with James Call and Peter Huestis

Prologue by Peter Huestis

Since we interviewed Les Baxter lots has happened and both James and I have discovered a lot more about Les and his music. We were both very saddened by Les' death, but it seems to me that it happened at exactly the right time for him. His short-term memory was clearly on the way out--Note that in the interview he expresses displeasure over Capitol for not re-releasing his material, and yet their "Exotic Moods" compilation was already in the works, apparently with his full knowledge and cooperation. When we showed up at his home in Palm Springs to interview him, he clearly didn't remember inviting us, but graciously allowed us in to do so.

James and I have also added many albums and singles to our respective Baxter collections. I found not one, but two copies of Perfume Set to Music, the 10" record he did for RCA. The lineup is identical to Music Out of the Moon(which the thrift stores have also yielded copies of to us), with Hoffman on Theremin and themes written by Revel, but unlike the better-known Capitol release, Perfume features a large, full orchestra and a huge chorus, and in my opinion is far better for it. Other releases I've found since the interview include the following: His version of "I Love Paris" on a 7" EP of music from CanCan; the early LP Kaleidoscope, which features his early singles such as "April in Portugal" and "Blue Tango"; the early LP Thinking of You, probably the weepiest, least exotic album he ever made; the 60s LP Sensational, which features spritely covers of "Never on Sunday", "Exodus" and other commonly-covered tunes; Voices in Rhythm, an LP done for Frank Sinatra's Reprise Records, again all covers, this time all oldies like "Pennies from Heaven" and "Walking My Baby Back Home" done in the Ray Conniff male-and-female-chorus-with-trombones style which will probably turn off all but the most hard-core Baxter enthusiasts (I love it!).

Our biggest shock came when we discovered the material Les recorded with 101 Strings in England. We totally missed out on these until after Les' death, so we didn't get to ask him about them. Les recorded at least three albums with them--Movie Themes, Que Mango! and Hits of Today. All of these, recorded in the early 70s, include many originals, and all feature the big-bass groovy easy listening sound popular in England at the time. Those unfamiliar with this esthetic should consult the outstanding CDs released by the Loungcore project and the Sound Gallery series.

Return to Interview Menu

Return to Les Baxter Index