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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! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 12, 2014 at 10:34