Les Baxter

Orchestra leader Les Baxter has been called the father of exotica and, more generally, of mood music. His music was a tremendous influence on his fellow Hollywood music-makers as well as countless others who enjoyed an otherworldliness streaming from their speaker(s). A good-natured Texan who travelled the world and cultivated percussion, particularly Brasilian, Baxter led everything from small combos to full orchestras with chorus.

A graduate of the Detroit Conservatory of Music, Baxter earned a scholarship to Pepperdine and from there started out as an arranger. Also he performed on saxophone, piano, and woodwinds (as well as a singer, at least later).

His first albums revived use of the theremin for the modern recording era and made a profound impression on "space" musician Sun Ra. Le Sacre du Sauvage (Ritual of the Savage), the first popular "exotica" album, stands as his most important work. In addition to the early albums (released as 78 sets, EPs, and LPs) were countless odd singles such as "My Name is God," "Flute Salad," and "The Left Arm of Buddha." In addition he did standard popular, commercial, production, and support work for vocalists.

Ritual of the Savage is quintessentially Les Baxter and the definitive "exotica" album of all time. A beautiful "tone poem," or concept album, it established a new musical idiom and Baxter as its chief creator and exponent. The evocative, imaginative, affecting Ritual provided both "the book" of classic exotica tunes and the greatest "hit" of exotica, "Quiet Village." Unlike every other masterpiece of exotica, "Quiet Village" is not Latin but based on a classic Brasilian rhythm. (Edmundo Ros recorded a very similar samba about the same time or slightly earlier.)

Subsequent albums focused on various parts of the world and met with varying degrees of success. The experiments with smaller units and original music (African Jazz and Skins) are far more interesting than the ubiquitous orchestral albums of arranged standards. Through his extensive work backing Hollywood films and various singers, he left his mark eventually on everything from biker rock to folk. Throughout his career he returned to exotica in one way or another, and late in his career he even returned to the theremin and space music (Dunwich Horror and Neil Norman albums).

Baxter liked sensationalism but had an uneasy relationship with rock. And he has been accused of orchestral overkill (too many strings). But his talent for composition and love of Brasilian percussion were singular. After writing the first, most important charts in pop exotica, he charted new territory in soundtracks and albums of his own. A musical "great white hunter" and cog lost sadly in the Hollywood machine, Les Baxter's legacy is that of a true master of popular music.

Buying: The soundtrack, space, exotica, percussion, and mod albums are the most desirable. Most of the rest is easy-listening mush. The Sounds of Adventure compilation is worthwhile for its gatefold biography.

Les Baxter Exotica LPs

9Le Sacre du Sauvage 10"; Capitol H-288 (w/Eddie Cano)
8Les Baxter w/Bas Sheva: The Passions 10" box; Capitol FDS LAL-486
9Ritual of the Savage/Le Sacre du Sauvage; Capitol DT-288; (w/Eddie Cano)
7Tamboo!; Capitol DT-655
7African Jazz; Capitol ST-1117
8Jungle Jazz; Capitol ST-1184
7The Sacred Idol ST; Capitol ST-1293 (unreleased film)
6Brazil Now; GNP Crescendo GNPS-2036 (w/Paulo Magalhaes, Sebastian Neto, Milt Holland, Clare Fischer, John Pisano, Paul Horn, the Les Baxter Singers)
6African Blue; GNP Crescendo GNPS-2047; 1970 (Bugaloo in Brazil; KPM 1070--mono only)
7The Primitive & the Passionate; Reprise R9-6048; 1961
6Soul of the Drums; Reprise R9-6100
7Les Baxter's Original Quiet Village; Capitol ST-1846 (compilation)
8Selections from "The Sacred Idol"/The Best of Baxter; Capitol PRO-1364 (compilation, promo only)
6The Sounds of Adventure; Capitol SQB03-90984 (2-LP compilation)

Other Hip LPs

7Skins!; Capitol DT-774
6Wild Guitars; Capitol ST-1248
8Teen Drums; Capitol ST-1355
6Love is Blue; GNP Crescendo GNPS-2042; 1968 (Capitol ST-91417)
6Les Baxter: Moog Rock; GNP Crescendo GNPS-2053
4The Fabulous Sounds of Les Baxter: Strings, Guitars, Voices!; Pickwick SPC-3011 (compilation; also as It's a Big Wide Wonderful World of Les Baxter; Sears SPS-409)

Mushy Pop LPs

7Music Out of the Moon 10"; Capitol H-2000 (w/Dr. Samuel Hoffman; reissued as 1/2 of Capitol T-390)
6Perfume Set to Music 10"; RCA Victor LPM-35 (w/Dr. Samuel Hoffman)
3Arthur Murray Favorites--Tangos; Capitol T-263 (10" & 12")
5Festival of the Gnomes 10"; Capitol H-296 ("A Ballet Fantasy" & other selections by Prince di Candriano)
3Thinking of You; Capitol T-474 (10" & 12")
3Arthur Murray Favorites--Modern Waltzes; Capitol H-548 (10" & 12")
4Kaleidoscope; Capitol T-594
4Caribbean Moonlight; Capitol T-733
3'Round the World; Capitol T-780
4Midnight on the Cliffs; Capitol T-843
5Ports of Pleasure; Capitol ST-868/T-868 (stereo lacks 2 cuts)
6Space Escapade; Capitol ST-968
4Selections from "South Pacific"; Capitol [S?]T-1012
5Confetti; Capitol [S?]T-1029
3Love is a Fabulous Thing; Capitol ST-1088
3Baxter's Best; Capitol DT-1388 (compilation)
3Young Pops; Capitol ST-1399
3Broadway '61; Capitol ST-1480
6Jewels of the Sea; Capitol ST-1537; 1961
4Sensational!; Capitol ST-1661
3Voices in Rhythm; Reprise R9-6036
5The Sounds of Selling; [Reprise] (promo for GM's AC Spark Plugs; 3 Baxter commercials, 3 others; Side 2 is 1/2 of R-6036)
4Les Baxter's Balladeers; Reprise R9-6064 (folk)
3The Academy Award Winners; Reprise R9-6079
I Could Have Danced All Night; Pickwick SPC-3048 (compilation)

Partly Les Baxter LPs

5101 Strings: Que Mango; Alshire S-5024; 1972/1970 (rec. in London)
5101 Strings: Million Seller Hits; Alshire S-5188; 1970 (rec. in London)
3101 Strings: Hit Songs from Spain--Songs Made Famous by Mocedades
3101 Strings: Movie Themes; Alshire S-5324; 1975
Easy Listening Strings; Alshire 21231 (2-LP; probably compilation)
6Les Baxter/Billy May: Music Out of the Moon & Music for Peace of Mind; Capitol T-390 (w/Dr. Samuel Hoffman; reissues 2 10" LPs)
6Martin Denny: Exotica Suite; Liberty LSS-14020 (composer)
6Arthur Lyman (with Kapiolani): Puka Shells; GNP Crescendo GNPS-2091; 1975 (prod. vocals)
->Neil Norman -- see Odd Pop/Space-Electronic or Theremin
5Billy Strange/Neil Norman: Secret Agent File (compilation); GNP Crescendo GNPS-2166; 1984
7Yma Sumac: Voice of The Xtabay; Capitol H-244; 1950 (DW-684)
8Yma Sumac: Miracles; London XPS-608; 1972
7Various: Music for Dancefloors--The Cream of the KPM Green-Label Sessions; Strut LP-005; 2000 (2-LP compilation; comp. "Freeway to Rio")
6Various: Return to Paradise; Capitol SL-6638 (exotica compilation)
5Various: Swing for a Crime; CR-SFC LP-11515-08 (1 from Teen Drums)
8Various: Wild Stereo Drums; Capitol ST-1553 (compilation; essential cuts from Pepe Dominguin/Rolley Polley: Mad Drums, Les Baxter's Teen Drums, Dick Harrell: Drums & More Drums)

Soundtracks (some on LP)

7Alakazam the Great; VeeJay LP-6000 (with the 100 Men; kids/whistling)
All the Loving Couples; 1969
Annabelle Lee; 1968
7Barbarian--Sound Track from the Motion Picture "Goliath & the Barbarian"; AIR-LP-1001-S; 1959 (Goliath & the Barbarians; Varese Saraband VC-81078; 1979; orchestral sword-&-sandal cond. Muir Mathieson)
Baron Blood; AIP; 1972 (a Bava film)
Beach Blanket Bingo; Capitol; 1965 (w/Donna Loren)
Beach Party; 1963
The Beast Within; 1982 (horror)
Bikini Beach; 1964
4Black Sabbath; Tony Thomas BAX LB-1000; 1963 (orchestral horror)
The Black Sleep; 1956
Black Sunday; AIP; 1960 (its "Katia's Theme" became "Jewels of the Sea"; remake of Italian film by Bava w/no ST)
Blood Sabbath; 1972
Bop Girl
7Bop Girl Goes Calypso; 1957 (mainly performers such as Lord Flea)
4Bora Bora; AIP ST-1029; 1970 (tropical cheatin' sleaze)
7Born Again; Word/Lamb & Lion LL-1041; 1978 (crime/jail-themed disco about Watergate criminal/right-wing evangelist Charles Colson)
8Born Wild; AIP; 1968 (Mexican student protests in Arizona; features performances by Orphan Egg & The American Revolution)
7The Bride & the Beast; 1958 (ST but perhaps no LP; same as Queen of the Gorillas?)
La ciudad sagradal 1959
College Capers; 1954
The Comedy of Terrors; 1963
6Cry of the Banshee/Edgar Allan Poe Suite; Citadel CTV-7013; 1980/1972 (AIP horror)
6Dagmar's Hot Pants, Inc.; 1971
5The Dalton Girls; 1957 (western)
Daughter of the Sun God; 1962
The Devil & Leroy Bassett; 1973
The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini; 1966
4Dr. Goldfoot & the Bikini Machine; 1965
4Dr. Goldfoot & the Girl Bombs ST; Capitol/Tower ST-5053; 1966 (various artists; 2 Baxter-composed instrumentals)
7Dunwich Horror--Music of the Devil God Cult; AIR ST-A-1028; 1970 (electronic horror)
Erik the Conqueror; 1961
Escape from Red Rock; 1957
An Evening of Edgar Allen Poe; 1970
The Evil Eye; AIP; 1963
The Eye Creatures; 1965
Fall of the House of Usher; AIP; 1960 (part of Poe suite; his 1st for AIP)
Fall Girl; 1961
The Fiend who Walked the West; 1958
5Fireball 500; AIP; 1966 (w/Frankie Avalon)
Flareup; 1969
Fort Bowie; 1958
6Frogs; AIP (eco-horror; music: incidental horror-electronic)
Fury; 1955 (TV; and an epsidoe in 1957)
The Girl in Black Stockings; 1957
The Girl Who Saved the World; 1979
6Goliath & the Barbarians; 1959 (ST as Barbarian, above)
Goliath & the Dragon; 1960
Goliath & the Vampires; 1961
La guerra continua; 1962
Guns of the Black Witch; 1961
Hell Bound; 1957
7Hell's Belles; Capitol/Sidewalk; 1969 (funky/mod biker)
Hot Blood; 1956
7Hot Cars; 1956
House of Usher; 1960 (Poe)
6How to Stuff a Wild Bikini; AIP; 1965 (score, not the ST)
7I Escaped From Devil's Island; 1973 (Corman)
The Invisible Boy; 1957
It's Everybody's Business; 1954
The Jezebels; 1975
Jungle Heat; 1957
Lassie; 1954 (and an episode in 1958)
A Life at Stake; 1954
The Lone Ranger & the Lost City of Gold; 1958
Lost Battalion; 1962
Macabre; 1958 (AIP horror?)
Maciste ala corte del Gran Khan; 1961
The Magic Land Alakazam; 1960 (ST as Alakazam, above)
The Man With the X-Ray Eyes (AIP horror?)
Marco Polo; 1962 (score, at least)
4Master of the World; VeeJay LP-4000; 1961 (with the 100 Men; orchestral)
The Mighty Jungle; 1964
6The Mini-Skirt Mob; 1968
Monika (rescore)
Muscle Beach Party; 1964
No Time for Shame; 1954
El Ogro; 1971
One Minute Before Death; 1972
6Operation Bikini; AIP; 1963 (b/w w/color; WW2 sub flick w/Aki Aleong, Jim Backus, Tab Hunter, etc.; good use of bongo)
Outlaw's Son; 1957
Pajama Party; 1964
Panic in Year Zero; 1962
Pharaoh's Curse; 1957
Pharaoh's Revenge (AIP horror?)
The Pit & the Pendulum; 1961 (part of Poe suite)
Queen of the Gorillas (Bride & the Beast?)
Quincannon, Frontier Scout; 1956
The Raven; 1963 (part of Poe suite)
Rebel in Town; 1956
Reflection of Evil; 1989
Reptilicus; 1961
Revolt at Fort Laramie; 1957
Sadismo; 1967 (documentary)
Samson & the Slave Queen; 1963
Savage Sisters; 1974
Sergeant Dead Head; 1965
The Storm Rider; 1957
Summer with Monika; 1953
Switchblade Sisters (rumored but uncredited)
8The Sacred Idol; Capitol ST-1293 (unreleased film; Aztec-themed exotica)
I tabu; 1964 (documentary)
Tanga-Tika; 1953
Tales of Terror; 1962
Target: Harry; 1969
Terror in the Jungle; 1968
Tomahawk Trail; 1957
Trampa para una nina; 1971
The Tycoon; 1964 (TV)
Untamed Youth; 1957
Voodoo Island; 1957 (AIP horror?)
War Drums; 1957
Wetbacks; 1956
White Slave Ship; 1961
8Wild in the Streets; Capitol/Tower SKAO-5099; 1968 (psyche/'60s rock/sitar)
A Woman's Devotion; 1956
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes; 1963
The Yellow Tomahawk; 1954
The Young Animals; 1968
The Young Ravers; 1963
Young Rebel; 1967

Les Baxter et al 45s & EPs

7Les Baxter [Compact-33 EP]; Capitol MA1-1388 (picture sleeve; April in Portugal, The Poor People of Paris, Blue Tango, Quiet Village)
5Les Baxter: Santa Claus' Party/Hang Your Wishes on the Tree; Capitol F-2275; 1952
6Betty Reilly & Les Baxter: Brazilian Baion/Magdalena; Capitol F-2645
4Les Baxter & his Bombers: Earth Angel/Happy Baby; Capitol F-3002 (rock)
6Les Baxter: Havana/The Trouble with Harry; Capitol F-3291 (B-side vocal pop)
8Les Baxter: Sinner Man (original version, vocal)/Tango of the Drums; Capitol F-3404
5Les Baxter: Melodia Loca (The Drive-You-Crazy Song)/Foreign Intrigue; Capitol F-3478 (B-side spy)
5Les Baxter: The Left Arm of Buddha/[What Happens in] Buenos Aires; Capitol F-3573 (A-side exotica)
Les Baxter: Whatever Lola Wants EP; Capitol EAP-1-9125
3Les Baxter: Baxter's Best; Capitol MA1-1388 (Compact 33 version of DT-1388)
7Les Baxter: Michelle/Little Girl Lonely; Hanna-Barbera HBR-456 (w/vocal group the Balladeers)
5Les Baxter & Dick Beavers: I'm Yours/Kiss of Fire; Capitol F-2102 (vocal)
5Leslie Baxter w/Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman: Jet/Struttin' with Clayton; RCA Victor 47-3215 (theremin)
5Les Baxter & Leonard Pennario: Midnight on the Cliffs/Dream Rhapsody; Capitol F-3599
7The Cheers w/Les Baxter's Orchestra & Chorus: Some Night in Alaska/Black Denim Trousers & Motorcycle Boots; Capitol F-3219 (B-side biker-hot rod)
7The Cheers w/Orchestra Conducted by Les Baxter: Chicken/Don't Do Anything; Capitol F-3353 (A-side biker-hot rod)
7Judy Harriet w/Hall Daniels Orchestra: Goliath (Big Man)/The Music of Love; AIP/American International Records 545 (female vocal; both sides penned by Les Baxter & Lenny Adelson, based on "Goliath & the Barbarians" ST; A-side is a Scopitone)
4Bobby Milano w/Orchestra Conducted by Les Baxter: It's Within Your Power/Won't the Angels be Amazed; Capitol F-3207
8Ella Mae Morse: I'm Gonna Walk/Coffee Date; Capitol F-3458 (w/Les Baxter)

Select 10" 78s

7Les Baxter Trio w/Bernie Parke & Leo Dukehorn (vocal): Carioca/Baia; Discovery
7Les Baxter, Chorus & Orchestra: Quiet Village/Indian Summer (Sue Allen vocal); Capitol
6Les Baxter, Chorus & Orchestra: Flute Salad/Yours-Quiereme Mucho (Sue Allen vocal); Capitol
5Les Baxter, Chorus & Orchestra: Dance of the Flutes/No More Goodbyes (Bill Kennedy vocal); Capitol

Les Baxter Television

7"Music of the Sixties" one-hour special

Baxter-Related LPs

3Frank Pourcel: Les Baxter's La Femme; Capitol T-10015
7Don Tiare & his Orchestra Exotique: The Music of Les Baxter; Mercury SR-60845

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