Recent listening, current

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

144. Yma Sumac / Voice of the Xtabay (1950)

Xtabay is the Peruvian soprano's famous American debut. Its release was in 1950 when she signed to Capitol and began thrilling audiences with an astonishing range of nearly five octaves. The songs were composed and arranged by Les Baxter along with husband Moises Vivanco, and John Rose. Exotica aficionados will appreciate the presence of Baxter but Vivanco actually gets most of the credits. Some of these tracks, or at least snippets of them, have appeared in advertising campaigns and movie soundtracks, so there could be many listeners who are familiar with the voice but unaware of who it is. Selections combine catchy snatches and "exotic" percussion with lush jazz instrumentation and strains of Peruvian folk music. Some songs are haunting and ethereal ("Virgin of the Sun God"), some are delightfully quirky ("Monos"), and all feature Sumac's captivating voice. She doesn't just sing, either, but breathes, chants, yelps, croons, and shouts. It's invigorating! If you're new to this vocalist, then you could get one of those greatest hits compilations, but you'd do just as well to start here, and it's a very nice item for the shelf.

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