Capitol T-1033, mono, 1958
Note: this review is for the 1958 mono release.
Webley Edwards was one of the lesser-known players in the Tiki Exotica genre, of which was obviously led by the one and only Martin Denny. Yet he was known for his series of "Hawaii Calls" records, some of which featuring eye-glazing cover art and fantastic sounds, but some of which just not. This 1958 Capitol long play, evocatively titled "Fire Goddess," stands out extremely well not only for its context in the industry of its time, but also for its context in music history, period.
I bought this album at a record sale for a very low price. The cover was kind of roughed up and the wax had more than a few scratches on it, but I, nonetheless, eventually got around to spinning it. Even though it was just plain old monophonic, I immediately became amazed at how incredible it sounded. Indeed, the aural landscape presented here is quite crystalline and encapsulating, and I would go so far as to say that albums this "realistic" are rare for any era.
It begins with the sound of high tide, conjuring up images of an arrival to Hawaii or some other Polynesian island. We are then swiftly taken through almost 40 minutes of chants, drums and lively pop-inspired melodies, only to end, again, with the sound of the tide. The clarity is magnificent and the musical contents are as lush as they get. Also, the split in-between "songs" seems much less obvious than most recordings produced during this time, giving me the impression that this album is very much meant as a complete package.
All in all, you're probably not going to hear many (if any) albums even remotely similar to "Fire Goddess," but thank God it exists. ;)