Les Baxter

The Fruit of Dreams

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While Esquivel will always be the uncontested king of "Space Age Bachelor Pad Music," for sheer glorious kitsch, few hold a candle to Les Baxter, one of the true pioneers of "exotica," the easy listening variant which conjured up the shades of various distant lands through dramatic instrumental figures and the use of unusual instruments. The Fruit of Dreams collects 22 Baxter pieces from his celebrated Capitol Records LPs of the 1950s, and by his standards this stuff is just a bit staid; while Baxter's trademark use of wordless vocal choruses, xylophones and marimbas to establish a foreign local, and dynamic orchestral swells are in healthy supply, much of this stuff is more in the vein of Baxter's film scores than his "exotic" works (and Baxter did plenty of film scores, including Roger Corman's fabled cycle of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations). However, if you're interested in vintage oddball easy listening that gently nudges rather than hitting you over the head, this is fine stuff indeed, and this isn't a bad introduction to Baxter's sonic world view, though some of the later tracks on this disc appear to have been taken from damaged source materials (there's clearly audible distortion on "Gardens of the Moon," for example). It's good fun, and certainly a lot cheaper than traveling to the South Seas or South America yourself.

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