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Les Baxter: Yellow Sun (GNP Crescendo, 1969, African Blue)

The term “exotica” always conjures up some swank ’60s bachelor pad, the kind with a well-designed hifi system, some mid-century modern furniture and a crystal decanter of liquor. I wasn’t alive when the genre was more popular but it’s hard to imagine that exotica wasn’t much more than a slightly sexed up variation of easy listening: something more often heard in banal suburban living rooms than a downtown corner condo. It was also one of the more prominent examples of audio tourism, promising to transport the listener away to some foreign, um, exotic land but often quite vague in actual destination.

Case in point, the only formal exotica LP I’ve ever owned has been Les Baxter’s quite decent African Blue but not only is it unclear what’s “African” about any of the songs on here but this album is basically the commercial version of a KPM library record by Baxter entitled…Bugaloo in Brazil which manages to invoke both Afro-Cuban grooves and Brazilian music even though those are completely different musical traditions. So…yeah.

But hey, the tunes are sweet, especially the vocal-laced bossa ballad “Yellow Sun” (entitled “Tropical Canvas” on the KPM LP). Now excuse me while I go sip a martini.