The illustrious Mr. Ho and his Orchestrotica have been giving us some fine, lingering looks at the Space-Age Bachelor music of the late '50s-early '60s. We've covered most of them, if not all of them on this blogsite and the Gapplegate Music site.
Now he returns, this time in quartet form to explore the Bachelor Pad offshoot genre known as Exotica. The idea was to give the button-down salary slave of the conformist era an escape, an imaginary landscape of non-specific locality, a cobbled combination of an easy-on-the-ears ambiance and what the listener would recognize as some sort of musical representation of "paradise", which in the prevailing view (as seen for example in a number of Elvis Presley movies), had something to do with the South Seas and other less specific locales.
Les Baxter and Martin Denny were some of the prime artists in Exotica. It was for that new, sonically supercharged hi-fi that the bachelor had along with the wet bar, the modern furniture and so on. The records did well for a while, and then other things took their place, some listeners graduating to world music per se with releases on Folkways and other labels, others gravitating towards the Mystic Moods Orchestra and Psychedelia, others going still elsewhere.
But for a time there was an imaginary ethnic music that offered you a way out for a few hours of an evening.
Mr. Ho dedicates his new CD to the genre. Where Here Meets There (Tiki 003) gives us Ho's take on the land of the unfound in the form of a quartet. Now any Exotica record worth the listen just had to have alto flute, and for that matter I can recall James Bond soundtracks that did as well. So we have a nicely played alto flute throughout. Vibes were a must, also. Mr. Ho has them. Acoustic bass and drums were needed. Ho gives them to us. And of course there had to be exotic percussion and we get that, too. To spice things up even more, one cut has oud.
What's funny about it all is the "seriousness" of the recreation as is the case with Mr. Ho's other recordings. But what surprises you is that, yes, it is Exotica, but it also actually is very good for all that. These are nicely arranged numbers with players that can take a decent solo and whose ethnic touches are rather authentic, though of course mixed and matched in a crazy-quilt sort of way.
So it's actually good. It's what Martin Denny might have done if he were trying a little harder to really go exotic. Now all that makes me smile. But it also makes me listen with real interest. Hey!