In keeping with his previous efforts, Latitude 20 (1967) affords Arthur Lyman (vibraphone/marimba/vocals) a chance to try out a couple of concurrently popular songs from the stage, screen, and charts amongst the considerable return to Polynesian-informed fare. According to the rear LP jacket, Latitude 20 refers to the Torrance, CA lounge/recording studio where the project was documented. This was a definite change of locale for Lyman, who could usually be found holding court in the aurally ideal Geodesic Aluminum Dome created by American industrialist Henry J. Kaiser as part of Hilton Hawaiian Village. Perhaps feeling homesick, Lyman gets underway with the percussive and tropical title track -- replete with simulated bird calls and other such sonic ephemera. The shimmering and exquisite "Hawaii" is a reminder of Lyman's faultless scoring skills. The strident theme from director Mihalis Kakogiannis' masterful social statement The Day the Fish Came Out (1967) is a brilliant choice for inclusion, while providing an ample opportunity for Lyman to unleash his limber instrumental ensemble. Another superbly chosen and rendered silver screen selection is the churning bossa nova "Manha de Carnival" from Black Orpheus (1959). To a similar effect, the hypnotic "Island in the Sun" -- lifted from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the film of the same name -- bears a rich calypso rhythm beneath the pensive arrangement. The happy-go-lucky "Maori Flea" could easily be mistaken for a long lost Baja Marimba Band slice of south of the border fun. The remake of Bobbie Gentry's Americana gothic "Ode to Billie Joe" comes off remarkably well and uncovers yet another talent as Lyman could have easily devoted more time to interpreting the burgeoning singer/songwriter movement of the late '60s. The drowsy rendition of "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen" is simply graced by the ballad's inherent beauty with the melody exposed in Lyman's shimmering and empathetic vibraphone. Longtime fans of the artist won't want to miss his debut lead vocal on the tender and reminiscent "The Days of My Youth." In 2008 Collectors' Choice Music coupled Latitude 20 with Aphrodisia (1968) onto a two-fer CD -- making both albums available for the first time in decades.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer