What does it sound like?:
The conventional impression of 1950s Britain is of a rain-soaked and foggy land exhausted by the war and struggling to come to terms with lingering rationing and austerity. To counter this view along comes a sparkling new box set from Jonny Trunk featuring all manner of exotic recordings by artists with names like Reg, Ted and Eric. The Americans too had their own brand of exotica with artists such as Arthur Lyman, Esquivel, Les Baxter and Martin Denny but, as the sleeve notes suggest, the British experience was rather different. ‘Recovering from war, steeped in tradition and closer to European, Middle Eastern and Asian influences. Quietly reserved, gently comic and slightly confused.’
The three albums included in this box set are : ‘London’s Rarest Primitive Pop and Savage Jazz’, ’Persian Pop and Casbah Jazz from the Wild British Isles!’ and ‘Polynesian Pop and Placid Jazz from the Wild British Isles!’. Each album explores a different substrata of this fascinating music. Highlights include ex-Vernon Girl, Lyn Cornell, with a spirited vocal version of Johnny Dankworth’s ‘African Waltz’, folk singer Nadia Cattouse’s frantic jazz chase produced by her big band arranger husband, Dave Lindup, and ‘The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God’ by Harry H. Corbett (!). And that’s just on the first album. Other gems include The Beverley Sisters with ‘Sphinx Won’t Tell’, ‘The Sultan of Bezaaz’ by Ray Ellington and ‘Heatwave’ by Geoff Love (aka Manuel and His Music of the Mountains’. And then we have 50s beauty Yana (real name Pamela Guard) with her minor hit ‘Climb Up The Wall’. As the notes suggest Yana’s allure was authentically Eastern, being born and bred in Romford, Essex.
It is this general incongruity that is this set’s main appeal. An example is ‘Yashmak’ by Chico Arnez, produced by Joe Meek. Chico Arnez was, in fact, Streatham born bassist Jackie Davis. The track is a strident mix of bongos, drums and finger cymbals conjuring up an authentic Arabian atmosphere. A considerable achievement as it was recorded at Pye studios, just off the Marylebone Road.
The whole set is a joy from start to finish.
What does it all *mean*?
Exploring the more obscure byways of British music can still turn up some real gems.
Goes well with…
Cocktails and cigars.
Might suit people who like…
Refreshing a jaded musical pallete and exploring a new musical genre.