Close your eyes and dream for a moment. There are beaches and palm trees. Long drinks are served with parasols and consumed while relaxing in hammocks to the distant sound of bird calls and bongo drums. There is no stress and the only adventure is the kind you seek for yourself when you go out into the jungle like a version of Indiana Jones.
Of course, this is all fiction. But the point is that music can create fictional worlds as well as texts and images. In fact, a whole genre was invented to support a dream world. The genre was fittingly called Exotica and the term was coined when Si Waronker, co-founder of Liberty Records, made up the title for pianist Martin Denny's 1957 album that helped define a genre of exotic musical escapism.
One of the future standards of Exotica from that particular album, "Quiet Village," can also be found on an ambitious and joyful compilation of Exotica: Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Delights
. However, it is not the original by Denny, but a version by the Five Glow Tones that introduces the signature bass line and brings in wordless voices and chiming vibraphone. So it goes with the rest of the triple-album. There is no Denny, no Esquivel
, Les Baxter or other stars of the genre. Instead, the focus is directed to lesser known acts like The Palatons, The Potted Palm and The Shelltones. One of the important exceptions to this rule is jazz-organist Jimmy McGriff
, whose groovy "Jungle Cat" is one of the highlights of the album. Unfortunately for vinyl lovers, it is a bonus track to the CD version.
Titles like "Moon Mist," "Polynesian Paradise," "Enchantment," "Arabian Rhythm" and "The Voodoo Walk" say everything about a genre that wants to conjure strange and mystic musical landscapes without taking itself too seriously. Much of this music was dreamt up by local American acts, but in the end, it does not matter. The goal is not to create authentic world music, but rather to invent musical postcards from distant shores.
The strength of Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Delights
is that it shows the diversity of the genre. The album is divided intro three sections: Daiquiri Dirges, Rhum Rhapsodies
and Mai Tai Mambos
. The first section focuses on guitar instrumentals, the second on vocal tracks and the third takes Exotica to the dance floor where an influence from jazz is also felt.
Breezy vocals, vibraphone, swampy organ, honking saxophone, spiky guitar, dancing percussion, rolling piano and the roar of a lion! This compilation has everything. Paradoxically, it is not a compilation that belongs on a desert island, but it is an expertly compiled compendium of cool musical kitsch that is worth diving into.