Arthur Lyman, 1932 - 2002

Prolific yet exotica's best-kept secret, Arthur Lyman deserves credit for more than making bird calls a definitive characteristic of exotica. Though hardly the first to imitate jungle birds, he did strike gold one night as vibes player for the first Martin Denny Group. The audience (bored, drunk?) loved his caws and shrieks so much that it became a requested feature of the act. But Lyman soon struck out to form his own group, just after the first, classic Exotica LP (monaural) was recorded. Denny formed a new group and, at Liberty's insistence, re-recorded Exotica in stereo. (The version with Lyman is superior, however.)

The apprentice may not have surpassed the master in sales, but Lyman's career had some important differences that have been overlooked. First, Lyman albums are consistent -- all are good if not always great or even necessary. There may be less experimentation, humor, and fun, but also there is less dreck. Lyman never seemed eager to move beyond exotica entirely. He was a reverent, progressive part of Hawaiian music as well as a competent jazz player; most of his records feature at least one jazz tune. Alone among pre-1970 exotica artists, Lyman actually had breakbeats (yes, funky drum-kit breakbeats) on a couple of LPs.

Like Denny, Lyman interpreted most of the great Les Baxter exotica tunes. When he worked with Gene and Neil Norman at GNP, Baxter produced part of at least one Lyman album. Later, Martin Denny brought Lyman out of retirement, and Denny, Lyman, and third exotica star (and vibes player) Gene Rains all were performing again in 1990s Hawaii. While all of these artists played exotica, including African, Latin, and Japanese tunes, only Lyman kept up his momentum with hipper 1960s styles, such as mod jazz and boogaloo.

Most of the Lyman albums were recorded in the geodesic Henry J. Kaiser aluminium dome. The beauty of its sound is readily apparent from the Arthur Lyman records. Vibes are among the most sensitive instruments to record well, and these records really shine. Even the mono issues of Lyman records have greater clarity and depth than most audiophile stereo records on other labels. The albums simply are wonderful sonic values.

Buying: Lyman LPs, all available in stereo, often languish even at low prices. All but one or two have at least one great track. Some of his best work came late, in the late 1960s and 1970s. Originals in the Life series have red labels through at least L-1024; subsequent originals are gold (SL-1027-30), then silver (SL-1031), and thereafter a deep lemon yellow. Later reissues are first a lighter lemon yellow and then pale beige.

Arthur Lyman LPs

8Leis of Jazz; HIFI R-607; 1958 (jazz; Ethel Azama sings "Lullaby of the Leaves")
8The Arthur Lyman Group: Taboo--The Exotic Sounds of Arthur Lyman; HIFI R-806 (a classic; partly arr. Paul Conrad)
7Hawaiian Sunset; HIFI R-807
8The Arthur Lyman Group: Bwana A--More Exotic Sounds of Arthur Lyman; HIFI SR-808/R-808 (w/Ethel Azama, Paul Conrad)
8The Arthur Lyman Group: Legend of Pele; HIFI R-813
8Bahia; HIFI R-815 (several Les Baxter covers)
6On Broadway; HIFI R-818
6Taboo #2; HIFI R-822 (shrunken head jacket replaced by volcano, rarer)
6Percussion Spectacular; HIFI/Life SL-1004; 1961 (gatefold; reissued as Yellow Bird; both versions originally red-label)
6The Colorful Percussions of Arthur Lyman; HIFI/Life SL-1005
6The Many Moods of Arthur Lyman; HIFI/Life SL-1007
6I Wish You Love; HIFI/Life L-1009 (a.k.a. Love for Sale)
6Cotton Fields; HIFI/Life L-1010
6The Arthur Lyman Group: Blowin' in the Wind; HIFI/Life L-1014 (covers Eden Ahbez' "Eden's Island")
8Mele Kalikimaka/Merry Christmas; HIFI/Life L-1018; 1959 (a classic)
6Isle of Enchantment; HIFI/Life L-1023
6Call of The Midnight Sun; HIFI/Life L-1024
5Hawaiian Sunset Vol. 2; HIFI/Life L-1025 (compilation)
8Polynesia; HIFI/Life SL-1027
9Greatest Hits; Everest/HIFI/Life SL-1030 (compilation)
6Lyman '66; Everest/HIFI/Life SL-1031; 1966
6The Shadow of Your Smile; Everest/HIFI/Life SL-1033 (Capitol SW-90707)
6Arthur Lyman Group: Aloha, Amigo; Everest/HIFI/Life SL-1034 (Capitol SW-91033)
6Il Ikai; Everest/HIFI/Life SL-1035
6At the Port of Los Angeles; Everest/HIFI/Life SL-1036 (compilation)
6Latitude 20; Everest/HIFI/Life SL-1037 (breakbeat "Ode to Billie Joe")
5Aphrodesia; Everest/HIFI/Life SL-1038
6The Winners Circle; Everest/HIFI/Life SL-1039
8Today's Greatest Hits; Everest/HIFI/Life SL-1040 (breakbeats!)
6At the Crescendo; GNP Crescendo GNP-605 (Cast Your Fate to the Wind; GNP-605)
6Paradise; GNP Crescendo GNP-606 (a.k.a. Pearly Shells; Capitol ST-90038)
8Puka Shells; GNP Crescendo GNPS-2091; 1975; (w/Kapiolani; vocal prod. Les Baxter)
8Jan-U-Wine Presents Luau Time Featuring Arthur Lyman; Mark 56 (compilation for the Jan-U-Wine canning company)
6Authentic Hawaiian Favorites; Everest/Olympic 6161; 1979 (25-cut compilation; "Song of the Islands" & "Kainoa" previously unreleased on LP)
6The Arthur Lyman Group: Lei Aloha; First American/Piccadilly PIC-3359; 1980
6The Arthur Lyman Group: Lullaby of the Leaves; First American/Piccadilly PIC-3456; 1980 (xylophone jazz)

Partly Arthur Lyman LPs

8Martin Denny Group: Exotica; Liberty LRP-3034; 1957 (monaural only)
5Various: 22 Hawaiian Favorites; GRT 2102-715; 1976 (3 tunes)

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