Ethel Azama / Tak Shindo

Exotic Dreamers

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This 24-track, hour-long CD actually combines two exotica LPs from the late 1950s onto one disc: Ethel Azama's Exotic Dreamers and Tak Shindo's Mganga! Azama's album occupies the first half of the disc, and is the less impressive of the pair. It does have many of the elements that exotic collectors want and expect from their finds: quasi-Asian plucked notes and gongs, cocktail lounge piano, glowing vibraphone notes, Latin-influenced drumming, jungle bird noises, and lyrical odes to the leisurely good life. Azama's no more than an adequate singer, though, sounding as if she'd be far more at home on a whitebread jazz diet than something more, well, exotic. Indeed, her perkiness verges on the annoying on "Happy Talk," though that's not one of the album's more typical songs. Considerably better, and more varied though still squarely in the exotic idiom, is Shindo's primarily instrumental Mganga! If you like your exotica with the kitchen sink thrown in and some spookiness alongside the cheery lava light, this could be up your alley. Tribal percussion, eerie wordless female vocal choruses, snake-charming melodies, ambient tropical rainfall, and those jungle bird noises (an exotica staple) can all be heard, with an undercurrent that's sinister if a bit cheesy. More than most exotica albums, the tempos, moods, and arrangements change substantially from track to track. The inclusion of Mganga! alone makes this disc desirable for those looking for some of the more interesting, lesser-known exotica that's made it onto compact disc. While Azama's half is far less notable, it does fit within the exotica genre, and is thus an acceptable extra as it might interest some devotees of the style.

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