Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Obscure Music Spotlight: The Three Suns

"Boop-bop, dweeeee-bop..."

Way back in the day - and for no explicable reason that I can readily conjure up - I decided to purchase a CD, featuring various artists and entitled Bachelor Pad Royale. Since I can't remember precisely when I bought it, I don't really recall what musical phase I was going through at that time. Probably the first of many jazz phases. Anyway, it was all big-band arrangements in the genre I've come to find out is called "exotica lounge music." 

This is the kind of stuff that Hugh Hefner probably played in the Playboy mansion back when he didn't need six Viagra to get up in the morning. Dudes like Jerry Goldsmith, Andre Previn and (my personal favorite) Les Baxter. I just remember being blown away by how fucking cool it all sounded. It was big-band jazz, no question, but most of the songs had this slightly-psychedelic tinge, and a lilt to them that just made it all seem very with-it, to turn a phrase of that era.

The Three Suns take the exotica concept and pare it down to, largely, a trio. There is plenty of extra instrumentation in their sound, but it has a relatively spare feel, compared with most music of that era. Their version of "Caravan," (from Movin'n'Groovin') is a bouncy, quirky update on the standard that features a plucky electric guitar working in concert with the rhythm section, and that sort of exemplifies their approach to lounge jazz.

On a musical level, I just really enjoy listening to it. On a production level, most of the Suns catalog was recorded between '59 and '65, and it sounds way ahead of its time in places. On a beatmaking level, the shit is AWESOME for little sample chops. A lot of reviewers call it "space-age bachelor-pad music," and some of reverb-drenched instrumentals over the Suns' discography is just begging to be used.

My current Suns obsession - being the holiday season and all - is A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas!, which puts their quirky spin on all manner of holiday tunes. When it comes to Christmas music, I'm largely a traditionalist (FUCK the Michael McDonald Christmas albums and about 90 percent of Mannheim Steamroller... for real), but this is one rearrangement I like.

Best LPs:
Fever & Smoke
A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas!

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