él (via Cherry Red) are an interesting label that are putting out some pretty out there and unusual recordings.

One flick through the titles of the tracks on Les Baxter’s Original Quiet Village album will give you a good indication that this is exotica as colourful as it comes; Shanghai Rickshaw, Deep Night and Gardens of the Moon are just random selection.

For the benefit of those that haven’t heard Les Baxter’s work before he’s widely regarded as the most innovative, enduring and influential artist associated with the exotica genre and bridges the gap between the post-war exotica of the late 50s and early 60s and classical exoticism of the likes of Debussy and Ravel.

In his lifetime Baxter was frustrated that his music was confined to the B movie ghetto and not taken as seriously as it should have been by Hollywood.

In addition to the album Original Quiet Village this CD, out now, also contains the album The Primitive & The Passionate and selections from Exotique: The Music of Les Baxter.

Musically throughout this collection Baxter maintains the traditional orchestral ensemble but embellishes and builds upon this with percussion and saxophones with the occasional stab of electric organ, dulcimer, kazoo and even Theremin. In many ways it’s hard not to associate the tunes herein with the music you’d hear on a Sunday afternoon black and white film because it’s just the kind of music you would here. This is not to suggest it doesn’t have a place in your collection though because it’s most certainly a departure from the mainstream. The song Simba conjures images of unknown lands with unknown peoples, dangers and pleasures. And this is pretty much the theme throughout this album. There are touches of afro-rhythms in places, Pacific Island choirs and altogether it’s a really pleasant listen.

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