"Exotic & Spicy Women Singers From the Torrid Regions Taken From Old 78
RPM Records, 1920s to 1950s" shouts compiler/crank R. Crumb's cover cartoon,
but the CD promises to roam all over the map more figuratively that
in the tradition of useless compilations. So blame this site dig's surprising
on the fact that it's not quite what it says it is. Only two out of 24 tracks
come from the '40s or '50s (and only "circa 1950" at that), leaving most of the
rest recorded between 1927 and 1934. "Exotic & Spicy," therefore, refers more
to the Western recording companies in the boom years before the realities of
the Depression settled in for good (is this why Rita Abadzi, whose track was
recorded in mid-1930s Greece, sings "Mother, please don't send me to America"?).
The resulting gestalt suggests the wacky, faux luxury of a film by Jack Smith,
who probably would have adored this. Beyond that, most of these women are ciphers,
of course, but their singing is as torrid as their regions. East African Hadija
Binti Abdulla and, especially, Tunisian Julie Marsellaise belt over the field-recording
moldiness that takes over towards the end. Such congregations as Cuba's "Grupo
de la Alegria," Chile's Las Cuatro Huasas and Emma Bush with Johnny Noble and
his Hawaiian Music are as tart as they wanna be in the face of certain immortality.
And despite the often scant accompaniment that lends the project its Flaming
Creatures feel, the full-bodied orchestrations on Sicilian Rosina Trubia Gioiosa's
cut jumps out most self-assuredly.