Tag Archives: Latin

Malo: Latin Boogaloo – The Warner Bros. Singles

The single edits of a 1970s Latin-rock jam band

Omnivore takes a fresh look at the San Francisco-based Latin-rock group Malo through the lens of their singles. The band’s original run of 1970s albums (Malo, Dos, Evolution and Ascención) can be found in reissue, alongside live albums and best ofs, but the original single edits (courtesy of Malo’s producer, David Rubinson) have been harder to come by. The interest in these sides lays in the resonance they will have for those who first met Malo on the radio. The group’s first single, “Suavecito,” is presented here in the shortened 3:29 version that climbed to #18 on the Billboard Top 100. The longer album version, from the group’s self-titled debut, is certainly worth having, but may seem oddly long to those weaned on the single.

The band’s mix of rock, soul, funk and Latin flavors were powered by a punchy rhythm section, tight horn charts, and the guitar playing of Jorge Santana and Abel Zarate. The tightly edited singles presented here elide intros, instrumental passages and lengthy jams that gave the albums flavor. That said, the highly-charged arrangements of guitar, percussion and horns were the band’s calling card, and though not heard at album length on the singles, are still the focal point of many of these sides. Some of the tunes, such as “Cafe,” feel as if they were cut off just as the band was taking flight, while others were more artfully edited into shorter form.

Omnivore has gathered Malo’s six singles for Warner Bros. – A’s and B’s – plus a single that was prepared (“Just Say Goodbye” b/w “Pana”) but only released in Turkey. Given that the band’s first single was the only one to chart, it’s likely that many listeners will be unfamiliar with terrific sides that include a soulful cover of “I Don’t Know,” the funky B-side “Think About Love” and the instrumental “Just Say Goodbye.” To hear the band in full flight, you’ll need the albums, but those looking for an intro, or deep fans wanting to hear how the band’s jams were tamed for radio will enjoy this volume. All stereo, except #4. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Various Artists: Technicolor Paradise – Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights

Top shelf Exotica rarities

“Exotica” is a musical genre born at the post-war intersection of jet travel and high fidelity. It’s name was coined for Martin Denny’s pioneering debut album, and it’s sound offered an intoxicating blend of world percussion, tribal rhythms, orchestral arrangements, wordless vocals, jazz changes and modern instrumentation. Exotica offered an invitation to an exotic Shangri-La through expansive, often culturally ersatz, sounds. Though born in tropical climes, exotica expanded, particularly in retrospect, to include Asian and Latin influences. The genre’s 1990’s revival, amid a broader look back at “space age bachelor pad” culture, spurred numerous reissues of thrift store rarities, artist anthologies and genre compilations, alongside new books, visual art, weekenders and analyses of the revival itself.

Canadian artist Gordon Monahan posited a holy trinity of exotica songs in “Taboo,” “Caravan” and “Quiet Village,” repeating them in triplet form in both performance and on record. “Taboo,” though written by Cuban singer and composer Margarita Lecuona, is closely associated with Hawaiian vibraphonist Arthur Lyman. “Caravan” began its life as a jazz standard written by Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington, and though first performed by the latter in 1936, became an exotica staple in the 1950s. It’s offered here by percussionist Bobby Christian, with a twangy guitar lead and a siren’s ghostly vocal from Christian’s daughter. “Quiet Village,” written and originally recorded by Les Baxter, was turned into exotica’s national anthem by Martin Denny’s 1957 arrangement. It appears here in a vocal version by former Our Gang actress Darla Hood, as well as a vibraphone-led instrumental by Five Glow Tones.

Numero expands on Monahan’s trio of exotica pillars with 54 (48 for the LP release) expertly curated rarities. A few of the titles may be familiar, such as “The Moon of Manakoora” and “Nature Boy,” but they’re presented here in versions all but the most devout have not likely heard. And given that “exotica” is more a retrospective label applied by crate-digging collectors than a cohesive musical category, collections such as this define the borders for themselves. Disc 1, titled “Daiquiri Dirges,” focuses on guitar instrumentals, including a surprisingly mellow early recording from the Pacific Northwest’s Wailers entitled “Driftwood,” the Blazers’ surf-tinged “Sound of Mecca,” the Palaton’s languorous “Jungle Guitar,” the Voodoos’ Quiet Village-inspired “The Voodoo Walk,” and the Chayns’ earworm “Live With the Moon.”

Disc 2, titled “Rhum Rhapsodies,” expands the program to vocal tracks, giving a feel for some of the not-particularly-exotic acts that hitched a ride on the good ship exotica. In addition to a second track by Darla Hood (“Silent Island,” also rendered in a wonderfully moody orchestral arrangement by Modesto Duran), there’s a dramatic harmony chorus on film composer Andre Brummer’s “Tumba,” comic actress Martha Raye cover of the exotica chestnut “Lotus Land,” Jerry Warren’s Paul Anka-styled B-side “Enchantress,” the Potted Palm’s AIP-soundtrack-ready “My House of Grass,” and Akim’s frantic “Voodoo Drums.” Don Reed’s sax-heavy cover of “Nature Boy” gains a dollop of exotica cred from its haunting, Yma Sumac-styled vocal, and the Centuries’ “Polynesian Paradise” faintly suggests folk and surf origins, even as the wordless vocalist loses track of the islands’ tranquil feeling.

The set’s third disc, titled “Mai Tai Mambos,” returns to instrumentals, sailing into port with Latin, guitar, jazz and orchestral arrangements from Cuban conga player Modesto Duran, Canadian rockabilly Arnie Derksen, Americans Nick Roberts, Eddie “The Sheik” Kochak and Jimmy McGriff, and others. The percussive arrangements and pulse-racing rhythms revive the set’s exotica vibe, with even soul singer Bobby Paris finding an Afro-Cuban groove for 1961’s “Dark Continent.” The instrumentalists take the exotica elements as new flavors – rhythms, instruments, melodic lines and song titles to be imbibed – rather than overt commercial opportunities to be chugged. Each of the three discs harbors unique charms, and listeners may find their favorite shifting with the sybaritic tide.

The CD set’s 129-page hard-cover book is perhaps even more impressive than the CDs. Ken Shipley’s liner notes provide a scene-setting introduction, and the song notes are spectacular in their encyclopedia detail. Michael Graves has conjured magic in his audio restoration of the mixed bag of tape and vinyl he was served, knitting together the disparate sources into a smoothly flowing program. The book is filled with period photos and record label reproductions, and while the overall design is beautiful, some of the backgrounds make the text hard to read. The selection of lesser known artists and songs makes this set a terrific complement to exotica’s best known recordings, and a set that both the novice and experienced fan can enjoy. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Various Artists: The Roots of Popular Music – The Ralph S. Peer Story

The recordings and song publishing of a legend

It’s hard to imagine someone more important to American popular music than Ralph S. Peer. His pioneering achievements in blues, country, jazz and Latin music vaulted him into the highest echelon of A&R, and his career as a publisher built a foundational catalog that remains sturdy to this day. Peer’s recordings of Mamie Smith, Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, and a publishing catalog that stretched from Bill Monroe to Perez Prado to Hoagy Carmichael to Buddy Holly speaks to his ears for originality and his unprejudiced love of music. His talent for placing songs with singers exemplifies the sort of contribution a non-musician can make to music, and his extrapolation of regional and societal niches into popular phenomena speaks to a vision unclouded by the status quo.

Ralph Peer was not the only producer to explore the musical landscape of the United States, but unlike his peer John Lomax, Peer was less a folklorist, and more a producer whose studio was in the trunk of his car. In 1927 he discovered Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family in a single session in Bristol, Tennessee, and found additional success prospecting in Latin America. His interests in musical areas outside the popular mainstream led him to back the newly formed BMI, which in turn would spur the growth of radio as a medium for records, rather than live performances. The fruits of those labors are heard here in the songs he placed with Jimmy Dorsey, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and others.

The chronological running order of the first two discs gives listeners a sense of how Peer had his fingers in multiple genres at once. The enduring legacy of his work as a publisher is heard on disc 3, in recordings of songs whose appeal continued to grow after Peer’s 1960 death. The focus on Peer’s publishing catalog leaves out many of his landmark recordings, such as Fiddlin’ John Carson’s “Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane.” The hardcover book includes notes from Peer biographer Barry Mazor, photographs and artifacts, but its lack of discourse on the set’s musical selections renders it more of an exhibit catalog than the liner notes for a fifty-song anthology. Pick up Mazor’s book, and the combination will tell you the story in words and music. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

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Dusty Springfield: Come for a Dream – The U.K. Sessions 1970-1971

DustySpringfield_ComeForADreamDusty Springfield’s little-known 1970-71 UK sessions

It takes a star of nearly unparalleled stature to hold separate recording contracts for the U.S. and the rest of the world, each on its own label, and each producing its own sessions and releases. But that’s just how Dusty Springfield was situated when her stateside contract with Philips expired in 1968, and a new U.S.-only contract was struck with Atlantic. Philips retained the right to record and release Springfield’s records outside the U.S., as well as gaining access to material recorded by Atlantic. Atlantic gained a reciprocal right to Philips-recorded material, but opted to stick with their own sessions, leaving a period of Springfield’s UK late-60s and early-70s work unfamiliar to American ears. The intervening decades have seen most of this material released on U.S. compilations, but not always in collections that reflect the original sessions or artistic intent.

Earlier this year, Real Gone expanded Springfield’s early-70s catalog with the lost Atlantic album Faithful, and they now hop the pond to collect  material from UK sessions that formed the core of the 1972 Philips-released See All Her Faces. Philips combined nine tracks from UK sessions with a handful of Atlantic singles and B-sides to create an album with numerous high points, but neither a great deal of consistency, nor a full-telling of Springfield’s London session work. Rhino collected much of the UK material on 1999’s Dusty in London, but by zeroing in on 1970-71, and adding three tracks left off the Rhino collection (“Goodbye,” “Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do,” “Go My Love”) and a rehearsal construction of “O-o-h Child,” Real Gone has fashioned a disc that tells a more coherent story than either Philips’ 1972 album or Rhino’s later compilation.

Springfield was always soulful, even as her material stretched across sambas, film themes and pop, and her style was so unique as to possess even well-known material like Leon Russell’s “A Song For You,” Goffin and King’s “Wasn’t Born to Follow” and the Young Rascals’ “How Can I Be Sure.” The smokiness of her voice was an obvious fit for soul songs “Crumbs Off the Table” and “Girls it Ain’t Easy,” but also perfectly suited to sambas by Antonio Carlos Jobim (“Come For a Dream”) and Spike Milligan (“Goodbye”), film themes (“I Start Counting”) and sophisticated pop (Jimmy Webb’s “Mixed Up Girl” and Charles Aznavour’s “Yesterday When I Was Young”). The album’s orchestrations (variously by Jimmy Horowitz, Peter Knight, Keith Mansfield, Derek Wadsworth and Wally Stott) include strings and horns that provide a perfect pocket for Springfield’s voice.

Springfield temporarily abandoned the 1970 album project after initial July sessions, shifting to the U.S. to record with Jeff Barry, and not returning until late 1971 to finish “Sweet Inspiration” and record “A Song For You” and a rehearsal of “O-o-h Child.” The material from the 1970-71 UK sessions was smartly selected from a wide spectrum of styles and sources, and if not entirely consistent as an album, the individual performances show off the stylistic flexibility of Springfield’s voice and her broad artistic reach. Joe Marchese’s liner notes provide career context, session-by-session and song-by-song notes, and the keen observation that pulling these orphaned sessions together finally gives them a proper home. This is a great set for Springfield fans that haven’t already assembled the tracks from multiple other releases. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Malo: Malo

Malo_Malo1972 debut of a Latin rock and soul powerhouse

Coming in the wake of Santana’s 1969 breakthrough debut, and led by Carlos Santana’s guitar-slinging brother, Jorge, there’s no getting away from comparing this group to their Latin-soul brethren. Malo trawled a similar groove of rock, soul, funk and Latin jams, though with a larger aggregation of musicians, a heftier dose of percussion and a tight horn section. This 1972 debut, the only album recorded by the group’s early lineup, includes their lone chart hit, “Suavecito” (presented here in its original six-minute album mix and its three-minute single edit). This is a hard-driving album that’s a great deal more energetic than the summertime vibe of the single. The album has been available part of Rhino Handmade’s limited edition Celebracion box set; fans can now get Malo’s debut as a standalone with a four-panel booklet that includes liner notes by A. Scott Galloway. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Raul Malo: Lucky One

raulmalo_luckyoneFormer Mavericks vocalist summons country, swing, Latin and more

Following three albums that visited MOR supper-club pop (2006’s You’re Only Lonely), swing (2007’s After Hours), and a broad palette of seasonal sounds (2007’s Marshmallow World and Other Holiday Favorites), Raul Malo returns with his first album of original material since 2001’s Today. His latest songs circle back to the genre-stretching experiments of the Mavericks’ last two albums for MCA (1995’s Music for All Occasions and 1998’s Trampoline), but approach from the other side: rather than shedding country sounds to make room for pop and jazz influences, Malo reintroduces twangier elements into the purer strains of crooning that had become the meat of his solo career.

As on the Mavericks’ albums, Malo’s baritone draws the ear’s focus. The soaring vocal of the album’s title track is laced with twangy guitar and punctuated by a three-piece horn section. Country sounds are brought to the fore on “Lonely Hearts,” with Malo doubling his vocal, Buck Owens style, and a chugging organ adding Tex-Mex flavors ala the Sir Douglas Quintet. Malo hasn’t forsaken the Rat Pack vibe of his recent solo outings, as “Moonlight Kiss” hoofs along on a Latin rhythm, “You Always Win” sports a jazzy countrypolitan sound, and “Ready For My Lovin’” offers Ray Charles-styled gospel-blues. The baritone guitar of “Something Tells Me” offers a familiar twang to Mavericks fans, and the emotional vocal on “Hello Again” and dramatic crescendos of “Crying For You” suggest Roy Orbison’s spirit hovering nearby.

The ballad “So Beautiful” closes the album in dreamy emotion, with Malo’s voice accompanied by piano and strings. This album isn’t the left turn of Today, but aside from “Moonlight Kiss” and “Haunting Me,” it’s also not as ring-a-ding-ding kitschy as Malo’s last three albums. This new set represents a summation of all the musical flavors Malo’s touched so far, playing more as a collection of singles than a cohesive album. Fans longing for the Mavericks’ country roots will be pleased, as will late-night swingers and those who just love Malo’s incredible voice. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

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