Les Baxter - The Original Quite Village/The Primitive & The Pas [Él / Cherry Red - 2014]This recent reissue brings together two full albums from Les Baxter’s 1960’s forays into exotica. Along with a handful of tracks from a Don Tiare album, which offers up covers of some of Baxter’s work. Both the Baxter albums are enjoyable rides into topical & mock ethnic tipped easy-listening, but I’m a little undecided about the quality & the addition of the Don Tiare tracks here.
The reissue comes with a twelve page booklet which takes in reproduction of the front & back cover of The Original Quite Village album. Along with a few more pictures, and a selection of short written pieces about Baxter’s work in genreal, his exotica work, and the two & a bit albums offered up here.
First up on the disc we have The Original Quite Village from 1964- this was original released on Capitol Records, and it’s fair to say this came at the end of the golden era of Exotica, which ran between the 1950’s to early 1960’s. Over this albums 12 tracks you get a selection of ‘classic’ exotica songs from albums such as the genre defining 1952’s Ritual of the Savage, 1957’s Ports Of Pleasure, and 1961’s Jewels Of The Sea. So there’s nothing ‘new’ here for those familiar with Baxter exotica work, but for newcomers it’s a good compilation that shows some great highlights of this master work, with it’s rich mix of lush easy-listening orchestration, eastern & oriental tinged melodies, and subtle touches of ethnic/tribal percussion & instrumentation. All told it’s a pleasant enough re-visit to some of Baxter’s classic standards, though personally I do enjoy the tracks more in the context of their original album releases
Next we have The Primitive & The Passionate, which originally appeared in 1962 on Reprise Records. And this really was Baxter’s last foray into purely exotica territory, and for me this is the most rewarding part of this release. The albums made up eleven tracks of prime Baxter exotica, with rich ‘n’ lush orchestration, bright yet dramatic melody lines, and subtle exotic percussive elements. Highlights come in the form of “Peking Tiger”, with it’s buoyant yet slightly mysterious oriental melody line played out with a mix of French horn, trumpets, trombones & bass flutes- all topped off with great clip-flopping tympany percussion. “Bird Of Paradise”, which brings together slow ‘n’ mellow-to-slightly up-beat jiving exotica percussion, bird calls circling around the stereo field, & warbling female vocalising.
Last of all we have a selection of five tracks from Don Tiare & His Orchestra's 1963 Mercury records release Exotique. This is the first time I’ve come across Mr Tiare name, and seemingly he released only Exotique with his Orchestra. But he did released two or three Hawaiian influenced
easy listening/ exotica albums in the early 1970s under the name of Don Tiare & The Alohas. The five Baxter cover version offered up here feel very clichéd & predictable in their exotica sound pallet- with taut bamboo & tribal percussion, vibe runs, jaunting piano lines,etc. But worse of all they rather lack any passion or interesting sonic detail, sure exotica as a genre is rather contrived & at times tacky…but good examples of the genre are worthy in both emotionally depth & rewarding instrumental texture... and sadly none of these tracks have those qualities.
So in summing up the different parts of this reissue… The Original Quite Village is a worth collection of classic Baxter exotica tracks, but if you are familiar with his back catalogue it may seem disappointing. The Primitive & The Passionate is a worthy last pure exotica album from Baxter. And lasly the five Don Tiare & The Alohas tracks, are sadly very clichéd & passionless attempts at the genre….So all in all a mixed bag, but it’s certainly worth picking up if you are either: a newbie to the Exotica form, or a Baxter collector & want to hear his last stab at form.Roger Batty