Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights
The Numero Group
The world used to be a simpler place. Before the advent of 24/7 cable news and social media, folks found time to travel the world, one record at a time. A form of sophisticated pop known as “exotica” captured popular culture (at least in America) with a mixture of jazz, easy listening and quasi-World music, transforming basement rec rooms into Tiki bars, complete with wooden native heads and plenty of rum. It seems hard to imagine now, but dozens of labels released hundreds of sides during the late ’50s and early ’60s, beckoning listeners to explore the far-off islands with cuts such as “My House of Grass” by The Potted Palm or “Voodoo Drums” by Akim.
This expansive 3 CD set by the legendary Numero Group features 54 cuts of mind-blowing grooviness, a 100+ page book which hosts detailed info from Ken Shipley as well as rare photos of labels and bands that have been nearly lost to the ages. Exotica, like many cultural landmarks, was started as a marketing tag by Liberty Records’ Si Waronker (if the name sounds familiar his grandson is Joey Waronker, who played a bit with R.E.M.) to garner interest in Martin Denny, who’s “Quiet Village” is considered the start of the exotica craze. It’s included here twice, once by Five Glow Tones, and another by former “Our Gang” regular Darla Hood.
The music collected here is intoxicating. From lesser lights such as The Sound Breakers with their “Marooned” to soul-jazz leader Jimmy McGriff with his smoky “Jungle Cat”, this is an overdose of pop perfection. The first disc, Daiquiri Dirges focuses on guitar-oriented music, such as “Driftwood” by the Pacific Northwest’s champions of garage rock The Wailers and “Cobra” by Bailey’s Nervous Kats. Rhum Rhapsodies is focused on vocal numbers, while the final disc, Mai Tai Mambos is full of dance tracks, which would be a swinging soundtrack to your next summer party. Yes, the world was more fun years ago, and Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights proves it. Now give me another one of those drinks with the umbrella!