Album Of The Day 9/3/2016: Russ Garcia – “Fantastica: Music from Outer Space”

Russ Garcia (1916-2011) was a prolific composer and arranger for several Hollywood endeavors. He was a child prodigy who worked in and around the Bay Area. Allegedly the Oakland Symphony Orchestra played Garcia's arrangement of Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" which he put together at age eleven. Show-off. When he got older and could work legally, his old associate Ronald Reagan got him a gig doing arrangements at NBC, where he worked on shows like Rawhide. Charles Chaplin had him do all the arrangements for Limelight. Those are just the most convenient facts. If I listed all the people Garcia worked with I'd have to start a new blog, and corporate headquarters sternly told me that weren't having that.

Garcia was renown as an innovator in his field, bringing outside sounds into his sphere and cheerfully saying "Why not?" to a lot of things. He made over 60 albums under his name, including today's feature from 1959. I was all prepared to hear Fantastica as an over-reaching exotica experiment that couldn't get past its excesses, but I was hugely and happily surprised. It's a very thoughtful journey through the madness of the solar system, with sly electronics, suspense and invention. Fantastica fits in very well with the scads of exotica concept albums of its time by people like Les Baxter and Martin Denny, most of which were moored in Polynesia and existed under the vague threat of voodoo. Garcia got his vaccinations in proper order. 

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