Friday, June 21, 2013
Mouth Harp on the Beach: Tommy Morgan- Tropicale (1958)
Beneath all the obvious Exotica classics-- the monstrous, mysterious, weird, perfect-- there exists a beautiful paradise of sly little LPs. Not particularly ambitious, bombastic, or even original, but nonetheless exquisite. Along with all the regular programming (Jungle Shadows 4 and Dub Hot Dubs 3 coming very very soon, among others), I'm going to be highlighting a few of these in the coming weeks-- I know a lot of them can be found elsewhere on the web, but I'm here to convince you not to overlook them in favor of other more well-known records.
Of these unsung heroes, Tommy Morgan's Tropicale is one of my very favorites. Mr. Morgan, a well-known and oft-used harmonica man for hire (you can hear him on "Good Vibrations," which is awesome) is here backed by the Warren Barker orchestra, and together they turn in a subtle and unique Exotica LP with harmonica as the lead instrument.
Don't expect the vast primeval vistas of mouth-harp as employed by Sven Libaek (him being particularly well-known for composing with harmonica in mind), or the honkin-n-tootin of any number of easy-listening harmonica trios of the the time; Morgan's sound here is fluttering and dreamy, a pleasant ghost in a misty pastoral scene. This, in conjunction with the lush but fairly basic orchestral arrangements from Barker, does lead to the occasional moments on the record where things start to feel bogged down in slushy melodrama, but there's more great tracks than not on Tropicale, and it always redeems itself with a big winner. "Baia" and "Taboo," which bookend the album, are predictably excellent, but in some rather unpredictable ways, and "Bali Hai" is particularly ghostly. "Miserlou," too, is quite a highlight, and it's a pleasure to hear Morgan's harmonica wind its way through that classic snakelike melody.
Paradise music. Use it well.
TROPICALE (192, it sounds pretty good but feel free to help me upgrade this one)