searched for it a long time, having heard at one point a few engaging selections. Alas, my inquiries and hunting trips failed without exception- so it recently occurred to me to inquire at The Sleepy Lagoon. Witch doctor that he is, it wasn't long before he miraculously produced a copy. It's up on his blog now.


Miriam Burton (former cast member of Porgy and Bess, friend to Harry Belafonte, and a veteran of the jazz world), here plies her impressive soprano in the service of vocal exotica along the lines of Yma Sumac, Bas Sheva, Leda Annest, and other wordless sorceresses. The ostensible concept of the record (and likely the weakest element) is to describe in emotional sound-paintings the African experience. Indeed, there is a track called "Apartheid," so you can tell they're serious. I'm not sure this goal is achieved any more than Bas Sheva's The Passions manages to describe any emotional state other than "moaning in a room"- though I must point out that this is a far better album than The Passions, and Miss Burton a far better and infinitely more bearable singer than Miss Sheva.

So perhaps the conceptual hook is a bit weak, but it wouldn't be the first time an Exotica record endeavored to describe something quite real in an artificial language. This disconnect, after all, is one of the more intriguing aspects of the Cult of Exotica.

But the music! The music is solid. Excellent "Afro-exotic" production, heavy on marimba and percussion (and light on authenticity), deeply evocative and cinematic, with (mostly) awesome, moving, soulful vocal performances from Miriam Burton. The opening track, the almost eight-minute "Rites of Passage" in three parts, is easily the high point for me. A sprawling, unforced suite (highly reminiscent of Perez Prado's Voodoo Suite, especially in terms of percussion), it luxuriates in its aesthetic long enough that the listener can sink wholly into it, and it's abstract enough to function very well as a sound-painting or mood piece. The next track is pretty grating, but enjoyable if you bring some humor to the experience. It's the kind of hyper-upbeat "la la la" nonsense that's always a low point on Yma's records, and very reminiscent of The Passions at its worst. The rest of the album flows by with the same panoramic easiness of "Rites of Passage", with another standout being the excellent "Kalahari Bushman" and the mournful "Apartheid".

With Vocal Exotica records, there's often a fatigue that sets in if you spin the whole record at one go. In some ways, it's best to drop this stuff into a playlist that you intend to shuffle. I love this kind of singing, but I love it most in quick glimpses and stolen snatches. Either way you go with this one though, you'll be glad, because it's excellent and extremely unique. Enjoy, and thank the Lagoonmaster.

AFRICAN LAMENT (320)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Three Exotic KPM Trips: Rogerio Duprat-Brazilian Suite; Les Baxter- Bugaloo in Brazil; Alan Parker & John Cameron- Afro Rock

In response to an anonymous request for Rogerio Duprat's 1970 KPM library LP Brazilian Suite, I present: Rogerio Duprat's 1970 KPM library LP Brazilian Suite. For me, this is one of those things you download, listen to distractedly once, and never again. I think I've been filing it in the part of my brain that's labelled "too much horns? or not- i don't know man worry about it later", so this was a nice opportunity to give it a second chance and a good listen. I like it. I think a lot of other people will probably like it more than I do. There's a delicate, exotic quality to a lot of the arrangements, making it a somewhat classic intersection of Tropicalia and Production music (of the more soundtrack-esque variety). I do think some of the horns are only so-so, but whatever. It's a good record, especially for fans of 70's Brazilian music.

This rip came from Loronix, a wonderful Brazilian music blog that has since sunk into the tar pits of inactivity, its download links lapsing into dust. So I offer here Loronix's 320 rip for resurrection, although I think I remember EXP ETC has a rip of this one too. I don't know if it's the same, or worse, or better. Or anything.

BRAZILIAN SUITE
(320)

Now that we're on this thread, though, let's move on to another 1970 KPM release, from none other than one of my personal favorite artists, the legendary Les Baxter. I don't have a lot of info to share about this release. In fact, it's a total mystery to me. I will say this: of Mr. Baxter's later work, this is a towering success; within the context of his entire career, this can still be considered numbered among the essentials. It's similar in tone to his soundtrack to the film Bora Bora (but more complex and interesting), with Baxter's classic Exotica tropes and production style (minus the huge orchestra, of course) meeting somewhat heavier beats and a "hipper" sound. While this successful blend of eras makes the record fairly unique, I have to say, if I wasn't listening carefully, I might easily mistake this for Golden-Age Baxter. It's kind of a masterpiece, guys, but I do have a habit of calling Les Baxter records masterpieces. After all, he is a fucking master.

BUGALOO IN BRAZIL (320)

And just for good measure, you can zip on over to EXP ETC and grab his rip of a 1973 KPM LP from Alan Parker & John Cameron, Afro Rock. It's pretty damn good, too, and a lot of fun to hear. Some of it is sort of run-of-the-mill library/soundtrack funk, which I can take or leave since I don't sample beats, but it has its true moments of transcendence that aren't to be missed. Especially the track, "Heat Haze." I mean, it might not be Jungle Obsession, but what is?

AFRO ROCK

Friday, October 21, 2011

Flash Strap Presents: Black Art + Machine Gun Funk


Here's a compilation I put together dealing with the tuffer, leaner, meaner, and more experimental side of funk, drawing from the subgenre wells of psychedelic soul, black rock, black power music, 70's Afro-futurism and spiritual jazz, and what Archie Shepp suggested be termed, "Black Art Music". I've done this without incorporating any tracks from Funkadelic or Sly Stone, the best of whose works exemplify the feel I attempt to pursue here. Giant and genius as they are, including them in a compilation would feel silly and obvious (in that regard, I feel guilty for including Betty Davis, too- although she's not as well known or widely praised now as she deserves to be). So if you already have the first three Funkadelic albums, and Sly (and the Family) Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On and Fresh (among others, hopefully), and you're looking for more experimental funk that fears not the murky darkness- that which is trippy without bearing flowers and unnecessary colors, psychedelic and angry- let this collection scratch yall's itch and lead you down nasty pathways to ruff new discoveries on your own personal funk hunt. Follow the links for the fuller story on these tracks- none of them are isolated incidents.

And for the sake of the soul, please download both parts!


PART ONE

1. Listen- Watts Prophets
2. Living In The Ghetto- Purple Image
3. Gettin' Kicked Off, Havin' Fun- Betty Davis
4. One Room Country Shack- Shuggie Otis
5. Can I Help You- Amnesty
6. Masked Music Man- Mandre
7. California Dreamin' (Reprise)- Eddie Hazel
8. Ohio / Machine Gun- The Isley Brothers
9. Oxford Gray- Shuggie Otis
10. Smiling Faces Sometimes- Rare Earth
11. Red Moon- Fugi
12. Cynthy-Ruth- Black Merda

PART TWO

1. Ghettos of the Mind- Bama
2. Let My People Go- Darongo
3. Attica Blues- Archie Shepp
4. Is Anybody Gonna Be Saved?- Ohio Players
5. Save Their Souls- Bohannon
6. I Don't Want To Die- Black Merda
7. Ain't It Fine- Kain
8. Smokin Cheeba Cheeba- Harlem Underground Band
9. Down Home Funk (Full Version)- Larry Davis
10. A Change Is Going to Come- Baby Huey & The Baby Sitters

BLACK ART + MACHINE GUN FUNK: PART 1PART 2

This Is Your Heart My Son, And Now You Are The African Man: Duo Ouro Negro- Mulowa Afrika (1968?), Blackground (1971)


If you don't know by now that this Angolan duo, Duo Ouro Negro, are damn near the best thing your ears can hear, it's time for you to make haste and go to Ghostcapital to grab his immeasurable treasures. Over at his place, you'll find the best of the duo-- especially Africanissimo, which is just a phenomenal record (as well as Com Sivuca which is just as good, really), and a comp put together by the Ghost himself. Folks, I can't recommend that stuff highly enough.

For those wanting more, here's some additional bounty for your ears.


As there's not a lot of (English-language) information on these splendid men, I'm not sure of the date or issue of this album. Is it their 1968 first full-length? Is the below cover for a reissue, or another album buy the same name?


The details elude me, and looking at the tracks on this download, I suspect there is a degree of disorder and misinfo. I've done my best to clean it up for you all, but I can't find what the proper tracklist should be, and don't even know what version of Mulowa Afrika we're dealing with here. Let's focus on what we do know: this is prime Duo, every song is beautiful, and it's in 320. The rest is just superfluous mystery, much as I'd like to clear it all up.

There is some overlap with Ghostcapital's comp, and with some other Duo Ouro Negro releases, but it's still a more than worthy record to have in your life. Very highly recommended.

MULOWA AFRIKA (320)



Here's Blackground, which I believe is from 1971. Again, you'll find some overlaps, but there's some especially wonderful, unique material here. It's bookended by partial-English language tracks, the first containing spoken word, the last sung by a giant chorus. The words lay out an allegorical African folk tale, and it's great, ending with a spirit reminding a mystical river boy (and, perhaps, the listener), "Don't forget your background, don't forget your blackground, don't forget your blackground..." It is so good.

The rest of the record is excellent, incorporating perhaps more of a heavy, but also traditional, sound than they usually might, and in general making some more experimental, slightly concept record-y moves. This is one of my favorites. Look, this is Duo Ouro Negro. There's not a bad song-- there's not a bad moment-- on either of these records. Believe.

BLACKGROUND (320)

Also, if you have a line on more Duo records, or better cover scans and further info on these two, consider letting me know about it.

EDIT: These rips apparently originated here, so please afford the original ripper(s) your thanks and gratitude, and check out the site.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Darkest Night, On a Wet-Sounding Dub: Keith Hudson- Playing It Cool & Playing It Right (1982)


In the comments for the Noel Ellis record I posted a week or so ago, Owl of Holy Warbles lauded the album's "crumbling, left-field production." That well-chosen word, "crumbling" set me to thinking about this, one of the last records from "The Dark Prince of Reggae" and dub pioneer Keith Hudson. A murky, damaged-sounding dub classic that, at its best moments, seems to be disintegrating off the reel-to-reel, like so much bongwater-molded crumbs of funk.

The high point for me, and one of my four or five favorite dub tracks of all time, is "Formula Dub" (which I included in my Dub Hot Dubs, for anyone who heard that). The guitars on this track gurgle and distort, the tape seems to lag and change speed, and everything is just in a glorious shambles. It's an unassuming masterpiece, and it makes the record completely worth the time all on its lonesome.

Not that it has to-- the rest of the record is excellent, although I'll admit it was a bit of a grower for me. Comprised of sung tracks (of highly dubby persuasion), immediately followed by their dub versions, the album has a cyclical, dreamlike quality to it. You hear a song, it's all dreamy and laid-back, then it segues into a full-on dub of itself-- you submerge into the shadow realm-- and then another song comes on, pulling you back to just below the surface, and the cycle begins anew.

One of the better tracks is "California" (followed by it's shadow-brother, "By Night Dub"), which apparently describes a long, late-night drive, its eery refrain "darkest night, on a wet-looking road" seeming especially evocative.

Also be sure to check out Mr. Owl's post of Mr. Hudson's all-time classic Pick A Dub, as it is awesome.

PLAYING IT COOL AND PLAYING IT RIGHT (320)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Brittle Little Drum Machines on the Funk Hunt: Timmy Thomas- Why Can't We Live Together (1973)




Here's another quick post- gettin' us back on the funk hunt. I'd only previously heard Timmy Thomas' "Funky Me" on the Miami Sound comp from Soul Jazz, and this installment of drum-machine funk on the wonderful blog Office Naps (where you can find a little bit of good info on Mr. Thomas and a whole lot of great 45s). But the other day I grabbed a rip of the full-length, and it's a treat to say the least. Comprised mostly of a primitive drum machine and Thomas on a Hammond organ and fairly naked vocals, it's a stripped-down affair, but strikingly so. Minimalist funk, if ever there was such a thing. Sly Stone circa Riot Goin' On would definitely relate (though let me be clear: this is nowhere near that piece of work, which should be considered indispensable.) Highly recommended.

TIMMY THOMAS (192)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Vampire Bow: Noel Ellis- Noel Ellis (1983)


I don't have a lot to say about this one except that I've been digging it surprisingly hard, of late. Noel is the son of Alton Ellis, of considerably greater fame, but this record is a giant winner. The songs are long, dubby, and gritty-- the production value is serious and unadorned, almost black and white, like a xerox of the original-- and Noel's delivery is winningly mysterious in all his mystic repetitions. The big highlights here are "Marcus Garvey", which I can't seem to stop playing (partly because I'm fascinated by the curious figure of Mr. Garvey himself), "To Hail Salassie", and the weird-ass "Rocking Universally"

NOEL ELLIS

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Heavy Black Sounds: Purple Image- Purple Image (1970)


Continuing on this funk hunt- here's the sole release and 1970 debut of Cleveland super-heavy psych-funk outfit, Purple Image. A lot has been made about just how rock-oriented they are, working less within the more dominant (for black artists) soul idiom of the time, but that only serves to obscure just how funky this album is. Still, it's worth noting that at its heaviest moments, it's as heavy as Jimi Hendrix a la "Machine Gun" or The Stooges on Fun House. And like on those examples, even at the height of heaviness, it's not just heavy metal excess- it's hard and mean and direct, and still ultimately groove-based. Truly a Black Rock Beast, is Purple Image.

The highest highlight for me is the opener, "Living in the Ghetto", a rip-roaring series of ghetto tableau ("Mama's in the kitchen cookin' midnight supper!"), punctuated by utterly wicked electric guitar "Machine Gun"-isms. You might actually hear specific licks swiped from "Machine Gun", a worthy source to quote if ever there was one, and it enriches the track's dialogue between Black Music and Heavy Metal. (Come to think of it, I think The Stooges said they were cribbing "Machine Gun" when they wrote "Dirt" in this same year, to continue the Fun House comparisons.)

The other enormous highlight of the record is a monstrous version of Bob Craig's "Marching to a Different Drummer". A thrashing, relentless, fifteen-and-a-half minute onslaught that starts out as a funky singalong, then mutates into a psych-rock apocalypse, complete with a free-jazz saxophone to drive the guitars into chaos, and a crunchy harmonica infusion near the end.

Follow the link to Digital Meltdown and grab this bad puppy (at 256), then check out the equally great Fugi record he has there (Mary, Don't Take Me on No Bad Trip) and the especially excellent Black Merda self-titled debut, as well.

PURPLE IMAGE

Monday, September 5, 2011

Classical Exotica From the Depths of the Sleepy Lagoon: Edmond De Luca's Safari (1957); Stanley Black- The Music of Lecuona (1958)


Here are two records that I own on vinyl, but for some time have been unable to obtain a rip of (quality or otherwise-- these puppies are for some reason hopelessly obscure). That is, until recently. After the princely German gentleman and fellow Exotica proselytizer from The Sleepy Lagoon answered my call for Stanley Black's The Music of Lecuona-- and was then able to again make dreams come true with Arthur Lyman's Legend of Pele-- I figured I'd ask him if he had a rip of another Holy Grail desire of mine, Edmond De Luca's Safari. He did.

I'm so delighted to get a chance to enthuse on the subject of Safari. Unfortunately, I can't find much information on it, so all I have to work with is my emotions. Like many records of its ilk, I bought it primarily for its utterly marvellous cover art, but fortunately found the musical contents to be easily the art's equal.

Falling more on the classical/symphonic side of the spectrum, side one is a suite detailing the stages of an African safari and hunt. It's pure Rudyard Kipling adventure fantasy, laid out with orchestral arrangements of the maximum cinematic variety (especially evident in the dizzying heights of the strings and occasional call-to-arms/begin-the-hunt horns), and adorned generously with the sort of faux-African male vocals found on Tak Shindo's Mganga! or Les Baxter's Taboo! I cannot speak highly enough of this record's first side. It's a wonderful marriage of Exotica, 1950's epic film soundtrack, and the kind of classical, proto-Exotica ideas found in something like Sir Eugen Goossens Corroboree (or Ravel, or Dvorak, or Lecuona, whom we'll get to).

Side two is mostly one long composition, "Polovetsian Dances", followed by a shorter one, "Ritual Fire Dance"-- the latter being especially stellar. Despite losing the African backdrop in favor of something more Eastern European/Russian, the treatment and sensibility is similar. These are sensual folk-tradition-inspired orchestra pieces somewhat in the manner of Bolero, and they're really quite enjoyable. It's a bit of a step down from the evocative narrative, exotic geography, and epic cinematic quality of side one, but still more than worthy of inclusion in your collection.

This download, once again courtesy of the unbelievably generous spirit of The Sleepy Lagoon, is at a "blistering" 224kbps. Beautiful.

SAFARI



As is indicated by the title, this LP consists of the talented and versatile Stanley Black conducting the compositions of the amazing Mr. Ernesto Lecuona.

I don't know, and can't find, all that much about Lecuona, although I'm not a particularly thorough researcher. He's an incredibly gifted and influential composer, however, and he deserves a grander reputation than he currently enjoys. Certainly amongst Exotica lovers, his compositions are as familiar as a father: "Siboney" "Malaguena" "Andalucia" (also kniwn as "The Breeze and I"), "Canto Karabali" (better known as "Jungle Drums", and clearly amongst the three or four most major defining compositions of Exotica)-- and to a slightly lesser extent the Academy Award-nominated "Always In My Heart"-- have all been recorded countless times by bandleaders and musicians looking to assemble an Exotica record. (It's also worth noting, at this point, that his cousin, Margarita Lecuona, composed the stalwart Exotica masterpiece "Taboo." Fun Fact, I guess.)

Stanley Black plays all these compositions, and more, in a style that's lushly, softly Exotic, without dressing up the intrinsic beauty of the compositions too unnecessarily. Lecuona's mixture of early-20th century pop-orchestral music, classical European symphonic tradition, and Cuban folk rhythms don't need much retrofitting to come off as absolutely classic Exotica anyway. This type of cross-cultural musical alchemy is basically what Exotica is, making him one of the earlier and more significant visionaries of this art. That his compositions are among the most well-known, yet his name and legacy aren't particularly, is a funny little oversight of history. One thing is sure: this record is a journey into the heart of beauty, one of the more perfect things you could ever hope to hear. Please enjoy.

MUSIC OF LECUONA
(192)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Holy Ghost of Exotica, Weaving Dreams in His Aluminum Dome: Arthur Lyman Megapost


There's really only three true masters of Exotica: Les Baxter (The Father), Martin Denny (The Son), and Arthur Lyman (The Holy Ghost). Sure, Frank Hunter and Robert Drasnin made a stone-cold classic or two, and Xavier Cugat and Perez Prado (legends in their own field) cut some masterpieces of the Exotic variety. Of course, Yma Sumac can't be left out, either, but her stunning uniqueness and divisive abrasiveness sets her apart from the field of hard Exotica and into her own category. No, when it comes to Exotica, there are three names that loom larger than the rest, mean more than most, and have an undeniably greater impact and influence.

Les Baxter and Martin Denny get talked about the most; after all, Baxter is the brilliant innovator of the unique voice of the genre-- his Ritual of the Savage is practically a blueprint-- and Denny is the cunning genius who managed to make the sound insanely popular-- his rendition of Baxter's "Quiet Village" was such a smash hit as to inspire leagues of imitators and make the whole prospect enormously lucrative. Mr. Lyman, while far from unsung, has inspired less of a cult reverence. Which is interesting, because out of all the soldiers in the army of Exotica, perhaps no one is as die-hard a believer as he.

Born in Hawaii, Lyman became something of a musical prodigy almost by force, as his father would lock him in his room and order him to play his toy marimba along to Benny Goodman records. Playing a gig at a Hawaiian hotel, he was spotted by Martin Denny and offered a spot in his band. Lyman became something of a Denny protegé, influencing the shape of the genre along the way (having a big hand in developing their prominent use of bird calls, for one thing), before going off to start his own band (shortly after recording "Quiet Village" and the first Exotica LP with Denny's group).

Lyman's own records were always played by his quartet, which for the prime years consisted of himself, Alan Soares, John Kramer, and Harold Chang. Everything is live, with no overdubs. What's more, nearly all his records were recorded here:



According to the wiki: Most of Lyman's albums were recorded in the aluminum Kaiser geodesic dome auditorium on the grounds of the Kaiser Hawaiian Village Hotel on Waikiki in Honolulu. This space provided unparalleled acoustics and a natural 3-second reverberation. His recordings also benefited from being recorded on a one-of-kind Ampex 3-track 1/2" tape recorder designed and built by engineer Richard Vaughn. All of Lyman's albums were recorded live, without overdubbing. He recorded after midnight, to avoid the sounds of traffic and tourists, and occasionally you can hear the aluminum dome creaking as it settles in the cool night air. The quality of these recordings became even more evident with the advent of CD reissues, when the digital mastering engineer found he didn't have to do anything to them but transfer the original 3-track stereo masters to digital. The recordings remain state-of-the-art nearly 50 years later.

Lyman's albums sound slightly different from those of his mighty predecessors. Less flamboyant, more quietly searching, his sound has been described as "somnambulant." Still, his compositions and arrangements can be surprisingly adventurous and deeply rewarding. For one thing, he carefully manages to wrangle a wonderful complexity out of what was usually a simple quartet-- his records sound no less full than even Baxter's, who used a large orchestra. With the aid of the Dome, he's a master of using negative spaces in the composition to imply rich, mysterious atmospheres.

There's also more of a sense of legitimate Polynesian and Hawaiian influence, and a darker jazz tinge (enforced by frequent use of positively stellar piano performances) that suggests he (or at least, his pianist) was keeping up with Blue Note releases and perhaps Nina Simone at the time. But most importantly, he displays a true mastery of the craft, and the kind of restless, searching experimentalism of the consummate Artist.

Anyway, here's a rundown of some of my favorite stuff from the admirable Mr. Arthur Lyman.


TABOO (1958): This was a big success for Lyman-- only his second outing with his own band, Taboo stayed on the charts for a year and sold 2 million copies. This is a huge pillar in the house of Exotica, as archetypal as the day is long and just generally excellent. Wonderful renditions of "Taboo" and "Caravan", but every song is just as good. Well, all but one. Lyman has an unfortunate tendency to close out records on some kind of uptempo march, and in this case "Hilo March", while it does have its arguable charms, sort of stinks up the dreamy mood of the rest of the record. This is especially annoying when you're listening on vinyl-- but if you don't have that luxury, just lose the track from your music player, or something.

TABOO (320)


BWANA A (1958): Hard to believe, but Bwana A is even better than Taboo. Intriguingly spare, with a heavier Eastern-- at times specifically Japanese-- influence, this total masterpiece is an agony of hallucinatory beauty. Dreamlike and dark, this is more an opium quest for languid sex and misty visions of island ghosts in the night than a tiki cocktail in a poolside loungechair.

"Moon Over a Ruined Castle" is a heart-stopping highlight, "Canton Rose"' and its use of moon harp is especially exciting, Lecuona's "Malaguena" is given utterly top-notch treatment, "Blue Sands" is so ghostly as to barely exist and yet plays so powerfully, "Vera Cruz" is a breathtaking, aching piece of Exotica Noir, and even the march ("Colonel Bogey March", made famous by Bridge Over the River Kwai) is supremely enjoyable, taken as it is rather slow and dreamily. This is a truly excellent record. Highest possible recommendation. Here's an allmusic review that I rather like.

BWANA A (320)



The LEGEND OF PELE (1958): What if I said Legend of Pele is just as good as Bwana A, if not better? You might think I was overdoing it, but I'm not. Pele is a fucking masterpiece. I've had this treasure on vinyl for years now, but I've never had, nor could I find, a good rip of it to share. I always wanted to do a post on my favorite Lyman albums, but without this crown jewel available, I didn't feel I could do it. Finally, the fine fellow from The Sleepy Lagoon contacted me and notified me that he had posted Legend of Pele to his wonderful blog. Please pay him a visit, survey his numerous treasures, and thank him for his heroic efforts. This great man, when all others failed, produced a copy of this Holy Grail Exotica record. Give him your love.

Legend of Pele is fairly similar to Bwana A, albeit a bit more soulfully rhythmic, and entertains the loose concept of describing the Hawaiian legend of Pele. I wish I had a copy of the back cover notes, because they're fantastic. Sadly, my copy of the record is not with me at this time or I'd type it right up.

One of the best things about Lyman is the way he can take aspects of Hawaiian music (a musical tradition pigeonholed and beaten to death during various periods of Hawaiiana enthusiasm) and find wild, exciting new ways to incorporate them into his vision of exotic jazz. The opening track, "Pele", starts with what seems like a musical description of the rumbling of a volcano, drops out to a female vocal (Ethel Azama, perhaps?) in "savage" Hawaiian tongue, then snaps into a quick dark piano run (soulful, jazzy, slightly Latin, reminiscent of something Nina Simone's might do on tracks such as "Black Swan", "Plain Gold Ring" or "Sinner Man") before transitioning into a jungle train ride-- and then back to the volcano, like an exotic parallelogram.

Every track on this album is good (except the fucking march at the end, sadly), finding unexpected avenues into the savage and dreamlike qualities of Hawaiiana. "Y Lai Sian" and "Hana Maui" again bring the insane piano for rhythms so heavy and powerfully repetitive... a good comparison would be with Perez Prado's similarly heavy Voodoo Suite, but much more restrained and hypnotic (and of course without the horns). These two tracks are followed by a great version of "Scheherazade." The slower numbers are disorientingly immersive as well, numbers like "Cumana", with its bonkers bird calls and gentle melody, "Fascination" with its enormous ocean sounds, and the de facto album closer "Tropical" with its glowing vibes and distant bells.



Lyman's band is just firing on all cylinders for this record, and while the pianist (whoever he is, I should probably know) is the standout for me, Lyman's own masterful work on the vibraphone is superb (he uses a four-mallet approach, two in each hand). The percussion is perfectly applied, and the bassist is brilliant, playing deep, woody lines and teaming up with the piano to bolster incomparably subtle and fascinating rhythms. The sound quality of the recording, of course, is perfection itself.

This is in my top 10 Exotica albums, easily. Top 5, probably. Again, highest possible recommendation, and don't forget to afford a thank you to the man from The Sleepy Lagoon (and if you're still not convinced, go over to his spot and listen to his track samples).

LEGEND OF PELE (192)




BAHIA (1959): On Bahia, Lyman continues his run of excellence. The record opens on the track "Bahia", which is one of my favorite compositions ever, so for me it's off to a good start. It's a very good version, to boot. The rest of the album is sterling. Not quite the mind-blowing stuff of the previous two records, but extremely necessary high-quality Exotica. Nice versions of "Jungle Jalopy," "Quiet Village," and "Beyond The Reef" that don't quite exceed the superior versions of Baxter and Denny, but manage to be more than worthy all the same. "Happy Voodoo" is a nice highlight, as well as the echoey "Caribbean Nights." The uptempo number at the end is even fairly bearable.

BAHIA (224)



TABOO 2 (1959): More of that pure misty jungle juice. This is a stellar collection of both classic and unfamiliar Exotica compositions, with slightly more of a "voodoo" sound than Lyman usually might go for. It's like a cross between the original Taboo and Martin Denny's Hypnotique, or something like that. Easily one of his best records, though not quite as strange and original as his very best. "Tabu Tu" is phenomenal in particular-- and there's more than enough bird calls throughout the album, in case you were worried about a shortage.

TABOO 2 (VBR)




There's more Lyman stuff that's worth knowing about (most notably his 1958 Hawaiian Sunset), but these are the essentials in my book. Hope you enjoy, fellows.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Fantasy In All Its Finery, Pure As Perfume: John Scott Trotter- Escape to the Magic Mediteranean (1956)


Escape to the Magic Mediteranean. Oh my, how fine it is. This is vacation Exotica at its most idyllic and sublime. Not simply an easy fantasy of some vacation to Italy- this record transcends the lazy-minded escapism of its subject and actually grabs the throat of the root of the desire. The absolute paradise, free from want or discomfort, is lushly laid out here, pure and distilled. If you can actually slow your heart rate enough to slide within the grooves of this almost hallucinatorily pleasant experience, it will bring tears to your eyes. You'll sweat diamonds and float upon the sweetest aromas. All the blues will be a perfect blue.

ESCAPE TO THE MAGIC
(128, but not so bad)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sophisticated Daydream of Library Exotica: Roger Roger and Nino Nardini- Jungle Obsession (1971)


Two of the most consistent figures of the French Library world-- either in collaboration or when working solo (and often under a variety of fake names)-- Nino Nardini and Roger Roger have created a great wealth of worthy music. Perhaps none more wonderful than Jungle Obsession, their homage to the motifs and atmospheres of their spiritual cousins from an earlier musical period, Exotica.

This album plays faithfully within the "exotica" idiom exemplified by the works of Les Baxter, Arthur Lyman, or Martin Denny (replete with animal calls, "exotic" vocal arrangements, and xylophonic percussion), but pushes a harder drum and bass sound, lush strings (and mellotrons and fuzz guitars that sound like lush strings), early-ish electronic instruments, and a trippier sensibility that occasionally edges beyond mystery into menace. It's a masterpiece of both Library recording and revisionist Exotica, a must have for all humans and tigresses with even the most burgeoning of Jungle Obsessions.

I have posted this before, but I'm putting it up again because the original link soured and I want to make sure everyone gets a piece of this new one (192 kbps, can anyone do better?). This is really one of my favorite records, so I figure it won't hurt to hawk it twice.

So get this record if you don't got it, and behold the glory of the original cover art below. It's amazing, it has a picture of a tiger, but somehow I still kind of lean towards the immersive composition of the reissue- a rare stance to take, for me.

*Perhaps unsurprisingly, the gentleman Owl from Holy Warbles has scared up a version (with still different cover art and something of a different sound quality beyond fidelity-- it may be a bit slower) at a "Blistering" 256, so skip down to the comments and make yourselves rich.

JUNGLE OBSESSION


Friday, July 29, 2011

Human Music In A State of Rapturous Perfection: Duo Ouro Negro (com Sivuca)- Africanissimo (1959)


I just want everyone to know: This is probably the best shit you could be doing with your ears. Utterly phenomenal Angolan vocal pop group, courtesy of the immeasurably valuable blog Ghostcapital. I know this group is one of his pet favorites, and it's some of the best stuff I've ever heard, so I just feel the need to jump on this little bandwagon and steer anybody uninitiated to the ways of Duo Ouro Negro towards the light. I know a lot of you have probably grabbed this by now (either from the Ghost or over at Holy warbles), but for those who haven't, get on over to Ghostcapital and grab his dazzling 320 rip. There's more of the Duo there, too, if you want it. Highest possible recommendation.

AFRICANISSIMO

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Opium Dreams of Latter-Day Exotica: Piero Piccioni- Bora Bora (1968), Les Baxter- Bora Bora (1968)



Here's a wonderful jewel of Italian soundtrack Exotica from Mr. Piccioni, a prolific legend of the craft. I'd previously enjoyed the man's work on various Spaghetti Westerns and the like, and first became aware of him through the many excellent selections of his on the Beat at Cinecitta comp, but this is a one-of-kind treat, because it is so firmly Exotic.

It's from '68, and it's an Italian film soundtrack, so it's not standard fare Exotica. It's more similar to Roger Roger and Nino Nardini's Jungle Obsession or Piero Umiliani's Le Isole Dell'Amore than anything by Les Baxter (although his own soundtrack to another 1968 film by the name of Bora Bora isn't far off). These more extreme derivations from-- and later-era interpretations of-- a typical Exotica format are always a treat.



Anyway, this record is great. Lush vocals, borderline-trippy, dreamy orchestration, and a few really excellent compositions make this a must-have. I have to say, I don't much care for the fuzz-funk library-style jam on "Blue Festival," but that's the only stinker in my book. I'm sorry to say I haven't seen the film, but if anyone out there has, I'd love to know what you thought.

BORA BORA
(Sleepy Lagoon link is dead, so I've re-upped it)



And speaking of Mr. Baxter's 1968 soundtrack to Bora Bora, here it is. Not his best work, but certainly some of his best later work. After spending some time away from the Exotica sound he helped create (and sounding fairly lost in the process), this record is something of a return to form, although the aesthetic here is not quite classic. There's a more modern drum sound, and a bit of a sense of the influence of someone like Burt Bacharach. The lush strings playing against the drum kit/ heavier percussion-and-bass lends it an interesting coolness, an almost contemporary sound, at its best moments (and at its worst, something of an unremarkable sub-Bacharach B-movie soundtrack-- thankfully, these moments are more rare).

I believe I got this rip from Xtabay's World, and while it's at a mere 128, it's a very respectable vinyl rip. Eclectic Synthetic seems to think he's improved on the Xtabay rip, so you might give it a try (I haven't heard it myself), but for now here's the original. If you have a better copy, consider sharing it, if such a share is your cup of tea.

ReUpped:
BORA BORA

Monday, July 11, 2011

To Carry You Through The Muggy Daze: Flash Strap Presents- DUB HOT DUBS


My friend Jacob once remarked, about the heat on an early summer day, "It's hot. But it's not dub hot." By which he meant, while it was a warm day indeed, it simply had not yet reached the sweltering temperature which is best augmented by the hazy, nauseous, intoxicating directness of the repetition and deceptive simplicity of dub. When you are so hot and high you can hardly stand up - brother, dub is there for you to lean on. It is there to provide a bass-based roadmap through the wall of wet-hot air, combating the waves of haze with layers of phase.

It is hot now. In North Carolina the air is so damn humid you could spread it on toast. I miss the blistering dryness of Old Mex, but it's rainy season there so I ain't missing much besides horrendous torrents of rain and hail. Torrid Rain.

In recognition of the way things are, I put together this mix of hot dubs. How hot, you ask? Dub Hot. These are the Dub Hot Dubs. This is a monstrous slab of hand-picked dub treasures- nearly two hours worth. That should get you through the smoking experience and the first few waves of fear, incoherence, pleasure, and confusion. Once you're on the other side of this, you'll be breathing heat like a lizard and smelling skunks decomposing pleasantly in the distance.

At once lurid and sophisticated, the best dubs exist brilliantly at a stoned, black-as-hell intersection between pulpy low art comic pops and the primitive-conscious avant-garde. These are some of my favorite black magic echo chambers so please enjoy- and don't forget to pull one for the ancients. If that's your cup of tea.

This god damn thing is ripped in two parts- so please get both and reassemble.

1. Population Dub- Tappa Zukie
2. Playing It Right Dub- Keith Hudson
3. Bradsta Dub- Carlton And Family Man Barrett
4. Prophet A Come- Black Magic Dub
5. Addis Ababa Rock- Inner Circle
6. Asibiso Jungle- Vulcans
7. Jungle Dub- Black Magic Dub
8. Nice Up The Yard (Feat. U Brown)- Trinity
9. Walk Like A Dragon- I-Roy
10. Nations Liquidator- Twinkle Brothers
11. The Creepy Crawl- Tradition
12. Untitled E-E Saw Dub- Inner Circle / Fatman Riddim Section
13. Black Cinderella- Tapper Zukie
14. Memories Of The Ghetto- Augustus Pablo
15. Formula Dub- Keith Hudson
16. African Dub- King Tubby
17. Sealing Dub- The Skatalites & King Tubby
18. Drum Song- Jackie Mittoo
19. Untitled E-E Saw Dub- Inner Circle / Fatman Riddim Section
20. Magnetic Enforcer- Twinkle Brothers
21. Star Trek- Vulcans
22. Marching To Zion- Tappa Zukie
23. Back To Africa- Jimmy Radway
24. Marry Me- Winston Riley
25. Capo Dub- Carlton And Family Man Barrett
26. War Is Over- Dillinger
27. Lightning Dub- Revolutionaries
28. Dread Out Deh- Joy White
29. Murderer- Augustus 'Gussie' Clarke
30. Master Mantrol- Mikey Dread
31. Why Am I Treated So Bad- Prince Buster
32. Addis-A-Baba- Augustus Pablo

DUB HOT DUBPt.1 DUB HOT DUBPt.2
R E U P P E D

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sven Libaek For Safari Addicts and Discoverers of Hidden Worlds- To Be Used Wisely This Holiday Weekend


I am fully in summertime explorer mode- a total Safari addict. And with July 4th comin' round the bend (a holiday I've always celebrated with maximum verve, especially now that I'm back in these rotten old glorious States), it's only liable to get worse. Make your own summer-time safaris absolutely pitch perfect with Sven Libaek. Flawless and gorgeous, roaring with innocence and adventure. Excellent for both desert and aquatic excursions- get your Jacques Cousteau or Walkabout fantasy going.

Most of this has been posted here (or elsewhere) in the past, but I'm throwing it up again in hopes of spreading even further the righteous word. Because I care about your summer. New additions include an improved 320 rip of Inner Space courtesy of Owl at Holy Warbles (otherwise available at his blog, offered here with a slightly tidied up tracklisting and sequencing) and a copy of the excellent Boney, courtesy of commenter CBlack.



Put this on a tape. Put the tape in a waterproofed portable cassette player. Take a small boat or aquatic car out upon the water- and the adventure shall unfold, with delight and discovery, from there. Good luck to you.



Surfing and nature documentary soundtracks, respectively. Full of discovery. Two of the consistently best, most necessary records in his ouvre- masterpieces, really.

Shark documentary soundtrack, and a giant masterpiece. Some tracks from here notably used for The Life Aquatic. This is the King of underwater music records. (It should be noted that this is not the retrospective comp of the same name- this is the original soundtrack album. Also, this is not the version with the Shatner narration, which is cool too-- you can grab it here.)



RON & VAL TAYLOR's INNER SPACE



An audacious symphonic concept piece on his adopted home. Longer tracks, grander ideas- but still the same glorious composer. Sven is a god damn secret genius.

AUSTRALIAN SUITE




Soundtrack to an Australian television series. A little MacGyver-style action horns, but still mostly Sven's signature sound, contemplating the outback, exploring with good intentions. Hard to find, this one.

BONEY



Perhaps not his most consistent record, it nonetheless contains some of his best & coolest tracks, including the superb "Misty Canyon."



MY THING




Ostensibly a space-themed Library record, the mood here is just as underwater-y as his best work. Includes "Meteoric Rain," one of his all-time greatest tracks (it's the sample at the top of this post).

SOLAR FLARES

ALL THESE LINKS ARE DEAD. I DIRECT YOU NOW TO THE NEW LIBAEK MEGA-POST.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Penetrating the Black Continent: Piero Umiliani- Continente Nero, Genti e Paesi Del Mondo, Le Isole Dell'Amore


Umiliani is a true Library King, and Continente Nero is one of my very favorite of his works. Full of urgent, tension-building strings, percussion, and the rush of adventure and discovery, this is a documentary in your head, somewhere between Cousteau and the Italian Mondo variety. Very thin and serious stuff. Almost spooky, like an expedition that lost a member to the fog.

As a side note, Continente Nero is the name of my boat, and all these downloads are 320.

CONTINENTE NERO (The Black Continent)




I don't know the whole story behind this record, but it serves as a perfect companion piece to Continente Nero. The two share essentially the same sound, although something about this one feels more nebulous and ambient. The high points are the two versions of "Viaggio Nel Tempo", a composition which can also be found on Nero, by the name of "Preparativi"-- in all its forms, this is one of my favorite tracks.



GENTI E PAESI DEL MONDO (Peoples and Countries of the World)



This one is a change of pace from the previous two, with the serious explorer, heart of darkness stuff. Here we have total paradise music, 70's exploitation-documentary Exotica with Cinecitta-style female vocals. It's really exquisite. Don't pass this up, fools. You'll need this for when you're done exploring and you need to relax with a Colada and an island gal, hopefully while doing some kind of floating.

LE ISOLE DELL'AMORE (The Island of Love)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kosmische Walkabout Music: Dieter Schütz- Voyage (1985)


Here we have a fantastic bit of Safari Synth Adventure Music: Dieter Schütz's Voyage. Somewhere between the krautrock space floats of Cluster and Roedelius' Durch Die Wüste, the synth-rock of Tangerine Dream or someone sort of kookier like Tony Carey, and a kind of New Age warmth, this record wants to be in your life. It can improve your life if you will just let it. It's super fun, exotica-kraut walkabout music; if you like Sven Libaek and Oxygene at the same time, this will be perfect for your next Serengeti stoned-walk. I'm not really doing it justice right now-- I'm on vacation, you guys-- but it's really perfect and great. You need it so bad.

I got it here, by the way, at Panorama Patchwork. Go there and get it yourselves- the link is in the text where it says Exotic Nights.

***And now Panorama Patchwork seems to have been "removed". What the hell happened? He played by the rules over there, if I recall. Dammit, I liked him!

So I'm putting up a link for Voyage, but I don't like that I have to do it. 320.

VOYAGE



Also, you may have noticed I screwed around with the design of the place. What do you all think? Can you live with it? Let me know if it's too hard to read, or distracting, or whatever else. Also feel free to say it is fine.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Perfect Exotic Dream Of A Beautiful Pangaea: David Carroll- Percussion Orientale (1960)


This record is a pure Exotica delight. The cover may undersell it as something of a belly-dance cash-in, but let me tell you: it is something special. Ostensibly focusing on some concept of "Middle Eastern" music, Carroll lends it something of a mildly unique focus among its peers, not that it needs it. The conceit is immediately either betrayed, or revealed as abstract at best, by its opening number, "Caravan". "Caravan" is welcome almost anytime, anywhere-- and scarcely has there been a weak version, the composition itself is so strong. But the fact is, no matter how "exotic" it sounds, it is a prime, perfect and prototypical example of Latin Jazz. No matter-- it is played here in an "Eastern"-sounding manner, and so the "Oriental" theme remains, more or less, intact.

Exotica as a genre sometimes props up all the disparate "exotic" lands as being part of some loosely unified Pangaea or island chain-- building, in its creators' laziness or indifference to geographical responsibility, a sort of musical Esperanto for a homogenous pangaea of abstract exotic "foreign lands". There's almost a kind of progressiveness to be found in this loose concept of cultural and national boundaries-- all are part of the artificial whole, including the white world and its appropriation of Black American jazz, and the classical composers of Europe and elsewhere (many of whom were themselves borrowing from more "ethnic" traditions, such as Ravel, Stravinski, and Dvorak, not to mention someone like Lecuona, a Cuban working partially in European tradition). As I have said before, this is not World Music-- no one culture would recognize it as its own, so muddied are the waters-- this is Music for the World, a fantasy for all to share. Anyway, I digress.



This is one of those perfect Exotica records. Richly evocative. Rousing and gorgeous. In terms of traditions and styles appropriated, it's wildly all over the map, but the sound and concept are somehow kept consistent. As for the production and recording quality, bragged about such as it is by Mercury on the label, it's beyond excellent (and the rip is 320). This is good good stuff. A masterpiece.

Percussion Orientale