In this frantic age of vinyl rediscovery, it still never ceases to amaze as to the kinds of projects that companies are willing to go for broke on for what has become a booming and buying audience. In many ways it is truly a win-win situation. There's so much great music out there and the idea of bringing it back to our attention or finding a new audience in the guise of its original intent can rarely be seen as anything less than intriguing.
It's been awhile since marketing has put to the forefront the music of Juan Garcia Esquivel. Back in 1994, a compilation of his '50s and '60s recordings for RCA titled Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music
managed to seduce a whole new population with its quirky appeal, eventually going on to sell some 70,000 copies. In more recent times, we have heard less from this pioneer of stereo recording and large ensemble music. This makes Audio Fidelity's treatment of 1958's Other Worlds Other Sounds
such a welcome addition to the reissue's firm's already distinctive catalog.
Recorded one afternoon in just five hours, the twelve selections that make up Other Worlds Other Sounds
put your stereo to the test with pianist and composer Esquivel leading a 26-piece orchestra and voices. Think the music of Montovani or Hugo Montenegro as a good starting point. However, this easy listening style is somewhat more intriguing in Esquivel's hands as he imbibes each piece with Latin rhythms and chooses to give conscious thought to the stereo spread and to how sounds move across the sound field.
Many familiar pieces of the era can be heard here, their faces taking on a new guise. The opening "Granada" sets up the mood with tinkling piano riffs over a percolating bongo beat. Brass shouts announce a double time frolic through the middle section as Equivel's piano prances up and down the octaves. "Begin the Beguine" introduces the colorful vocal choir with their "zoom zoom" punctuations. By contrast, a Mexicali trumpet hits the stratosphere for an original romp entitled "Adios." In fact, the great lead on "Nature Boy" recalls the sound and muse of the late swing era trumpeter Don Goldie
Upping the ante on side two, we get pedal steel guitar on the closing chorus of "That Old Black Magic," some xylophone riffs on "Speak Low" and those "doot-do" vocals mixing with Hawaiian guitars on "Magic is the Moonlight." But it might be the catchy "Ballerina" that tips the hat in terms of creative color combinations. First, the flutes have their say, followed by a guitar lead that is punctuated by trumpet accents. Then, the big guns take over via a weighty horn section.
With just the right combination of echo, natural ambient sound, and stereo mix experimentation, the final result here is pure music devoid of any real kitsch factor. In fact in terms of musical integrity, Esquivel's creativity stands head and shoulders above the mood music that was so common back in the '50s and '60s. Mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio, this 180-gram pressing was largely free of pops and ticks and expressively large in sound. This reviewer didn't have an original pressing to make comparisons, but it would be hard to fathom anything topping the overall excellence of this much-needed reissue.
Associated equipment used for evaluation
VPI Scout 1.1 turntable with Clearaudio Virtuoso V.2 Ebony cartridge
Musical Fidelity A3CR amplifier and preamp
Sutherland Insight phono preamp
Bryston BCD-1 CD player
Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus 805 loudspeakers
Cardas cable and interconnects, Chang Lightspeed power conditioner
Granada; Begin the Beguine; Night and Day; Poinciana; Playfully; Adiós; That Old Black Magic; Nature Boy; Magic Is the Moonlight (Te quiero dijeste); Speak Low; Ballerina; It Had to Be You.