Music Routes Blog

David Sylvian to Arthur Lyman (SMLP #6: Swine Flu Edition)

10 October 2009

Humuhumu is sick, so we stayed in this Saturday morning.  (She doesn't have swine flu—the title is just a joke that is probably unfunny, in poor taste, and something that I will regret before I even finish this parenthetical comment.)  I have a backlog of records from previous listening parties, so I selected two of those for this week's listening party.

The route starting point:  Gone To Earth, a solo album by David Sylvian of the band Japan.  Anu had brought it for a previous listening party.  The second record of this two-record set is all ambient instrumentals.  I listened to that record first, mostly to confirm the credits in the Music Routes database.  Having spent far too much time in academia listening to bloodless instrumental music (to say nothing of creating music of my own that is unmatched in its lack of inspiration),  I thought for sure I would hate the instrumental tracks.  As it turns out, it was perfect Saturday morning listening while I went about making coffee for Humu and so on.

The route end route: Cast Your Fate To The Wind, a record by exotica vibraphonist Arthur Lyman.  If the Internet isn't lying to me, this is a reissue of an earlier Lyman recording entitled At The Crescendo.  I saw this in the second-hand shop a couple weeks ago and picked it up for Humu.

Without further ado, a Music Route from Gone To Earth to Cast Your Fate To The Wind:

We start with one of the non-instrumental tracks on the David Sylvian album.  "River Man" features King Crimson leader Robert Fripp and one-time King Crimson saxophonist Mel Collins.  You can listen to the studio version from Gone To Earth by clicking over to the route and selecting the play icon for that track.

Robert Fripp and Mel Collins, of course, played on many King Crimson tracks, most of them strange.  On the album Islands, they had an uncharacteristically raunchy number called "Ladies Of The Road".  The contrast between the delicate soprano saxophone from Collins on "River Man" and the honking and squawking on "Ladies Of The Road" is striking.

The drummer on "Ladies Of The Road" is Ian Wallace.  Wallace is probably best known for having been a member of King Crimson, but he has done substantial studio work.  Notably, he is on the Bob Dylan record Street Legal.  The first track on that record, "Changing Of The Guards", features saxophonist Steve Douglas.

Most people have never heard of Steve Douglas, but he was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.  According to the Hall's web site:

The unmistakable sound of Steve Douglas’s honking saxophone can be heard on countless recordings by the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Duane Eddy, and others. Among the most in-demand West Coast sessionmen, Douglas was a key player in producer Phil Spector’s “Wrecking Crew”....

Douglas was on that most highly-regarded of Beach Boys albums, Pet Sounds. Like many session saxophonists, he doubles on clarinet, which is the instrument he plays on "You Still Believe In Me".

Also on "You Still Believe In Me" are percussionists Jerry Williams and Julius Wechter, both of whom worked with Martin Denny, the central figure of exotica music. This brings us to our Geeky Exotica Discography Bonus Questions.

Martin Denny's Primitiva opens with "Burma Train". (You can download the entire album in mp3 format from a link at the bottom of this post on The Martin Denny Blog.)

Geeky Exotica Discography Bonus Question #1: Is the personnel listing in Music Routes correct?  If not, what is the correct personnel listing?  It doesn't sound to me like all those people are on the track. I'm guessing that's actually the personnel list for the entire album.  Fortunately, the presence of vibraphone and/or marimba is a pretty good indicator that either Jerry Williams or Julius Wechter is on the track, so the route can remain intact.

From "Burma Train", we go via Martin Denny and Augie Colon to Denny's best-known album, Exotica.  The original mono version of Exotica featured Arthur Lyman.  Here's "Ah Me Furi" from Exotica.

I don't know whether that is from the mono or subsequent stereo re-recording of Exotica with different personnel, but it doesn't matter in the case of this song. Someone over at Tiki Central appears to have demonstrated that this and one other song from the stereo version of Exotica are actually the same as the mono recordings. Obviously, since Arthur Lyman is on this recording, it's trivial to get to his Cast Your Fate To The Wind album. But let's hold off on that for a moment.

I've tried to find the personnel for the stereo version of Exotica but have not had much luck.  Obviously, Martin Denny is on the recording.  Julius Wechter replaces Arthur Lyman on it.  And, exotica music authority Jeff Chenault's post in the aforementioned Tiki Central thread indicates that Roy Harte replaces Harold Chang.  But what about bassist John Kramer?  He's on the original mono recordings.  If he's on the stereo recordings too, we can shorten the route by a step.  We would be able to skip "Burma Train" and go straight from Pet Sounds to the stereo version of Exotica via Wechter, and then from there to Cast Your Fate To The Wind via Kramer.  But if Kramer was replaced, that won't work.

Geeky Exotica Discography Bonus Question #2: What is the complete list of musicians that recorded the stereo version of Martin Denny's Exotica? Does it include John Kramer?

Geeky Exotica Discography Bonus Question #3: For that matter, can you name any recording whatsoever that has both John Kramer and Julius Wechter? It doesn't have to be on the Exotica album to shorten the route. Any track with those two musicians will do.

In any event, the final step in the chain is to connect from the previous track to Cast Your Fate To The Wind via Arthur Lyman himself along with a couple of the aforementioned musicians for good measure. The track at the end of the route is "China Nights" which doesn't appear to be generally available on any services. To hear it, you'll have to visit the seedier BitTorrent reaches of the Internet, buy the CD reissue (available right now from hbdirect.com for $30), find it in a second-hand shop like I did for $1, or just come over to my house sometime.