Amoeblog

Sophisticated Voodoo Jazz of the 50's

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, May 15, 2018 01:25pm | Post a Comment

Mystery Skull

By Kai Wada Roath
Ambassador of Confusion Hill and host of the Super Shangri-La ShowRobert Drasnin, Voodoo

So, you just found a Mystic Skull board game with all the pieces at the swap-meet and you are having some friends coming over to play it before watching Val Lewton's 1943 classic, I Walked with a Zombie. You frustratingly find yourself digging through your vinyl vaults and cannot seem to find the right music to set the eerie atmosphere you desire. Let my red chicken foot charm point you the way to the records you seek...some for the music, others for their covers.

Robert Drasnin's 1959 album titled Voodoo, is truly superb. You can easily feel entranced from the music, luring your mind deep into a forbidden jungle while listening to "Chant of the Moon." If the stars are in alignment, you may be lucky enough to find this record on colored vinyl (I recently found a yellow one). Perhaps some of you may have even seen Robert Drasnin when he performed at the Tiki Oasis back in 2008.



Perez Prado's "Voodoo Suite" is the "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" of jungle jazz. From exotic drumming and primitive shouts and grunts to smooth jazz beats, this 23 minute piece makes you wish you were prowling on all fours like a tiger, hunting a scantly clad prey in the Jungle Rock Room at the Madonna Inn. Listen to it in its entirety, and if you stumble across this record in the wild do not hesitate in buying it. Pounce on it! In my humble opinion, this composition is a masterpiece.

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New Taboo: Recent Vinyl Releases for Exotica Enthusiasts

Posted by Kells, August 31, 2016 10:32pm | Post a Comment

Lounge lizard brothers and sisters, tiki torch-bearers, and any other Jazz/World/Oldies bin-combers craving an escape from the harsh realities of this cruel world: rejoice! A splash of freshly pressed exotic pu-pus for your easy listening pleasure platters has hit the shelves this Summer, with the quartet of new releases pictured above presenting an especially potent sonic swizzle of hi-fi reverie. So disable your rudder, lose the shoes, stir up a tipple or two and drift into the intoxicating lagoon of these "new" grooves.


V/A - Taboo: An Exploration into the Exotic World of Taboo Vol. 1 (Stag-O-Lee)

The first of a series dubbed Journey To The Centre Of The Song (each volume celebrating a singular tune by exploring a sampling of various recorded versions), this 10" contains nine genre-spanning interpretations of the popular standard "Taboo" (or "Tabou" or "Tabu") composed by Cuban musician Margarita Lecuona, a lady also responsible for the classic "Babalou". From Charles Blackwell's raucous "Surf'stramental" opener to the brassy cha-cha of Tito Rivera, and from the island rhythms of Cyril Diaz to Sylvia Mora's noir popcorn grind, all these and more buttoned up nicely by Arthur Lyman's own sensual evocation, nothing feels forbidden about the magic of examining these songs altogether or individually. In fact, it feels great to have them all in one place.



V/A - Voodoo Party Vol. 1 (University of Vice)

This recent release is actually a reissue of the first Voodoo Party compilation, long sought-after since being out of print for over a decade. It's return may also be in part due to the success of the most excellent Voodoo Party Vol. 2—the second volume in the series of occult-focused eccentricities compiled by music research gurus University of Vice (please, oh, please let there be a volume three). In any case, both enchanting volumes are chock full of enough nocturnal, ritualistic burners from Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru, Puerto Rico, the African continent, and the infernal beyond to make ones head spin. With song titles like "Zombie Jamboree", "El Diablo", and "Animal Concert In A Cemetery", expect something wild, something weird, something sensual, something sinister, and drums, baby, DRUMS! 



Eden Ahbez - Wild Boy: The Lost Songs Of Eden Ahbez (Bear Family)

Eden Ahbez—if ever there were a true mystic of the nebulous Exotica genre, it would be he. Be it a demo sung by Ahbez himself or a rare renditions by Eartha Kitt and Arthur Lyman, most of the "lost" songs gathered for this collection span the years between Ahbez's best known work, "Nature Boy" (an autobiographical song that scored a hit with Nat "King" Cole in 1948), and his lone 1960 solo album and cult/tiki collector's item Eden's Island. The insightful and  extensive liner notes by Brian Chidester flesh out Ahbez's somewhat foggy past and posits his lifestyle choices and creative expressions as a well-spring of the hippie movement and a plausible genesis for psychedelic music as we know it. Needless to say, and all novelty aside, this is essentially far out.



Elvis Presley - Way Down in the Jungle Room (RCA/Legacy)

While Elvis' last studio recording sessions may seem more than a tad removed from the above three LPs, it makes up for any lack of sonic similarity with a certain vibe imparted by its ambient provenance. Consider for a moment how this record might be received if it had been recorded, say, way down in the TV Room. It could sound the same, but dropping the needle on this collection "fly-on-the-wall" late night outtakes (at one point you can hear Elvis yelling for someone to shoot the phone off the wall or something) while the tikitastic Jungle Room album cover stares down at you with it's hulking and markedly empty Witco chair propping Presley's guitar on its arm, flanked by more Witco, tropical plants, a meadow of funky, and overgrown shag "grass" carpet hemmed with a cut stone, red-light waterfall wall, a distinct transportative quality is lent to the listening. That Elvis chose to render Graceland's Jungle Room into a recording studio says something about the man's moods and relaxation preferences, and I think anyone with piqued interest in the three records reviewed above can heartily recognize these leanings and savor the flavor of the particular atmosphere harnessed on this record. I'm no expert when it comes to late, late-era Elvis, but it seems to me that he and his players were really feeling this gig and living it up accordingly way down in the Jungle Room. Just browsing the photos included in the album artwork is intoxicating enough to induce delirium.
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Personal Picks: Kelly's Best of 2012 Year-End Recap

Posted by Kells, December 31, 2012 02:30pm | Post a Comment


Well, here we are. We weren't thrust into a new dark age oblivion, the world didn't end and neither did my workaday quest for the best music for the day. This year was rife with records that just had to be snatched -- reissues, compilations, and a fair few newbies too.

Here follows my personal, "show and tell" style best-of list for 2012:  the year that didn't stop the big wheel a-turnin'. Rather than just dicing up a list of cold-cut favorites, I've included personal events and trends herein that shaped the music I sought and gravitated towards within the past year.


BEST NEW ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Jessica Pratt - JP. No contest. I have naught but the best of things to say about this disc of spun gold and I'm not alone. It seems every Barry, Rob, and Maurice in the blogosphere has been falling all over this record like autumn leaves in the rain. If you really want to know my take check out my real talk review of JP here, otherwise please do enjoy the album's opening track, "Night Faces" below.





 
BEST 2012 REISSUE: It's a tie between two (Numero related) comps: WTNG 89.9FM: Solid Bronze and & Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974 - 1984. Both platters piled high with private press oddments and rarities one could hardly go more wrong than to miss out on these two exemplary feats of the compilation arts. The former being a point of revision for many in that it is essentially a mix of largely unheard "yacht rock"/AOR triumphs of seventies song-writing sensibilities (man, is it ever sensibly sensitive) that confronts one's moral definition of guilty (listening) pleasures. The latter comp, Personal Space - a seemingly dark horse among the usual reissue fare fleshing out the the soul comps shelf space, made the rounds among Amoeba staff regularly thus enjoyed a healthy amount of in-store play as well. Chock full of rhythm-box workouts a la Sly Stone, Timmy Thomas and Shuggie Otis, it's a far-out soul/funk excavation of the highest order. Both of these are solid front-to-back listens for the home vinyl library/curio corner.

An honorable mention smoothing out the angles in this Bermuda triangle of smooth sailing comps would have to be that Tim Findlay (of Groove Armada) mix for the Late Night Tales series, Music for Pleasure. Holy horse latitudes is this mix ever the very essence of a guilty, yacht-rocking pleasurecraft. I'd swear it's been a banner year for harnessing the soft, ever-lilting easy breezes of boxed-wine status AM Gold.
 

REIUSSUE RADNESS: Thin Lizzy, Takeshi Terauchi, Judas Priest, Stan Rogers, Can, My Bloody Valentine and so, so many other reissues really lit up the old hi-fi this year. Of the pack I'd say that the Light in the Attic reish of Thin Lizzy's self-titled album and Allen Toussaint's Southern Nights (out via 4 Men with Beards) have been fighting it out for turntable dominance most of this past year. I'm still digesting the Can - Lost Tapes box set and don't even get me started on the glory that is the live at the '83 US Fest DVD that comes packaged with the latest remastered reissue of Judas Priest's 30-year-old masterpiece Screaming for Vengeance. Other notable reissues include the waves of fuzzy shoegaze nostalgia imparted to the middle bit of 2012 thanks to the My Bloody Valentine reissue tsunami, the continuation of the very long overdue reissue of Canada's working man's maritime-folk troubadour Stan Rogers' back catalogue (what began last year) and the release of Nippon Guitars -- a killer comp ofering an overview of the life and work of Japan's godfather of surf guitar, Takeshi Terauchi. It's so good we can't even play it in the store on a busy without selling out by the end of track three.

speaking of compilations...

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The Nature Boy and The Island-aire: Digging Exotica's Wild Roving Mystics

Posted by Kells, October 10, 2012 03:32pm | Post a Comment

If there's one thing an appreciation of music micro-genres has taught me it's this: work in a record store long enough and you'll eventually get into everything. Being predisposed to an appreciation of all things nautical by nature and developing a fondness for "theme" restaurants during my formative years it was only a matter of time before I would incur an full-on addiction to Exotica. At first I admit I mostly overlooked the jazz elements inherent to the genre, however pleasantly tropical, but obsession has a funny way of broadening ones taste for the far flung and curiously obscure. While I cannot trace my collection back to one single acquisition I can proclaim without a doubt that this squaw has stalked the warpath for Exotica, in all it's varied and as-yet-unconfirmed aspects, for quite some time. I'm so hot for it I'm on fire and, with that admonition out of the way, I'm pleased to report that a vinyl reissue of Eden Ahbez's seminal contribution to the genre, Eden's Island: The Music of an Enchanted Isle (out on Moi J'Connais/Black Sweat via Mississippi Records), is once again gracing the selections in Amoeba Music's Lounge section at long last!


A beach-bummin' beatnik guru by nature, Eden Ahbez was famous for three things: penning the pop/jazz standard "Nature Boy" (made famous by one Nat King Cole), looking a lot like Jesus (both on the original Eden's Island cover art, circa 1960 above on the left, as well as the updated screen-printed jacket housing the current reissue pictured above right), and thriving on a diet consisting of  raw fruit and vegetables, living outdoors with his family beneath the first L of the Hollywood sign in the grassy Los Angeles wilderness. His music is a strange arrangement of piano, flute, and exotic percussion instruments fused with nature sounds (rolling surf, the creak of a wood-masted sailboat, squawking birds, breezy gusts of wind), and features a mixed chorus or Ahbez's own cheesy vocal musings, waxing poetic about a snake-chasing mongoose, living in an old shack by the sea, fires on the beach, and knowing "the thrill of loneliness" -- charming, to the last.

Eden Ahbez - "Full Moon"


It's difficult to think of any other artist alive that qualifies as sounding similar to Eden Ahbez (vibe-wise, free-spiritied surfer/singer/songwriter Little Wings might be his closest contemporary), but there is another wayfaring purveyor of Exotica's far-out Polynesian pop-tones who also made his way in L.A. and whose vinyl legacy that is even harder to hunt down than that of a Hollywood hill-dwelling proto-hippie. I speaking of course (of course?) of Mr. Paul Page.


The Hapa-Haole strains of Paul Page and his Island-aires earned the inclusion of two tracks on urban archeologist and Tiki godfather Sven A. Kirsten's momentous, seventeen-song Sound of Tiki compilation (Bear Family Records) -- an action that not only speaks of the high regard Exotica enthusiasts, Lounge lizards, and Tiki-philes alike ought to impart to Page and co. but also presents evidence to the relative shortness of their songs which are really more like little odes to a succession of fantasized South Seas daydreams. Kirsten himself lauds Page's unsung hero status as an early proponent of the castaway aesthetic, bolstering America's mid-century fascination with the Pacific Islands and inspiring aspiring restauranteurs to bring a driftwood and fishnet flotilla festooned paradise to the mainland.

Paul Page, like Eden Ahbez, narrates more than he sings, rhapsodizing simple island pleasures with a deep, lazy resonance that sounds like Johnny Cash doing his best William Shatner impression after downing a couple of Mai Tais. Simple percussion and lilting pedal steel cut with the sounds of, yes, rolling surf and seagulls, Page lays down some of the most naïve "aloha" lyrics ever uttered, some of them don't even make a lick of sense (i.e. "when Sam goes back to Samoa/ he'll have to change all his wicky-wacky-woo/ for to swing and sway the island way/means rock-a-hula, baby I love you"). What's more, the record was released under four differing titles meant to promote the four individual Polynesian restaurants that proffered his tunes once upon a time. You'd think that four issues of the same record, differing titles or no, would mean it'd be four times as easy to locate the damn thing, right? Riiight?

Wrong! Castaway, Ports O' Call, Pieces of Eight, Reef is Calling -- I've searched for them all for so long it seems as though the quest itself attained a sort of Holy Grail level of devotion. As luck would have it, my years-long quest ended quite recently while on vacation in Hawaii. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Sven A. Kirsten and other informants (such as this site) I was fully aware of Page's split career living as a model and entertainer in both L.A. and Honolulu (and his owning up to bedding "over 400 women"), but having never visited the Hawaiian islands before, and therefore being fully blinded by her charms and distracted by my own search for all things Tiki, I never imagined I'd find a lonely copy of Ports O' Call lurking behind a rack of musty muumuus in the depths of a darkened Kapahulu vintage boutique. Total score! The only thing that could've one upped this fateful exhumation (despite the holiday in Oahu, mind you) would have to be finding this record at Amoeba Music where, without a doubt, it would be concealed within the confines of the clearance vinyl hoard yet glowing knowingly like the treasure of Tutenkhamun's tomb, to be had for the princely sum of one dollar.

Paul Page - "Castaway"

Vinyl dreams can and do come true, people -- here's my Ports O' Call victory shot to prove it; keep digging, diggers!

And if you ever find yourself daunted by the quest to procure that which you most desire please keep in mind that record collecting is, at the very least, a waltz with fate what occasionally trips and falls on dumb luck. It's an unpredictable, exciting pursuit whether you fancy yourself a serious record, poker-faced record collector or, as Paul Page puts it, "just a derelict on the foam" -- I like to think of myself as a hybrid of the two. 

Below are a few images I captured during my recent adventures in Hawaii. Needless to say, I can't wait to go back -- it really is an Exotica addicts' fix. Aloha!




Ports O' Call: Paradise is Spinning (at 33 1/3 rpm)

Posted by Kells, February 22, 2011 12:00am | Post a Comment
What do you get when two nerds from the same record store meet regularly to discuss all manner of music, art and general enjoyment over rum flights and multiple cocktails at San Francisco's best stocked "tiki" lounge? Hmmm, somehow I can't rememeber...

...oh right, "Ports O' Call" --- three hours of uninterrupted Exotica mixed live on the wheels of steel as a part of Amoeba's weekly, in-house "Mandala" DJ series! DJ Martin Baxter Lyman (a.k.a. Amoeba jazz-man extraordinaire, Mr. Scott Walker) and DJ Long Gone Gamelan Gong (that's me!) will be exploring the experimental themes and concepts of Polynesian infused grooves from the founding fathers of Exotica and their Tiki temple grounds to popular Hapa Haole and Surf styles, with respect to native influences inherent to and modern music influenced by the genre. So if all sounds Exotica are your thing then this Friday, February 25th, from 6 to 9pm is the best time for you to come down to Amoeba Music in San Francisco to do a little vinyl treasure hunting while we mix up some island fever inducing south seas sonic realness. Requests welcome!

Martin Denny & Si Zentner "Tiki" from Exotica Suite