Fine Melodies

Les Baxter – Soul of The Drums (1963)

Les Baxter is one composer I had to make a post about even though he is so well known here at Double Sided Galaxy. We have quite a few of his albums in our vinyl collection. I tried to find a lesser classic Les Baxter album at least for his showcasing on this blog. This is an interesting album by him with some very groovy drum sections. Considered exotica or lounge, he composed easy-listening albums and film scores during the 1950’s and 1960’s. The beginners of exotica music are Les Baxter, Martin Denny, and Arthur Lyman.

There’s a strange controversy regarding Baxter’s compositions; rumors spread over the decades that he didn’t write his own music. There’s not really any proof, just statements from other composers that supposedly held grudges against him. There are accounts of Baxter not being able to read his own scores, and writing a part for oboe of which included notes unplayable by an oboe, but other accounts say they worked with Baxter and saw his compositions written in his own handwriting. Whatever the case may be, the compositions credited to Les Baxter’s name are great and you should explore them all!

And here is the most classic Les Baxter album:

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Dominique Guiot – L’univers De La Mer (1978)

This is some amazing synthy instrumental music by the composer Dominique Guiot. No information can be found about him, a mysterious musical genius. This album is supposedly his first, and his greatest in my opinion. It consists of Mini-Moog, guitar, clavinet, Mellotron, and organ.

This next video is actually an earlier piece by him, recorded in 1974 and released just in 2013 on a compilation album titled Traces Two. According to discogs this was the only release of this piece, so there must be more unheard great earlier tracks by Dominique out there in the vaults of France.

Le Kene Star de Sikasso – Hodi Hu Yenyan (1977)

This is a great album by a group of musicians from Mali that only released one album under this name. Here is a description about them from a record label that re-issued this LP:

In 1977, seven years after the first wave of modern regional orchestras, the Mali Kunkan record label released another batch of classic recordings from Mali’s best regional orchestras. Super Biton National de Ségou, National Badema, Mystère Jazz de Tombouctou, Kanaga de Mopti, Bida de la Capitale, Sidi Yassa de Kayes and Kéné Star de Sikasso were each given the chance to release a collection of their own recordings.

It was first led by drummer Baba Barry, before guitar player Madou ‘Guitare’ Sangaré took over when the orchestra changed its name to Kéné Star de Sikasso, and left behind the old « Orchestre Régional » moniker as the decade rolled on. Under the Kéné Star de Sikasso’s name, the band released one eponymous LP in 1977 on the fabled Mali Kunkan collection.

Opening this record, Hodi Yu Yenyan is the Kéné Star flagship song, with the electric organ and the guitars twirling together. Sung in senufo by François Ballo, it served to introduce the band’s musical aesthetics while extoling the virtues of the senufo culture, a language seldom recorded in Malian popular music of that time.

The natural strength and wellness of this region is displayed on the second number, Kenedougou Fanga, sung by the band’s three singers Mamadou Diakité, Mamadou Touré, Cheick Sadibou Diabaté.
One of Mali’s most beautiful songs from the decade, Fitiriwale (« an act of betrayal ») saw them again teaming up for an exercise in mellowness. Madou’s guitar swirls effortlessly around the melody, backed up by some droning electric organ. This song talks about weddings, with the lyrics « nowadays marriage doesn’t mean anything », advising that one has to look for a strong wedding and not for trivial pursuits.
Hypnotic and intense, another moral fable takes up the whole of side B.

This is the link to where that quote came from: http://www.rushhour.nl/distribution_detailed.php?item=74697

Walter Wanderley – Rainforest (1966)

Walter Wanderley is Brazil’s number one organist, it says it right there on the cover. He’s great. He’s number one and there’s a toucan on the cover, are they implying something? Two can’t play at his level of skill. It’s nice relaxing lounge music for any time: dancing, waking up, cooking, eating, drinking, sexy time, zoning out, cleaning, and even crying.

Walter made over 30 albums in his short life span of 54 years (according to Wikipedia), though his famous staccato playing lives on forever. He mostly used a Hammond B3 organ.

Martin Denny Documentary

A tiny snippet about the king of exotica Hawaiian music, Martin Denny.

The Music Man: Mort Garson

This is a great little feature on Mort Garson, the musical synth master mind. It’s a shame there is nothing that goes deeper than this. If anyone ever finds something more in depth let me know.

Dorothy Ashby – Hip Harp (1958)

Another amazing album of Dorothy Ashby. This is from another planet of groove, jazz coming from 1958 sounding like hip hop of decades to come. She brought the harp to jazz. Dorothy is a very underappreciated musician and her playing is magical and spiritual. Everyone should have her melodies playing on their electronic devices! In the 50’s, Dorothy along with her trio often played for free. She had her own radio show in the 60’s, and together with her husband they toured the country playing gigs, as well as writing and producing theatrical musical plays.

This album is with the saxophonist and flutist, Frank Wess. He was in Count Basie’s band as tenor saxophonist and flutist throughout the 50’s and into the 60’s. He is considered the great flutist of the era. He has over 600 song credits to his name. He passed away in 2003 at the ripe ole age of 91.

Mort Garson – Electronic Hair Pieces (1969)

Mort Garson’s Plantasia is probably his most well-known work, but all of his work is quite brilliant. Especially this one, Electronic Hair Pieces, which covers songs from the musical, Hair. He became a synth master during the 60’s, mainly known for using Moog. Mort has been involved as composer, arranger, orchestrator, conductor, and pianist as required in many top hits starting in the 50’s, and starting on his own projects in the 60’s. There is a great slice of a mini documentary on him floating on Youtube. I haven’t been able to find a longer version of the video.

Alan Watts – This Is It (1962)

A poetic album by the philosopher. Very out there and great. I didn’t know he had made an album until I stumbled upon it in Cincinnati on a road trip and bought it immediately without listening to it first. The record store was around the corner from a brewery in a church basement.

Alice Coltrane & Pharoah Sanders – Ptah, the el Daoud (1970)

One of the great albums by Alice Coltrane. Many of her albums are with Pharoah Sanders. Her albums are considered Meditative. Out of all the albums I have of hers, this is the one I play most, although I went through a phase of only listening to Universal Consciousness and nothing else.

She had a Vedantic center off Kanan in Agoura called Shanti Anantam Ashram. I’ve hiked past it a few times. If you go to the Westlake Reservoir hike but take the left trail instead of the usual one, you follow it all the way down to Triunfo Canyon. That’s where it is.