Eden Ahbez – Eden’s Island (Trunk Records)

Another lost classic re-issued by the wonderful Jonny Trunk. This album was originally released in 1960 on Del-Fi Records and features one of life’s proto-hippies in the shape of Eden Ahbez (an assumed name, as you may have guessed, born Alexander Aberle in Brooklyn in 1908), a drifter, performer, student of Oriental mysticism, who moved west and reportedly lived outdoors with his family in Los Angeles, under the first L in the Hollywood sign. He was also a regular performer at the city’s coffeehouses in the 1940’s, mixing poetry with flute and bongo arrangements. And, most famously, he was responsible for the song Nature boy, that superb evocation of innocence abroad which was turned into a hit by Nat King Cole in 1947. All those elements are present on this album, along with a strong undercurrent of Central American rhythms which tends to bring Esquivel to mind (this is always welcome). Especially on songs like Full moon, a beautiful, sombre vibes arrangement with a spoken word paean to solitude and natural living. And the claves and flute rumba of Tradewind. Forget Rock the boat, the dance classic Mongoose could form the highpoint of any party, with more than a touch of calypso about it and a chorus like “Mongoose chase the snake away”. The everpresent chorus of female backing vocalists is another great feature of the album (check those “ooh yeah yeah, ooh yaw yaw’s” on Eden’s Cove). They’re calling this hippie exotica. I’m up with that.

*I've got mixed feelings about posting this (seeing as it's apparent the video was filmed against the man's wishes, basically), but this is still fascinating footage of Ahbez speaking a few years before he died.


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