Thursday, January 30, 2014
"A Queer Tone Hovered in the Air- Could It Be a Girl?": Norrie Paramor- Amor, Amor! (1961)
This would have been an easy record to pass by. My goodness, what an unappealing cover. I ran into this one in a thrift bin somewhere and almost ignored it, but because there was definitely something unsettling about this gal's eyes, I lingered. After taking a look at the tracklist, I figured it was worth 50 cents and took it home.
I'm glad I did. It's no masterpiece, but it's actually pretty great. It's a sort of late-period, exotica-lite LP of a rather common variety, centered on "Latin Standards" and padded out with the usual suspects (Lecuona, "Baia", etc.). The sound is generally pleasant-- the string section isn't overly saccharine, and the percussion is tame but rather delightfully full, mixed to the front and sort of round and juicy. Nice stuff, but if it were just that and nothing more, I don't know if I'd have mentioned it here. The kicker on this album, for me, is that it features a really weird, naggingly off female vocal on some of the tracks (a commenter, der bajazzo, has pointed out that these vocals belong to a Patricia Clark).
There are no vocal tracks per se-- she's mostly employed as an accent or bit of punctuation at the end of the song (Latin rumbas used to do this a lot too, end an instrumental with a few bars of the vocal). I don't mean she's a bad singer (this isn't an Ethel Azama or Sondi Sondsai situation), though she's not a conspicuously good singer either (in the vein of Yma Sumac or something)-- it's just that she's used really weirdly. It's the kind of off-putting, slightly dissonant (but also decadent, exotic) accenting you see all over exotica, in the form of, say, bird calls, or ethnic instruments simplistically played for effect, or electronic sounds. Come to think of it, this lady sounds like a less-shrill theremin, a quality that must have been noted by Norrie Paramor himself: on "Luna Rosa (Blushing Moon)", he seems to be doubling her creamily caterwauling vocals with a moog or perhaps another synthesizer (could be a weird orchestra effect, however). The result is metallic, intriguingly dissonant, alienating, inhuman, and totally befuddling. The first time I heard it, I remember doing a classic double-take. The thing is, it's so subtle and out-of-place (even on what is a slightly bizarre record) that it just bugs you out, it makes you feel crazy. It's definitely the highlight of the record.
At this point, I may have over-hyped Amor, Amor! somewhat. It's no lost masterpiece, and it's hardly a significant oddity of any real heft. I do enjoy playing it, however, and I've played it a lot. So it endures.
AMOR, AMOR! (320)
(Anybody holding a good copy of Gene Rains' Lotus Land or Rains in the Tropics which they wouldn't mind sharing? I'd love to do a post on him but my rips are bad, just bad.)