As the outer LP jacket proudly proclaims, "The Exotic Sounds of Arthur Lyman" are back once again for another dozen tiki-inspired tunes on Bahia (1959). Just like he had done on his influential breakthrough and genre-defining album Exotic two years earlier, this Lyman collection draws heavily on the repertoire of fellow space age bachelor pad music bandleader Les Baxter. However, it is the slinky and moody title track "Bahia" -- penned by Brazilian composer/pianist (and of all things) soccer commentator Ary Barroso -- that commences the affair. The tropical augmentation of bird calls and other jungle-related aural enhancers punctuate Lyman's (vibes/marimba/guitar) and Alan Soares (piano) as they lead the combo through a Latin-tinged arrangement. As is typical of many Lyman discs of the era, his band recorded inside an aluminum-based Geodesic dome -- which was designed and constructed under the direction of American industrialist, ship magnate, and music lover Henry J. Kaiser. One key attribute to capturing the atmosphere is the natural three-second delay that swaddles the music in an organic, womb-like envelope. The hand percussion conga rhythms that open Baxter's upbeat "Jungle Jalopy" demonstrates the effect perfectly. The catchy cat-and-mouse interplay between Soares and Lyman allows each to momentarily improvise. In the process they also melodically unravel some of the most appealing interaction on the LP. "Legend of the Rain" is notable for the traditional Hawaiian slack key guitar -- which is represented with what sounds like an amplified slide guitar -- predating the instrument's use in pop recordings by several years. Among the other entries of interest on Bahia are the upbeat and downright groovy "Caribbean Nights" as well as Les Baxter's "Quiet Village" -- which is actually anything but, thanks to the copious and thick jungle backdrop. The frenetic celesta that introduces the swift tempo on "Tropical" gives it an airy and unfettered quality that is decidedly different from the majority of the material. To the same extent, Baxter's "Happy Voodoo" is infused with the sound of restless natives that erupt over the steady tribal beat and an alluring woodwind solo, presumably performed by longtime Lyman cohort John Kramer. The syncopated jazzy groove that stirs "Busy Port" -- the final Baxter entry -- is another example of Baxter bouncing ideas off the cascading piano riffs. Meanwhile back in the isles, the dreamy "Beyond the Reef" opens with a conch shell blast that seeps into a fascinating textural contrasting violin solo emulating a woozy slack key guitar. Yet the effect is dissimilar to that on the aforementioned "Legend of the Rain". The concluding and appropriately titled "Maui Chimes" is quite unlike anything else on the effort, incorporating a chorus of ukuleles strumming behind the prominent tubular bells as they chime out the theme. In 2008, Collectors Choice Music paired this platter alongside Bwana A (1959) -- making each available as part of their thorough reassessment of Lyman's classic Hi Fi Records catalog.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer