Sunday, July 24, 2005
Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra: Watermelon Man/Swinging Shepherd Blues (Mercury 72108)
Here's something you don't see every day: Xavier Cugat, the popular Latin-American bandleader leading his players through a cover of a Herbie Hancock song. I remember finding this in a garage sale several years ago and being struck by how odd the match seemed. Of course, this was the early 60s and Cugat was still going strong recording albums for Mercury and Decca all through this. He even had time to introduce the world to Charo (if that's your idea of an accomplishment). Anyway, the song in question, "Watermelon Man," a hit for the Monto Santamaria Band around this time, too, is given pretty much a note-for-note cover, with a few differences. First there's a bit more Latin-flavored percussion than in Santamaria's version. Then, there's a female voice (Abbe Wool?) chiming in at various points "It tastes so goooooood!" and "Yum yum! DEE-LICIOUS! HA-HA-HAH!" There's also a male chorus singing "Watermelon man" at a couple of points, one toward the beginning, the other toward the end. Other than that, the horns do blast and the band does indeed swing which is about the most you could ask for. "Swingin' Shepherd Blues" is a cover of the Moe Koffman Quartet hit" in which flutes take over for the horns as the main instrument and benefits from punchy drums and bongos. Hmmm, interesting. I kind of have a soft spot in my heart for this, but really, this is more for the lounge music crowd, and well, I don't like cocktails. I prefer Mad Dog 20/20!