If You Love Kooky American Music Trends, You’ll Totally Dig 1950s “Exotica”

Not saying it was good, but it was fun.

Album Review

Various Artists
Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights
Numero Group

Targeted at grown-ups who were turned off by the vulgarity of rock and roll in the late-’50s and early ’60s, Exotica wasn’t so much a genre as a marketing tag. The music incorporated a smorgasbord of elements, such as twangy surf guitars, dreamy melodies, often with a Middle East tinge and a tropical vibe intended to evoke a South Seas idyll, hoping to snare folks who preferred their Easy Listening with less vanilla and more spice.

The premier reissue label Numero Group, known for stellar sets of obscure soul and rock, applies its meticulous archaeological approach to this oddball phenomenon on the delightful Technicolor Paradise. Bypassing bigger Exotica names like Martin Denny and Esquivel, this three-disc, 54-track set showcases a host of obscure artists, among them The Monzas and Gene Sikora & the Irrationals, and devotes a third of its space to vocalists, including an adult Darla Hood, the former Little Rascals fave. Goofy, tacky and cheerfully fake, Exotica wasn’t “good,” but it was great fun.