Q - 10/95, p.1483 Stars
- Good - "...fascinating from first to last..."
2 LPS on 1 CD: VOICE OF THE XTABAY (1950)/INCA TAQUL.
Personnel includes: Yma Sumac (vocals); Les Baxter, Moises Vivanco (arranger, conductor).
Personnel: Yma Sumac (vocals).
Unknown Contributor Role: Yma Sumac.
Arrangers: Les Baxter; Mois?s Vivanco.
Exotica began here in this historic 1950 meeting between the Peruvian "princess" Yma Sumac and Hollywood arranger Les Baxter. Neither Inca royalty nor a Bronx girl named Amy Camus as counter-legend had it, Sumac was raised an upper middle class Peruvian, but gifted with an uncanny multi-octave range. With such a powerful instrument at his disposable, the imaginatively resourceful Baxter proceeded to patch together musical bits and pieces from around the globe--gamelon orchestra, all manner of modal scales, ethnic percussion, impressionistic strings--into a fantasy concoction that has stayed surprisingly fresh after a half a century.
There probably isn't anything here that wasn't first heard in Rimsky-Korsakov or Debussy, not to mention Max Steiner whose path-finding score for KING KONG remains the talisman for pop musical journeys to the unknown. Still, Baxter is a skillful orchestrator, especially of strings, and Sumac herself never falters in her tricky wordless improvisations. It was super kitschy stuff at the time and remains so, but retains a certain musical integrity, even timelessness, much like the stone god that hovers scowling above our ersatz princess on the famous album cover.