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From Polynesia To Belgium: Cherry Red Goes Exotic! Plus: The Singing Nun! George Melly’s Hedonistic Fifties!

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Exotica ClassicsNo slab of vintage vinyl is too obscure or too esoteric for the team at Cherry Red’s él label, as evidenced by a trio of its most recent offerings from Jeanine Deckers a.k.a. Sœur Sourire a.k.a. The Singing Nun, British critic and personality George Melly, and a whole host of masters of exotica.

The mini-box set Exotica Classics features five albums on two discs, each housed in its own paper sleeve within the slipcased set.  The first features two complete LPs (Miriam Burton’s African Lament and Bob Romeo, His Flute and The Jungle Sextet’s Aphrodisia) and the first half of a third, The Buddy Collette Septet’s Polynesia.   Miriam Burton’s African Lament (1961, Epic) featured the singer and actress (Porgy and Bess, Carmen Jones, House of Flowers) trading in Yma Sumac-style wordless vocal acrobatics over rhythmic, percussion-driven settings co-written, arranged and conducted by Patrick Williams.  If the music was far from authentic, it was certainly striking.  African Lament is joined by 1956’s Aphrodisia (subtitled Music for Delightfully Uninhibited Males and Females Only), with its stunning cover photo of Anita Ekberg – taken from a Martin and Lewis film, of all things.  Its “journey of romantic sensations” led by flautist Romeo (with aid of “the persuasive rhythm of timbales and bongos”) bore a warning label: “The primitive rhythms in this album are basic and explosive!  Those unaccustomed (or accustomed) to dealing with aroused emotions are urged to listen with care!”  Where to go from there?  Exotica Classics goes to Buddy Collette’s Polynesia, with screen dubbing legend Marni Nixon (My Fair Lady, West Side Story) providing the vocals, Robert Sorrels delivering a surreal monologue and bandleader Collette taking his cues from Paul Gauguin  for a journey to the exotic sounds of Polynesia.

The second disc of the set concludes the Collette album and features in full Frank Hunter and His Orchestra’s White Goddess (1959, Kapp) and Ahmad Jamal’s Macanudo (Argo, 1963).  Arranger-conductor Hunter’s exotica project featured largely his own compositions with evocative titles like “Ritual of the Torch” and “Mists of Gorongoza” along with covers including “Poinciana” and Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s “Lost in the Stars.”  Pianist Jamal’s Macanudo paired him with composer-arranger-conductor Richard Evans on an Afro-Latin instrumental travelogue with stops in “Montevideo,” “Bogota,” “Buenos Aires” and elsewhere.

This collection of these rare, offbeat Exotica Classics is packaged with a color booklet containing the original liner notes and credits from each release.  The paper sleeves replicate the cover art for all four titles.  After the jump: él gets even more surreal!

George Melly - Sings DoomGeorge Melly (1926-2007) wore many hats in his lifetime: a jazz and blues singer, a lecturer on surrealism, a film and television critic, a screenwriter, a quiz-show host.  The so-called “dean of decadence” and “Oscar Wilde of English jazz” was one of the most outsized and flamboyant personalities to emerge from Liverpool, and remained in the public eye straight up through his death in 2007 at the age of 80.  George Melly Sings Doom: The Hedonistic Fifties, a 27-track anthology, compiles some of the bon vivant’s most distinctive music recorded between 1955 and 1959 – including single A and B-sides and the offbeat four-track EP from 1956 that gives the collection its name.  (Tracks: “Send Me to the ‘lectric Chair,” “Cemetery Blues,” “Blue Spirit Blues” and “Death Letter.”)  Other recordings here, though, are scarcely less amusingly outré, including “You’ve Got the Right Key But the Wrong Hole” (uh-huh!),  “I’m a Ding Dong Daddy (From Dumas)” and “My Canary Has Circles Under His Eyes.”  The package is rounded out with biographical notes about Melly.  George Melly Sings Doom just might be the most unusual record you’ll see this year – or any other.

Singing NunOne can only imagine what The Singing Nun, Sœur Sourire (“Sister Smile”), would have thought of George Melly.  Sister Smile, of the Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Fichermont in Waterloo, Belgium, became perhaps the unlikeliest pop star of the 1960s when she took “Dominique” to No. 1 on the U.S. Pop chart and went Top 10 in Britain.  The Singing Nun was such a sensation that her first album sold nearly two million copies, she appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, and her life story inspired a (largely fictional) 1966 biographical film starring Debbie Reynolds.  The Singing Nun’s later years were marked by personal troubles including a rejection of her Catholic faith, nervous breakdowns and drug abuse, which culminated with her 1985 suicide.  The él release of The Singing Nun Sœur Sourire presents 20 of Sister Smile’s tracks recorded in 1960 and 1961 including the original “Dominique.”  It’s been paired with a selection of Catholic sacred music from French composer and organist Olivier Messiaen recorded in Paris in 1956.  Biographical information for both artists is provided in the booklet.

All three releases from él are available now and can be ordered at the links below!

Various Artists, Exotica Classics (él ACMEM272CD, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

CD 1

  1. Rites of Passage (Parts 1-3)
  2. Kenscoff
  3. Kalahari Bushmen
  4. Congo Lament (Parts 1 & 2)
  5. Yoruba Lady
  6. Apartheid
  7. Palm Wine Party
  8. Flute Hurricane
  9. Lonely Flute
  10. Song of India
  11. Lisbon Street Dance
  12. Algiers
  13. Jungle Fantasy
  14. Jungle Fifes
  15. Sahara
  16. Merry Flute
  17. Zen
  18. Dardanella
  19. Hindustan
  20. Taboo
  21. Flight
  22. Gauguin
  23. Singapore Sling

CD 2

  1. Polynesian Suite
  2. Japanese Suite
  3. Ritual of the Torch
  4. Poinciana
  5. Strange Echoes
  6. Jungle Drums
  7. Pulse
  8. Lost Plateau
  9. White Goddess
  10. Temple Bells
  11. Lost in the Stars
  12. Zimbah!
  13. Mist of Gorongoza
  14. Jungle Fantasy
  15. Montevideo
  16. Bogota
  17. Sugar Loaf at Twilight
  18. Haitian Market Place
  19. Buenos Aires
  20. Bossa Nova do Marilla
  21. Carnival in Panama
  22. Belo Horizonte

CD 1, Tracks 1-7 from Miriam Burton, African Lament, Epic BN 26011, 1961
CD 1, Tracks 8-19 from Bob Romeo, His Flute and the Jungle Sextet, Sunset 304, 1956
CD 1, Tracks 20-23 and CD 2, Tracks 1-2 from The Buddy Collette Septet, Polynesia, Music & Sound S 1-1001, 1959
CD 2, Tracks 3-14 from Frank Hunter and His Orchestra, White Goddess, Kapp KS-3019, 1959
CD 2, Tracks 15-22 from Ahmad Jamal and His Orchestra, Macanudo, Argo LPS-712, 1963

George Melly, Sings Doom (él ACMEM273CD, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. )

  1. Frankie and Johnny
  2. I’m Down in the Dumps
  3. Muddy Water
  4. Miss Jenny’s Ball
  5. Organ Grinder
  6. You’ve Got the Right Key, But the Wrong Hole
  7. Kingdom Coming
  8. I’m a Ding-Dong Daddy (From Dumas)
  9. Waiting for a Train
  10. Railroadin’ Man
  11. My Canary Has Circles Under His Eyes
  12. Heebie Jeebies
  13. Send Me to the ‘lectric Chair
  14. Cemetery Blues
  15. Blue Spirit Blues
  16. Death Letter
  17. Black Bottom
  18. Magnolia
  19. Michigan Water Blues
  20. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  21. St. Louis Blues
  22. Spider Crawl
  23. Abdul Abulbul Amir
  24. Get Away, Old Man, Get Away
  25. Granny’s Old Armchair
  26. Donald the Dub (The Dirty Little Pill)
  27. Interview with George Melly (1959)

Tracks 1-2 with Alex Welsh and His Dixielanders
Tracks 3-6 with Mick Mulligan’s Band

All other tracks credited to George Melly, solo.

The Singing Nun, Sœur Sourire/Olivier Messaen, Selection of Works for Organ (él ACMEM271CD, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Dominique
  2. Sœur Adele
  3. Fleur de Cactus
  4. Complainte pour Marie-Jacques
  5. Je Voudrais
  6. Tous Les Chemins
  7. Pluem de Radis
  8. Mets ton Joli Jupon
  9. Resurrection
  10. Alleluia
  11. J’ai trouve le Seigneur
  12. Entre Les Etoiles
  13. Midi
  14. Les Piedes des Missionaires
  15. Kabinda
  16. Mon Cœur de Dieu
  17. Ma Petite Muse
  18. Avec Toi
  19. Une Fleur
  20. Pavure Devant Toi
  21. Le Banquet Celeste (1928)
  22. L’Ascension (1933-1934)
  23. Les Corps Glorieux (1939) – Movement 7

Tracks 1-20 performed by The Singing Nun
Tracks 21-23 performed by Olivier Messaen


Written by Joe Marchese

August 12, 2014 at 10:34

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