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Various Artists

Dark Exotica: As Dug By Lux & Ivy

Review by Gary Hill

This is an unusual double disc set. Let me say, right at the beginning, this is not progressive rock in a traditional sense. In fact, this predates progressive rock by quite a few years. I've included it under prog because there is a definite "art music" vibe to much of this and a lot of it fits close to a fusion heading, and we put that under prog.

This is a collection of four albums from different artists, two albums per CD. The first three were released in the 1950s, and the last one was a 1960 release. The music lands under jazz as a general concept, but there is quite a bit of intriguing variance on that theme here. I don't love everything here, but I find the whole set to be compelling and there are some particularly shining moments.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 5. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Disc One
                     
From the Buddy Collette Septet’s Polynesia
                              
Taboo

Percussion starts this. Other instruments join after a time in an arrangement that seems to combine world music, freeform jazz and more into something that is at once oddly familiar and strange.

Flight
There is a sad sort of soundtrack music feeling to this track. It features symphonic instrumentation and is quite powerful although mellow. Old school musical theater vocals of the female variety come over the top. This really feels like something you might have heard in a club in the very early part of the 20th century or the end of the 19th.
Gaugin
A song that is much more firmly set in the theatrical torch music of by-gone eras, even when this was released, this has a lot of style, even if it's a bit less strange than some of the rest here.
Singapore Sling
Dramatic jazz jamming brings this thing into being. It's an up-tempo jam that has some dangerous angles to it. I really love the guitar soloing on this tune, but I'm also heavily enamored with the bass work.
Polynesian Suite
Gong sounds open this. Then a spoken recitation comes in without accompaniment. It feels really creepy. Jazz music rises up after the voice finishes. Percussion takes over, and the voice returns. The percussion plays underneath, making it feel like a beat poetry piece. Other instruments join after that vocal part, bringing a slow moving soundtrack-like sound. The music stops, and then the voice returns, this time sans accompaniment. The story told by some of these readings feels almost Lovecraftian. It's definitely creepy. The music comes in with a different concept after the man again stops talking. The music has a sad and moody tone. Percussion takes over at the end of that part. The voice returns with another part of the story. Then we get a classy jazz arrangement that rises up with a bit more energy and groove to it. It still feels like soundtrack music, though. The voice returns after that short movement. Then we get more musical drama to continue. Another spoken section comes in after that. There is a playful, innocent vibe to the next musical section. The familiar pattern of spoken piece following is maintained, and then gentle, pretty music comes in after that one. That movement, longer than most of the instrumental stuff on this, ends the track.
Japanese Suite
A spoken part comes in to start this and percussion takes over after that. The voice returns shortly (with a bit of culturally insensitive stuff to it) over the top of that percussion. Asian styled traditional music rises up to take control from there. That eventually ends, and the voice returns. Some minor percussion joins after a time. After that we get more Asian styled instrumental work.
From the John McFarland Sextet’s Provocatif - 9 Esoteric Motifs
                      
Jungle Bells

World music, sound effects and other things are heard on this killer jazz arrangement. This has a definite fusion vibe to it and is so classy and stylish.

Summer Storms
The sounds of nature, and particularly water, are heard as this starts. Mellow textures with a lot of class work forward from there. This has a lot of freakiness to it, especially later when storm sounds obscure much of the music.
Watusi
Strange percussive elements are heard at the start of those. Those continue over the top as the music works into some cool fusion directions. I think those percussive things, like rattles or a tambourine are rather annoying and too far up in the mix, marring this thing a little. That's a shame because the jam that is heard is so cool. Fortunately those rattling sounds do eventually drop a little further back into the mix as this continues. They don't completely go away though. I really dig some of the piano on this track a lot. The whole thing eventually fades out to just piano to end it.
Tangerine
Percussion starts this track and vibes (which are tuned percussion) join after a time. The number works forward with style from there. There is a bit of percussion that's too high in the mix on this, too, but it's not nearly as annoying as it was on the last piece. This is a mellower interlude that is quite entertaining.
The Chimp And The Bumble Bee
We get the sound of a chimp as this gets underway. Bouncy, jazzy stylings join and wind up doing sort of a duet with those sounds as this continues. There is some bouncy piano further down the musical road. this is playful song.
Where Or When
I really dig the jazz grooves on this song. That chimpanzee is heard again on this one, but it's less frequent and further back in the mix.
Forbidden
This number has a lot of magic and drama built into it. There is a sense of something dangerous here. This is at times unsettling, yet the groove is contagious. Jungle animals are heard on the mix here at times, too. This is another killer jazz piece with a lot of challenging angles.
Midnight By A Persian Waterfall
Jangly bells and tuned percussion are at the heart of this as it gets underway. Intriguing melodies emerge on piano as the track moves forward. The piano is the main thing here.
Headhunters
Drama and danger seem to be all over this. Then again, that goes with the title. This feels more like soundtrack music in a lot of ways, but noisy soundtrack music.
Disc Two
                       
From Stan Kenton’s ‘Cuban Fire’
                                   
Fuego Cubano (Cuban Fire)

A smoking hot big band sound brings this in. From there it drops back to something mellow and almost menacing in tone. There is almost a classical soundtrack vibe as it grows upward and outward. It powers up with a rather crazed jazz energy. That resolves, and we are taken back into mellower territory. That section grows into more traditional jazz, but gets powered up into more dramatic stuff at times. This continues to grow and evolve, working through a number of twists and turns as it does.

El Congo Valiente (Valiant Congo)
For some reason as this opens it makes me think of "Star Trek." It moves out from there to a killer powered up jam, but then that opening movement returns. The cut begins to play with those melodies in a more powerful arrangement of it. This thing gets really crazed with its big band jamming. Some killer soloing ensues as the intensity drops back a bit. This just keeps shifting and driving in new, but related, directions from there.
Recuerdos (Reminiscences)
This is more mainstream old-school jazz. It has some killer melodies and instrumental work. It stands pretty tall in more traditional ways. There is a lot of style and charm built into this thing. There is a good balance between more restrained and powered up sections.
Quien Sabe (Who Knows)
Bombastic, fast-paced, and purely on fire, this thing just has so much energy and groove to it. This isn't a hugely experimental piece, but it is effective.
La Quera Baila (The Fair One Dances)
Mellower and slower moving, this is a cool jazz groove that is very tasty. It has some moments of bombastic power, but overall is more on the sedate side. It does get into more powerful jazz jamming further down the road, though.
La Suerte De Los Tontos (Fortune Of Fools)
There is a real energized theme song feeling to this powerhouse tune. There is some scorching hot soloing on this number. It's really quite a strong song.
From Bill Russo’s ‘Seven Deadly Sins’
                  
Seven Deadly Sins Theme

Classical music and jazz collide and co-mingle on this piece. It's artistic, dramatic and very cool with peaks and valleys built into it.

Greed
More purely jazz-based, this is no less intriguing and artistic. It's also very classy.
Lechery
This is a much slower and mellower piece of music. It has plenty of style and charm to it. It also has a bit of a trippy angle in some of the weird layers of sound. They lend a little creepiness. This rises up into dramatic classically tinged stuff further down the road. It has a real insistence and energy to it.
Gluttony
A bass sound brings this in with an intriguing melody. The cut grows outward from there with soundtrack meets jazz energy.
Anger
You might expect this to be represented by furious music. It actually has more of a slow burn approach, with a lot of it on the mellow side of the equation. It gets more powered up around the halfway mark, and has some blasts of suitably angry sounding music in the mix.
Envy
A fast-paced number, this is a real stomper. It has so much style and charm. This might be my favorite track on this second half of the second disc.
Sloth
As you might expect this is slow moving. It's also mellower, and very artsy in a lot of ways.
Pride - Epilogue
Classy jazz grooves bring this one into being. This shifts into a new jam further down the road. It's perhaps even more effective. This is definitely toe-tapping stuff of the highest order. There is a change from there to some unique dramatic, but rather subdued exploration. It turns to a slower, yet adventurous, exploration beyond that. That movement does get louder and ends the piece.
 
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