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The Baja Marimbas Get a “New Deal” with “Lazy Days” and “Junior High School”

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There’s been a lot of talk around these parts about A&M Records’ 50th anniversary celebration, and why not?  The label founded by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss virtually defined the sound of AM radio in the 1960s before embracing cutting-edge new wave , rock and R&B sounds in the ensuing decades.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  When one thinks of the A&M Sound, however, those bright and breezy sixties pop songs just might be the defining style.  With the phenomenal success of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass paving the way, A&M delivered gem after gem from groups like Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 and Julius Wechter’s merry band of faux Mexicans, The Baja Marimba Band.  The Kritzerland label has just announced the release of two titles from the Wechter discography.

Despite the goofy oversize sombreros and fake moustaches, the sounds within the grooves of the Baja Marimba LPs were genuinely filled with impeccable musicianship.  Wechter, the main marimba man, had played on Alpert’s TJB records, and composed the hit “Spanish Flea” for his A&M boss.  Alpert soon encouraged him to form his own group, and the Baja Marimba Band was born.  Wechter was supported by session pros including Pete Jolly, Hal Blaine, Leon Russell and Tommy Tedesco, and arrangers like Nick DeCaro.  Alpert himself was the chief producer, especially in the early years, and all told, The Baja Marimba Band released some ten original albums on A&M between 1964 and 1971.  The band’s departure from A&M didn’t close the book on the Baja Marimba Band, however, and certainly not on the career of Julius Wechter.  A 1973 album for Bell Records proclaimed The Baja Marimba Band’s Back, and another LP arrived on the Applause label in 1982.  The final album to bear the Baja Marimba name arrived in 1990 on the Bay Cities label.  Credited to The Baja Marimbas and featuring Wechter fronting a new group of musicians, New Deal offered a new chapter in this musical story.  It was a bit jazzier than the old days, but every bit as delightfully infectious and instantly recognizable.  Now, New Deal is back from original producer Bruce Kimmel’s Kritzerland label in an expanded and remastered edition, retitled Lazy Days.

Lazy Days includes all ten tracks from New Deal.  Most were originals from Wechter and collaborator Jules “Julie” Greenberg, though the album led off with a sprightly run through “We’re Off to See the Wizard” from The Wizard of Oz, and also featured the George and Ira Gershwin standard “But Not for Me.”  Five bonus tracks have been added: “Green Bird,” “Nine on a Match,” a commercial spot for the Santa Anita Racetrack (“Daily Double”) and two from 1982’s Naturally, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” and “Theme from Deep Throat.”  Yes, there was apparently something musically worthwhile among that notorious film’s attributes!

A limited edition of 1,000 copies, Lazy Days is scheduled to ship the first week of September, though pre-orders from Kritzerland usually arrive earlier.  And that’s not all.  Hit the jump for the pre-order link and track listing for Lazy Days, plus the lowdown on Julius and David Wechter’s Junior High School! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 7, 2012 at 12:59