Doris Day – On Moonlight Bay (1951)

FrontCover1.jpgDoris Day (born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff; April 3, 1922 – May 13, 2019) was an American actress, singer, and animal welfare activist. After she began her career as a big band singer in 1939, her popularity increased with her first hit recording “Sentimental Journey” (1945). After leaving Les Brown & His Band of Renown to embark on a solo career, she recorded more than 650 songs from 1947 to 1967, which made her one of the most popular and acclaimed singers of the 20th century.

Day’s film career began during the latter part of the Classical Hollywood Film era with the 1948 film Romance on the High Seas, and its success sparked her twenty-year career as a motion picture actress. She starred in a series of successful films, including musicals, comedies, and dramas. She played the title role in Calamity Jane (1953), and starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) with James Stewart. Her most successful films were the ones she made co-starring Rock Hudson and James Garner, such as Pillow Talk (1959) and Move Over, Darling (1963), respectively. She also co-starred in films with such leading men as Clark Gable, Cary Grant, James Stewart, David Niven, and Rod Taylor. After her final film in 1968, she went on to star in the CBS sitcom The Doris Day Show (1968–1973).

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Day was usually one of the top ten singers between 1951 and 1966. As an actress, she became the biggest female film star in the early 1960s, and ranked sixth among the box office performers by 2012. In 2011, she released her 29th studio album, My Heart, which became a UK Top 10 album featuring new material. Among her awards, Day has received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Legend Award from the Society of Singers. In 1960, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, and in 1989 was given the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in motion pictures. In 2004, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush followed in 2011 by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s Career Achievement Award. She was one of the last surviving stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. (by wikipedia)

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And here are some songs from the Warner Bros. movie “On Moonlight Bay”

On Moonlight Bay is a 1951 musical film directed by Roy Del Ruth which tells the story of the Winfield family at the turn of the 20th century. The movie is based loosely on the Penrod stories by Booth Tarkington. There was a 1953 sequel, By the Light of the Silvery Moon.

In a small Indiana town in the mid-1910s, the Winfield household – banker father George, his wife Alice, their grown tomboyish daughter Marjorie, their precocious trouble-making son Wesley, and their exasperated housekeeper Stella – have just moved into a larger house in a nicer neighborhood.

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No one but George is happy about the move, until Marjorie meets their new neighbor, William Sherman, home on a break from his studies at Indiana University. The two are immediately attracted to each other, which makes Margie change her focus from baseball to trying to become a proper young woman. Their resulting relationship is despite, or perhaps because of Bill’s unconventional thoughts on life, including not believing in the institution of marriage, or believing in the role money plays in society.

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The road to a happy life between Margie and Bill is not only hindered by distance as Bill returns to school and Margie’s attempts to learn feminine things, but also George’s dislike of Bill because of their differing beliefs, the stuffy Hubert Wakely also trying to court Margie (he who is George’s choice as an appropriate suitor for her), Wesley’s continual meddling in his sister’s life, and World War I. One of those issues may be overcome when Wesley receives a gift from Aunt Martha that used to be his father old slingshot that he used to kill Aunt Martha’s’ best hen. His father discovers the old slingshot after Wesley cracks a window with it, his father gets emotional after he sees it and everything is resolved in time for a happy ending. (by wikipedia)

And this is of course the perfect story for all these romantic, sentiental and old fashioned songs ….

RIP … Doris Day

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Personnel:
Doris Day (vocals)
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Jack Smith (vocals)
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Paul Weston & His Orchestra
The Norman Luboff Choir

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Tracklist:
01. Moonlight Bay (Madden/Wenrich) 2.32
02. Till We Meet Again (Egan/Whiting) 2.42
03. Love Ya Tobias (De Rose) 2.19
04. Christmas Story (Walsh) 3.12
05. I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (Kenbrovin/Kellette) 2.19
06. Cuddle Up A Little Closer (Harbach/Hoschma) 2.55
07. Every Little Movement (Harbach/Hoschma) 2.45
08. Tell Me (Tell Me Why) (Callahan/Kortlander) 3.20
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09. Closing Remarks (acoustic record ad) 0.26

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Day was married four times. She was married to Al Jorden, a trombonist whom she first met in Barney Rapp’s Band, from March 1941 to February 1943. Her only child, son Terrence Paul Jorden (later known as Terry Melcher), resulted from this marriage; he died in 2004. Her second marriage was to George William Weidler, a saxophonist and the brother of actress Virginia Weidler, from March 30, 1946, to May 31, 1949. Weidler and Day met again several years later; during a brief reconciliation, he introduced her to Christian Science.

On April 3, 1951, her 29th birthday, she married Martin Melcher. This marriage lasted until Melcher’s death in April 1968. Melcher adopted Day’s son Terry, who, with the name Terry Melcher, became a successful musician and record producer (The Byrds, Paul Revere & the Raiders and many more)

Don Ralke & His Orchestra – But You’ve Never Heard Gershwin With Bongos (1960)

FrontCover1.jpgDon Ralke (July 13, 1920 – January 26, 2000) was a prolific music arranger, composer, and producer, working for four decades in the Hollywood studio system in films, television, and pop recordings. He was born on July 13, 1920 in Battle Creek, Michigan. Ralke died on January 26, 2000 in Santa Rosa, California.

Ralke received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from the University of Southern California, graduating with honors. He also studied with famed composer and Hollywood emigre, Arnold Schoenberg.
Career overview

On the bongos Ralke collaborated with versatile flute and reed instrumentalist, Buddy Collette on “Jazz Heat”, “Bongo Beat”. Warner Bros. hired him for “Gershwin with Bongoes” and “The Savage and The Sensuous “, which is widely regarded as one of the best jungle exotica albums of that era. He worked with Warren Barker on the music for 77 Sunset Strip and did the heavy musical lifting when Edd “Kookie” Byrnes, one of the show’s stars, became a teen idol and recorded his one hit, “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your DonRalkeComb)”. Ralke performed similar duties for “Hawaiian Eye” star Connie Stevens when she recorded “Sixteen Reasons”. Other recordings include Jewel Akens’ “The Birds and the Bees”, and five other gold records. His orchestra backed Sam Cooke on several 1959-1960 songs. Ralke also recorded two hits by Ty Wagner: “I’m a No Count” as well as “Slander”. In the late 1960s he created his own record company. He collaborated with sound engineer Brad Miller on the hugely successful strings-with-environmental sounds creation, the Mystic Moods Orchestra.

Working with “Golden Throats talent” became a specialty niche for Ralke. Ralke is credited for convincing non-singers including William Shatner and Lorne Greene to play it safe and stick to narration over a musical background. Ralke also produced Beach Boys dad Murry Wilson’s The Many Moods of Murray Wilson which was not kindly lauded by critics but nonetheless has achieved a place as an important footnote in 1960s music.

In 1972 Ralke produced and orchestrated Bob and Dick Sherman’s Grammy nominated musical film Snoopy, Come Home.

DonRalke2In the 1970s, he returned to television, working for producer Garry Marshall on the series “Happy Days” and its spin-off, “Laverne and Shirley”.

Ralke was once described by Stan Ross, co-founder of Gold Star recording studio, as “the most well-known unknown in the business.” (by wikipedia)

Hollywood arranger Don Ralke didn’t make a lot of records, but thank goodness this one. pair of LPs has been reissued. It´s a lounge album featuring bongos, but they couldn’t be less alike in character. “But You’ve Never Heard Gershwin With Bongos,” resets a dozen Gershwin classics in new and sometimes outrageously over-the-top big band settings – by way of a Los Angeles recording studio, naturally. It’s pure Hollywood balderdash and about as authentic as the red naughahyde on a cocktail lounge banquette. Which is why I love it. (Mark Schildenberg)

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Personnel:
Don Ralke & His Orchestra

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Tracklist:
01. Fascinating Rhythm 2.46
02. How Long Has This Been Going On 2.26
03. Clap Yo Hands 3.00
04. Love Is Here To Stay 3.35
05. Summertime 2.55
06. My One And Only 2.34
07. They All Laughed 2.43
08. Love Walked In 3.14
09. They Can’t Take That Away From Me 2.40
10. Maybe 3.33
11. A Foggy Day 2.59
12. I Got Rhythm 3.00

Music composed by George Gershwin

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Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass – The Brass Are Comin'(1969)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Brass Are Comin’ is a 1969 album by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. It was the group’s thirteenth release and marked the first time in the group’s history that one of their albums did not certify gold. However, the album did peak at number 30 in the top 40 on the Billboard albums chart. The Brass Are Comin’ was the last album recorded by the Tijuana Brass before the group disbanded in December 1969. The album also spawned a television special with the same name that aired on NBC on October 29, 1969.  Clips from the television special can be seen on the album’s double-fold cover. Unlike the previous Warm album which featured much slower-paced songs leaning more toward a “Brazilian” sound, The Brass Are Comin’ featured a western-theme with faster-paced songs. “Good Morning, Mr. Sunshine” became one of the most recognized Tijuana Brass songs from this album and was among the last Mexican-flavored songs recorded by the group [3]. After completing this album and the subsequent television special, the group embarked on a European tour which marked the last public performances of the original TJB. (by wikipedia)

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Coinciding with another television special, this is the unofficial “last ride” of the original TJB. Some trademark arrangements are featured on this album, including Henry Mancini’s “Moon River”, “Sunny”, and the Lennon/McCartney tune “I’ll Be Back”). “Good Morning, Mr. Sunshine” has to be one of the best TJB tracks on record, and the last truly Mexican-flavored song they would ever record. Most of the originals have a bouncy country & western flavor to them, perfect for punctuating barroom brawls and Brass riding into town. (by larrylevinerecordingengineer.com)

Another fine album by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass with a real great cover …

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Personnel:
Herb Alpert (trumpet, vocals)
Nick Ceroli (drums)
Bob Edmondson (trombone)
Tonni Kalash (trumpet)
John Pisano (guitar)
Lou Pagani (piano)
Pat Senatore (bass)
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“Sunny” and “Good Morning, Mr. Sunshine” orchestrated by Shorty Rogers
“You Are My Life” and “Moon River” orchestrated by Dave Grusin

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Tracklist:
01. The Brass Are Comin’ (The Little Train Of Caipira) (Villa-Lobos) 2.06
02. Good Morning, Mr. Sunshine (Mills/Roth) 2.39
03. Country Lake (Lake) 2.58
04. I’ll Be Back (Lennon/McCartney) 3.19
05. Moon River (Mancini)Mercer) 2.58
06. The Maltese Melody (Kaempfert/Rehbein) 2.20
07. Sunny (Hebb) 3.09
08. I’m An Old Cowhand (From The Rio Grande) (Mercer) 2.42
09. Anna (Engvick/Vatro/Giordano) 2.39
10. Robbers And Cops (Wechter) 2.20
11. Moments (Pisano) 2.47
12. You Are My Life (Sarstedt) 3.21

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More Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

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Jean Couroyer & His Dance Orchestra – International Hit Parade (1962)

FrontCover1“A popular melody is as international a language as you will find anywhere in this world of ours. You don´t have to know the text to hum or whistle a happy tune – no matter what country of origin.

It is therefore little wonder that dance band leader Jean Couroyer roams musically across many borders in gathering material for his recording and makes sure of the widest possible acceptance by selecting the most popular dance rhythms.” (J.H. Watson from the liner notes to International Hit Parade)

This is another Swiss Varieton LP that I bought together with the Aprés-Ski in Kitzbühel album. Varieton was a sub-label of the main Swiss label Ex-Libris, used for budget releases like this one. The production is not so bad though, using thick cardboard and slick printing. It looks almost like an american album. The illustration on the sleeve however looks like it was drawn in five minutes by somebody who was not into the job at all. And it probably was. Regrettably I have had similar experiences in the past. The customer doesn´t really care or know the difference and I don´t really care or have the Jean Couroyer01Atime either. So I rush a job. But receiving some product weeks later that reeks of all the reluctance it was crafted with feels bad. It´s embarassing to do poor work. Luckily those jobs are the exception, but at least for some reason they are always the best paying.

The raw and bold brush work and the combination of the innocent big girl dancing with the bald little man stands out though. He´s hanging in mid-air and she´s missing an arm but there´s a primitive charm to it. Most certainly the rest of the album´s design was done by other people than the guy who did the sketch. The Ad Lib font used for the title of the album was designed in 1961 by Freeman Craw for the American Type Founders (ATF), so it was pretty hip at the time. When I see the font I think of Crypt Records, because they have used it excessively on their album covers and for their catalogues since the 1980´s.

Sure, all this analysis is redundant considering that apart from three twist songs the album is pretty forgettable, at least to my ears. But I buy some records for other reasons than the music and I do enjoy this restrained orchestra rock´n´roll that was made for old people. Maybe because I am old. Not a lot of information on the Internet about Jean Couroyer, but I guess he is from Switzerland. (by mischalke04.wordpress.com)

Yes, Jean Couroyer was a guitar player based in the french part of Switzerland. amd he active till the early Seventies as an Easy Listening conductor for many projects.

Here we can hear his versions of popular Twist and High Scholl Rock n Roll from the Fifites … a nice addition for every Easy Listening collection.

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Personnel:
Jean Couroyer & His Dance Orchestra

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Tracklist:
01. Let’s Twist Again (Mann/Appell) 1.42
02. La Bamba (Traditional) 2.29
03. Il Fault Savoir (Aznavour) 2.34
04. The Boogie-Twist (Davido) 2.03
05. You Don’t Know (Schroeder/Hawker) 2.48
06. Sucu-Sucu (Rojas) 2.06
07. Peppermint Twist (Dee) 2.30
08. The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Weiss/Peretti/Creatore) 2.41
09. La Pachanga (Davidson) 2.06
10. Midnight Twist (Davido) 2.33
11. Vamos A Ver (Davido) 2.11
12. La Novia (Prietto/Mogol) 2.28
13. The Twist (Ballard) 2.42
14. Coco Cha-Cha (Davido) 2.37

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Dinah Shore – Lavender Blue (1959)

FrontCover1.jpgOn March 1, 1917, Dinah Shore was born as Frances Rose Shore in Winchester, Tennessee. While a student at Vanderbilt University, Shore started performing her own short program on a Nashville radio station. After completing her degree in sociology, she moved to New York City in 1938, intending to pursue a career as a singer.

Shore soon landed a job singing on a New York radio station called WNEW. Recording success took a little longer, but in the early 1940s she began to release hits such as “Jim” and “Blues in the Night.” During World War II, Shore often performed for the troops, singing songs like “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” and “I’ll Walk Alone,” which reached No. 1.

Shore also began to appear in films in the 1940s. She worked with Gypsy Rose Lee in Belle of the Yukon (1944) and was seen in Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), a biographical musical about Jerome Kern. However, Shore did not take to film work and only appeared in seven movies.

DinahShore01In the late 1940s, Shore continued to enjoy success on the charts. Her hits from this period include such songs as “I Love You for Sentimental Reasons” and “Buttons and Bows.”

In 1951, Shore’s self-titled variety show made its debut; it was the start of what would turn out to be a long-running career on television. The Dinah Shore Chevy Show began in 1956. The program, which featured Shore singing “See the USA in your Chevrolet,” achieved even greater success and stayed on the air until 1963.

Shore’s television career evolved over the years, but her warm personality consistently charmed audiences. In the 1970s, she became a popular talk show host with a series of shows: Dinah’s Place (1970-74), Dinah! (1974-80) and Dinah and Friends (1979-1984).

Shore’s last talk show, A Conversation with Dinah, aired on the Nashville Network from 1989 to 1991. One of television’s most popular personalities, she won 10 Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and a Golden Globe during her career. (biography.com)

And here´s one of her charming in this Easy Listening style from the late Fifites.

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Personnel:
Dinah Shore (vocals)
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unknown orchestra

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Tracklist:
01. Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly) (Morey/Daniel) 3.05
02. Laughing On The Outside (Crying On The Inside) (Raleigh/Wayne) 3.14
03. It’s Easy To Remember (Hart/Rodgers) 3.21
04. Little White Lies (Donaldson) 2.27
05. Come Rain Or Come Shine (Mercer/Arlen) 2.59
06. Anniversary Song (Jolson/Chaplin) 3.07
07. Golden Earrings (Livingston/Evans/Young) 3.04
08. You’ll Always Be The One I Love (Skylar/Freeman) 2.56
09. Forever And Ever (Rosa/Winkler) 2.46
10. The Gypsy (Reid) 3.05

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Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Look Around (1968)

FrontCover1.jpgLook Around is the third studio album by Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66. It was released in 1968.

Mendes and Brasil 66 performed the Oscar-nominated Burt Bacharach/Hal David song “The Look of Love”, one of their biggest hits, on the Academy Awards telecast in March 1968. The album was recorded at the Sunset Sound, Western Recorders, and Annex Studios, Hollywood. Brasil ’66’s version of “The Look of Love” quickly shot into the top 10, eclipsing Dusty Springfield’s version.

“Like a Lover”, an English-language version of “O Cantador”, was covered by Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Helen Merrill, Dianne Reeves, Al Jarreau, Natalie Cole, Jane Monheit, and Kimiko Itoh. “So Many Stars” was recorded by Heren Merrill, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, Jane Monheit, Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole, and Stacey Kent

“Tristeza” was an instrumental by Lobo and Nitinho and the title track of Baden Powell’s Tristeza on Guitar album (1966). It was sung by Astrud Gilberto with lyrics by A. Testa on her Italian language album (1968). (by wikipedia)

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Sergio Mendes took a deep breath, expanded his sound to include strings lavishly arranged by the young Dave Grusin and Dick Hazard, went further into Brazil, and out came a gorgeous record of Brasil ’66 at the peak of its form. Here Mendes released himself from any reliance upon Antonio Carlos Jobim and rounded up a wealth of truly great material from Brazilian fellow travelers: Gilberto Gil’s jet-propelled “Roda” and Joao Donato’s clever “The Frog,” Dori Caymmi’s stunningly beautiful “Like a Lover,” Harold Lobo’s carnival-esque “Tristeza,” and Mendes himself (the haunting “So Many Stars” and the title track). Mendes was also hip enough to include “With a Little Help From My Friends” from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper LP. As things evolved, though, the one track that this album would be remembered for is the only other non-Brazilian tune, Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love,” in an inventive, grandiose arrangement with a simplified bossa beat. The tune just laid there on the album until Mendes and company performed it on the Academy Awards telecast in 1968. The performance was a sonic disaster, but no matter; the public response was huge, a single was released, and it become a monster, number four on the pop charts. So much for the reported demise of bossa nova; in Sergio Mendes’ assimilating, reshaping hands, allied with Herb Alpert’s flawless production, it was still a gold mine. (by Richard S. Ginell)

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Personnel:
Lani Hall (vocals)
Janis Hansen (vocals)
Bob Matthews (bass, vocals)
Sérgio Mendes (keyboards)
João Palma (drums)
John Pisano (guitar)
José Soares (percussion, vocals)
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unknown Orchestra arranged and conducted by Dave Grusin & Dick Hazard

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Tracklist:
01. With A Little Help from My Friends (Lennon/McCartney) 2.39
02. Roda (Gil/Augusto) 2.27
03. Like A Lover (Caymmi/Motta/A.Bergman/M.Bergman) 3.56
04. The Frog (A Rã) (Donato) 2.46
05. Tristeza (Goodbye Sadness) (Lobo-Niltinho) 2.58
06. The Look Of Love (Bacharach/David) 2.46
07. Pra Dizer Adeus (To Say Goodbye) (Lobo/Neto/Hall) 3.09
08. Batucada (The Beat) (MValle/P.Valle) 2.23
09. So Many Stars (Mendes/A.Bergman/M.Bergman) 4.31
10. Look Around (Mendes/A.Bergman/M.Bergman) 3.01

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Les Baxter – Caribbean Moonlight (1957)

FrontCover1.jpgI’d love to give away the essence of my thoughts about Les Baxter’s (1922–1996) masterpiece Caribbean Moonlight in this opening paragraph, and yes, the signal term masterpiece should trigger a large amount of perception-related synapses anyway, but let me try to be objective before the worshiping parade starts: Caribbean Moonlight, released in 1956 on Capitol Records, is a symphonic album that contains twelve interpretations of Latin music and various other classics. Thanks to Baxter’s insistence on the string ensemble, typical Latin mannerisms like lamenting piano chords are much reduced, at times even completely replaced – there’s not even a sole trumpet to be found on this release, an omission that would never happen in an arrangement by, say, Axel Stordahl, for instance. And even though the vibrance of the strings comprises the trademark sound of Les Baxter, there is a large amount of additional instruments integrated, from vivid bongos over mellow bass flutes to a variety of sparkling mallet instruments.

1956 is still a pre-Exotica phase, so the bongo grooves are as exotic as Baxter can get, for there is no tribal feeling attached or implied on this release. And yet does the album pinpoint the yearning of the first generation that had the opportunity to frequently travel via airplane and got to know foreign countries and locations in a rapid way like no other generation could before. The exotic feeling derives from these moonlight escapades and romantic notions, nightly beach strolls and black palm trees that are illuminated by the pale moon and aurally underlined by the gentle noise of the ocean waves. Caribbean Moonlight is all that, and so much more. Due to its strong melodies and shimmering rainbow-colored string sections, Baxter’s album opens the door for many a listener, especially for me. Once you know Baxter’s string-focused interpretations of these Latin classics, they seem rather pale in other contexts at times. That’s not to say that Exotica trios or quartets don’t know how to handle these tunes, it’s just that the lushness of the strings can be overwhelming and bedazzling at the same time. Baxter delivers, and the way he does it is explicated below.

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Margarita Lecuona’s classic Latin composition Taboo is the first song, and boy, does Baxter start this album with a blast. He provides the best Taboo version that has ever existed! Usually I’m not too keen on the many renditions that are out there. Most of them are too lamenting and melodramatic, and I favor brighter Latin tunes. However, the yearning and doleful mood are not made for me, even though I acknowledge Taboo’s rank as a world-famous piece. Baxter’s take, however, is completely out of this world and exchanges the Latin piano and intimate mood with the pompousness of Hollywood strings that are played in the typical floating way that is so typical for Baxter’s productions. Far Eastern tone sequences are played on spectral violin strings that waft in the background, while an acoustic guitar inherits the intimacy of the original.

Harp strings, a darkly hammered piano that is not the least bit Latin, wonderfully exotic bongo beats, a magically quavering bass flute and bright claves all mesh in the presence of the strings. The climax is reached after almost one and a half minutes when the strings increase in number and volume and wash over the listener, all the while a paradisiac alto flute is accompanying them. The heaviness of Lecuona’s original is still LesBaxter03.jpgapparent, but much reduced thanks to the liquid nature of the strings. Taboo ends on a mystery note with a quickly played seven-note bridge that ends the song with an eighth polyphonous tone with a long sustain that marks the definite closure of it. To my mind, Baxter’s offering is one of his best renditions and my personal access point to this piece. Whenever I encounter another try, I compare it in great detail with this colorful take which boosts the romance in favor of the yearning. A most wonderful interpretation which I’ve dedicated a whole paragraph to. It’s that important to me!

An interpretation of Deep Night, originally written by Charlie Henderson and Rudy Vallee is next, and it is again the fascinating interplay between the gloomier undertones of the strings and the Space-Age tonality-related warps that make this a highly attractive inclusion. The violins gleam in nocturnal colors, and the laid-back bongo groove adds great plasticity to this string-heavy composition. The alto flute melody rests in itself and proves to be a great inclusion in front of the resplendent stream of strings. Occasionally, there’s a single violin that improvises greatly – if that’s even possible in an orchestral setting – in adjacency to the strong romantic flavor. Orchestra bells and staccato performances on the bongos round off the dark blue atmosphere of this wonderful tune.

While Ernesto Lecuona’s The Breeze And I is presented in an unexpectedly upbeat manner and rapid tempo, with a piano playing the main melody in higher regions, quickly paced eruptions of the strings which turn into lush cascades later on, frantic maracas and spiraling harp fragments, Xavier Cugat’s Nightingale is a wonderfully easygoing piece of great mystique whose bass flute is flawlessly integrated into the airy string sections which are again among the most warped and far out examples you’ll ever encounter. The added alto flute is exuberant and truly encompasses the rose-tinted feeling of the Tropics. The presentation ends with swinging waves on the piano and the last tone of the quavering flute. This is yet another stomper of a song, so cozy and strong. Easy Listening is an audacious insult for these compositions that sparkle so brightly.

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The following Temptation by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown starts as a Bolero with the typical rhythm of the shakers, drums and sunset-laden strings, but soon changes its rhythm into a glockenspiel-fueled maelstrom of paradise with high-flying violin breezes and down-to-earth bongos. The best bit, however, is the potpourri of spiraling mallet instruments, scattered flutes and double bass backings. The song ends on a mystery note with electrifying glockenspiel sparkles and a trembling flute.

After five successful songs in a row, the old classic Poinciana (Song Of The Tree) ends side A in a heat wave-evoking blur. The strings are playing in darker regions as usual and are almost evoking a thread that is thankfully vaporized by a warbled paradisiac flute, another bunch of glockenspiel droplets and a great couple of both mellifluous and galactic Space-Age violins that play the main melody with a melodramatic Middle Eastern style attached to them. Even though there are towering strings included, the composition depicts the sizzling mirage of a desert and the hazy field of vision that is so typical in such a place. The droning nature departs from the established formula, but it is still a strong interpretation that remains the weakest track of side A – which is no shame in the given context of five consecutive screamers.

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Side B opens with a highly unusual offering not often heard in the realms of Exotica: Ay, Ay, Ay, originally written by Osman Perez Freire is a warmly shimmering piece of Romanticism with mild string creeks and their magically spiraling brethren. The conviviality of the violins reaches a new height on this string-heavy composition, and it is only at its end that the coruscating sparkles of the glockenspiel and the dreaminess of the flute are revved up. A splendid inclusion!

The same can be said about Eddie Woods’ and Enric Madriguera’s Adios. A new generation of Exotica lovers encountered their iconic composition thanks to De-Phazz which used the melody on their international hit The Mambo Craze. Baxter’s interpretation is closer to a reverie. Exhilarative strings move around the less carved out main melody that is played on a flute. The ten-note motif meanders along and is almost swallowed by the multicolored glitz of the strings. It’s a fantastic rendition whose verve and timbre are close to being celestial. Thanks to the bold string accompaniment that outshines the main melody, this composition inherits the maximum of the typical Baxter style. A huge winner!

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It is Bob Russell’s and Harry Warren’s Carnival that opens the nocturnal formula in favor of a sun-soaked family trip whose uplifting nature is largely based on the prominent inclusion of the xylophone as well as playful flute melodies of various kinds. Naturally, the string washes are also on here, but the other instruments remain in the spotlight for this time. While Green Eyes by Adolfo Utrera and Nilo Menéndez starts with a repeated motif of cascading flutes and a slight string-wise variation of it and presents the well-working formula of violin rivers and flute breezes, Johnny Mercer’s Out Of This World could well feature the signature track title of this fantastic album, but is the weakest inclusion on side B that oscillates between a strong melancholia and a melodramatic setting; yet again, the term weakness is inappropriate, as the second phase of the song gets rid of any shadows and allows sumptuous string waves to enter. Another entry on the plus side consists of the lush bongo groove, and even the glockenspiel glints that are briefly featured are a strong addendum, if a bit too rare.

The final Sway (Quien Era) by Norman Gimbel and Pablo Beltran Ruiz makes for a curious outro, as the eruptive staccato nature of this song is a definite counterpoint to the majority of Baxter’s previous interpretations. It is also the composition with the strongest Latin feeling and the boldest exotic percussion, with many claves and smooth cymbals integrated into the mix. On top of that, the song ends rather abruptly and unexpectedly. Due to the variety and arrangement-related change of formula, I like this song better than Out Of This World. But these are really nit-picking assertions which are in the end obsolete…

Caribbean Moonlight by Les Baxter remains his best and most coherent album of the 50’s. I know that the fan favorite Ritual Of The Savage of 1952 was way ahead of both its time and the competition, but if you want to salvage shedloads of warped strings and feast on their comforting Space-Age qualities as well as their vibrant colors, Caribbean Moonlight is the coherent top pick. Each song is a winner, almost all of them are nocturnal, but immensely bright due to the powerful luminescence of the strings. There’s even room left for other instruments to shine, and hence the listener encounters tropical bongo grooves as well as silky pianos and paradisiacal flute melodies. This isn’t Easy Listening by the numbers, it is far superior. Baxter’s take on Taboo opened the whole song structure to me, and the mystique of Nightingale is as delicate as the catchy melody of Adios is dreamy.

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The sound quality is top notch, and the kitsch factor imperceptibly low. If you are the least bit interested in symphonic Exotica cuts, consider Les Baxter’s Caribbean Moonlight. I’ll stress it once again: you cannot pick any better string-heavy pre-Exotica album that was created in the 50’s! Sure enough, Baxter is his greatest competitor, and Nelson Riddle released 30+ string albums in the 50’s as well, but it is the depicted moon of Baxter’s album that glows in the shiniest possible manner. There are more exotic releases by Baxter, and the bongo percussion on here isn’t particularly innovative or earth-shattering, but every doubt is washed away by the strings anyway. They are utterly catchy, exuberant, soothing or dreamy, depending on the given circumstances and needed mood. A symphonic album of the highest order. Yes, it is an Easy Listening album of the Space-Age era, but it tucks you in, it washes over you and lets you submerge into its night scheme. A highlight for people with ears. It’s that simple. (Thomas J. Pernice)

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Alternate frontcover

Personnel:
Les Baxter & His Orchestra

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Tracklist:
01. Taboo (Stillman/Lecona) 2.40
02. Deep Night (Henderson/Vallee) 3.09
03. The Breeze And I (Stillman/Lecuona) 1.20
04. Nightingale (Rosner/Cugat) 1.51
05. Temptation (Freed/Brown) 2.26
06. Poinciana (Song Of The Tree) (Bernier/Lliso/Simon) 3.00
07. Ay, Ay, Ay (Freire) 3.01
08. Adios (Woods/Madriguera) 2.35
09. Carnival (Russell/Warren) 2.47
10. Green Eyes (Utrera/Menéndez) 2.53
11. Out Of This World (Arlen/Mercer) 4.06
12. Sway (Quien Será) (Gimbel/Ruiz) 2.17

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