There has been interest in composer/conductor Les Baxter on the boards the last several years. Indeed during the fairly recent revival of the “exotica” recordings of the 50s and 60s, Mr. Baxter’s recordings were often re-released along with many of his soundtracks. As I was taking a recent trip through the vinyl vault recently I ran across very early recorded examples of his work on two 10” LPs (which, for a time, were issued concurrently with larger 12” vinyl in a format battle in the early 1950s).
Both of these two 10” LPs feature the amazing singing voice of a young female Peruvian singer known as “Yma Sumac.”(1922-2008). She had over a four octave singing voice and for a time was an international star of major import, yet today she is seldom remembered. Her earlier 10” US albums on Capitol Records are rare items today. The first is “Voice of the Xtabay” (Capitol H244 ) and with music composed in an Incan style by “Leslie” Baxter and Moises Vivanco. She appeared in the Broadway cast recording of “Flahooley” in 1952 and had her second hit record “Legend of the Sun Virgin” (Capitol L-299 ), again featuring the exotic work of Mr. Vivanco and “Les” Baxter.
Ms. Sumac’s singing voice is apparently an acquired taste, in my opinion, as I have often just listened to her to hear those incredible notes she could hit, but the exotic music was a standard of the lounge era. Below are two of her sought-after vinyl records and a link to one of her many videos on youtube.
I love both the voice of Yma Sumac and the orchestral arrangements and compositions of Moises Vivanco (her husband at the time they were working together) and Les Baxter. In addition to her exotica recordings (which are among my favorite music tracks ever) I highly recommend her album Mambo! accompanied by Billy May and his Orchestra.
I can't remember if I asked this before and got an answer! Has it been established that Yma Sumac is the voice heard on many Les Baxter film scores such as HOUSE OF USHER and THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES? I'm not sure if it was confirmed or otherwise...