Music Reviews
Arthur Lyman

Arthur Lyman

Isle of Enchantment / Polynesia

Collectors’ Choice Music

As the tropical tiki invasion infiltrated the USA during the late ’50s and ’60s, restaurants featuring impossibly sweet and slightly sour chicken sprung up like dandelions, conveniently serving 150-proof rum drinks designed to drive a wedge between the drinker and reality. I remember visiting them as a child, never quite sure if what I saw was some hallucinogenic planet, or just a cartoon sprung to life. This was my first “themed” experience.

Arthur Lyman (along with competitors Martin Denny and Les Baxter) provided the soundtrack to that era with an eclectic fusion of Polynesia and Tin Pan Alley. This CD captures Lyman’s third and fourth albums, and exudes a confidence in the fact that no matter how weird palm trees look in Milwaukee, Bora Bora is right around the corner from K-mart.

As Lyman’s records flew out of the bins, his style solidified, and he turned more and more to popular standards for his grass skirt brush up. Lurking in these 24 cuts of island splendor (sanitized from reality for your protection) you’ll find such improbabilities as “The High and The Mighty,” “Waltzing Matilda,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “Guadalajara,” and even a Pete Seeger cover in “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Somehow, exotica united America in its charming naïveté and weirdness. With a mix of marimbas, woodwinds and unidentifiable percussion, you need more than a few bars of the melody to realize these are songs you’ve heard, somewhere, sometime, somehow, before succumbing to the haze of empty coconut shells filled with alcohol.

Lyman put out 14 albums in his lifetime, and the odd thing is I’ve yet to hear one bad song on any of them. He always connects our mainstream reality with that sun-drenched and sensual alternate planet that replaced suburbia, if only until the check came.

Collectors’ Choice:

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