Xavier Cugat

Cocktail Hour

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This is the sort of music that most people associate with Xavier Cugat. Stylized, often campy, rhythmically spicy but also containing string arrangements and swanky vocals, this stuff periodically touches down on a peculiar plateau somewhere amidst Paul Whiteman, Lawrence Welk, and Raymond Scott, but it's Cugie, Cugie, Cugie every step of the way! It is delightfully weird lounge music for those who don't take themselves -- or their music -- too seriously. Like Liberace, Cugat handled "Chopsticks" without flinching, and willingly dished out zippy versions of "The Continental," "Besame Mucho," "Brazil," and "Mexican Hat Dance." There's even an "Etude for Latins" that seems to have been based upon an elementary exercise for beginning violinists. "Cocktail Hour" is a lot of fun, but why did the producers spread less than an hour's worth of music across two compact discs? That's just wasteful. Perhaps they're leaving you the option of playing both discs at once on two separate sound systems, à la Karlheinz Stockhausen or John Cage. More likely they were simply hoping to re-create the sumptuous splendor of a "double album" while ignoring the practical considerations of the CD format.

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