Martin Denny

He lived in paradise playing lush music to a fresh group of eager tourists each night. He is considered the chief exponent of "exotica," his ardent pop fans remain plentiful, and at least Hypnotique is a masterpiece. But with a few missteps in his long career, Martin Denny's primacy in exotica is debatable. Much is owed to Les Baxter and Arthur Lyman, among many others.

The Martin Denny group's initial recipe for success was ideal. Take Les Baxter's best compositions, replace the strings with hipper, "native" instrumentation (which conveniently fit into tiny Hawaiian nightclubs), and wrap albums in the most enticing jackets the Liberty art department could produce. This worked for a dozen or so marvelous LPs cranked out at maximum pace. Apart from its subsidiaries, Liberty owed much of its solvency --and probably a vacation-- to Martin Denny. (Liberty's ability to hire talent never did live up to the production standards, however.)

Hypnotique and some moments from other albums show the Denny magic could extend beyond arranging to the more demanding task of composing. The humor revealed in Quiet Village comes as a relief (for a career attributed to drunken bird calls), but Afro-Desia's great possibilities are undercut by uninspired performance and camp. The group seems to have peaked by 1960. Subsequent experiments mostly disappoint: gratuitous California piano jazz (covers of at least three Fantasy artists' hits), covers of Hawaiian standards, exotica-with-strings, and solo piano. Neither the group's various solo and extramural projects nor new talent signed by Denny for Liberty were enough to rekindle the earlier fire.

What did work, at least musically if not commercially, was returning to exotica. Revamping some of the hits on Moog and sitar brought exotica into the oddly compatible psychedelic age. Several later albums have at least one token tune in the old, bird-call exotica style; many of these rank among his best. One such album is 1982's The Enchanted Isle (four originals, one with whistling). "An Occasional Man" turns up on this LP and again on 1997's The Forbidden Sounds of Don Tiki CD. Don Tiki features Martin Denny on some tracks but really is a hip, progressive exotica act of its own.

Buying: Avoid the Sunset compilations, "Taste of" series, and later LPs of strictly Hawaiian standards. Solo efforts by ex-Group members (Augie Colon, Buddy Fo, Paul Conrad) and Denny-produced LPs (Ethel Azama, Sondi Sodsai) generally are very worthwhile. Completists may want to seek out several tunes available only as 45rpm singles (non-LP cuts).

Martin Denny LPs

8Exotica; Liberty LRP-3034 (monaural, w/Arthur Lyman)
7Exotica; Liberty LST-7034 (stereo re-recording w/out Arthur Lyman; black label is 1st press)
6Forbidden Island; Liberty LST-7001; 1958 (reissued w/jacket change)
5Exotica II; Liberty LST-7006; 1958
7Primitiva; Liberty LST-7023; 1958
8Hypnotique; Liberty LST-7102; 1959
6Afro-Desia; Liberty LST-7111; 1959
6Exotica III; Liberty LST-7116; 1959
8Quiet Village; Liberty LST-7122; 1959
6The Enchanted Sea; Liberty LST-7141; 1960
6Exotic Sounds from the Silver Screen; Liberty LST-7158; 1960
5Exotic Sounds Visit Broadway; Liberty LST-7163; 1960
7Exotic Percussion; Liberty LST-7108; 1961
5Romantica; Liberty LST-7207; 1961
5Martin Denny in Person; Liberty LST-7224; 1962 (live)
6Exotica Suite; Liberty LSS-14020; 1962 (Les Baxter) w/Si Zentner, arr. Bob Florence)
6Exotica Suite compact-33 promo; Liberty; 1962 (6 cuts only)
4A Taste of Honey; Liberty LST-7237; 1963
3Another Taste of Honey; Liberty LST-7277; 1963
5The Versatile Martin Denny; Liberty LST-7307; 1963
3A Taste of Hits; Liberty LST-7328; 1964
6Latin Village; Liberty LST-7378; 1964 (arr. Bob Florence & Robert Drasnin)
4Hawaii Tattoo; Liberty LST-7394; 1964
5Spanish Village; Liberty LST-7409; 1965
420 Golden Hawaiian Hits; Liberty LST-7415; 1965
4Martin Denny!; Liberty LST-7438; 1966
4Hawaii Goes A-Go Go!; Liberty LST-7445; 1967
5Exotica Today; Liberty LST-7465; 1967
7Hawaii (theme from the film); Liberty LST-7488; 1968
5Exotica Classica; Liberty LST-7513; 1968
7A Taste of India; Liberty LST-7550; 1968
6Exotic Love; Liberty LST-7585; 1969
8Martin Denny/Clark Gassman: Exotic Moog; Liberty LST-7621; 1969
5From Maui With Love; First American FA-7743; 1980
6The Enchanted Isle; Liberty LN-10195; 1982
Exotica '90 --CD--; 1990

Partly Martin Denny LPs

7Chick Floyd: Hula-La; Liberty LST-7106; 1958 (Hawaiian, exotica, Tahitian; features the Group)
7Chick Floyd: Little Grass Shack; Liberty LST-7129 (Hawaiian)
8Don Tiki: The Forbidden Sounds of --CD--; Taboo TAB-8888; 1997 (features Denny)
5Various: Golden Movie Greats; Liberty LST-7306 ("The Wild One" & "Ruby")

Martin Denny Compilation/Reissue LPs

5Various Artists: Stereo-The Visual Sound; Liberty; 1959
5The Best of Martin Denny; Liberty S-6602; 1961
Demonstration Record; Liberty; 1961
5The Maryland Club's Golden Moments with Martin Denny; Liberty; 1962
5Golden Greats; Liberty LST-7467; 1968
4Sayonara; Liberty/Sunset; 1970
6Paradise Moods; Liberty/Sunset; 1970
4Exotic Night; Liberty/Sunset; 1971
5The Very Best of Martin Denny; United Artists; 1975

Martin Denny 45s

Quiet Village/Llama Serenade; Liberty 55162
Martinique/Sake Rock; Liberty 55199
The Enchanted Sea/Stranger in Paradise; Liberty 55212
Frankie & Johnny/Banana Choo Choo; Liberty 55236 (non-LP B-side, partly vocal)
My Tane/Volcano; Liberty 55301 (non-LP B-side by Les Baxter)
Scimitar/My First Romance; Liberty 55328
Fandango/Bonsoir Dame; Liberty 55384 (non-LP; very uncharacteristic, w/voices!)
A Taste of Honey/The Brighter Side; Liberty 55470 (picture sleeve; non-LP B-side)
Cast Your Fate to the Wind/The Payoff; Liberty 55514 (different/non-LP A-side)
Little Boat/More (theme from "Mondo Cane"); Liberty 55571
Sugar Cane/Everything Beautiful Happens at Night; Liberty 55655
Once is Enough/Something Latin; Liberty 55629
Latin Village/Angelito; Liberty 55717
Hawaii Tattoo/White Silver Sands; Liberty 55754
Hawaiian Village/Aloha Oe; Liberty 55819
La Paloma/Call Me; Liberty 55851
Tiny Bubbles/Hawaii; Liberty 55928
Chattanooga Choo Choo/Frankie & Johnny; Liberty
Sucu-Sucu/Paradise Cove; Liberty 55426
Quiet Village Bossa Nova/Strawberry Tree; Liberty 55561
Open-Ended Interview; Liberty (DJ promo)
Midnight Cowboy/Quiet Village; Liberty (from Exotic Moog)

Martin Denny Compact 33s (Liberty)

Chattanooga Choo Choo/Ruby...; 33001
The Enchanted Sea/Beyond the Reef...; 33002
Stranger in Paradise/Pagan Love Song...; 33003
Hawaiian/Ebb Tide...; 33005

Martin Denny TV Appearance

Hawaii Calls

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