Richard Hayman
Come With Me To
Faraway Places! 





Maybe it is wise to begin the review with the following sentence so that readers have the chance to back off and leave immediately without me stealing their time: Come With Me To Faraway Places! is the expected travelog, but pretty reliant on a peculiar instrument called harmonica. Richard Hayman (born 1920) is a luminary in the fields of composing and arranging his albums, and especially the latter skill proves to be of value on this album as it tames the piercing bonfire ruralism of said instrument.


Released in 1957 on Hayman’s house label Mercury Records, Come With Me To Faraway Places! features 12 borderless concoctions, one of them written by Hayman himself. While his other works do not even feature a vestige of a harmonica chord, the veteran goes all-in on this album and realizes the main melodies with the help of his signature instrument. As implied in the first sentence already, this ought to be enough to drive many a devoted Exotica fan away, fair enough, but the orchestration enchants, features Space-Age strings, mallet instruments, woodwinds and scattered brass bokehs aplenty. The percussion side is not worth mentioning, as it features the usual bog-standard devices, but here comes the twist: Hayman gets the most out of them on more than one occasion. Read on to find out what this symphonic LP has in store for the Exotica fan.


The first stop on Richard Hayman’s journey is, as the liner notes so aptly reveal, the "city of light, love and eternal youth," and though these clichés are elbowed away nowadays, they sure enough carry the symptomatic languor of the travelog subgenre. This very city is, of course, Paris, interpreted here by means of Hubert Giraud’s and Kim Gannon’s Under Paris Skies. Hayman’s accordion is in the limelight, surrounded by heftily whirling strings, a mixture of severe melancholy and powerful sunbursts where luminous overtones carry the Waltz structure of this world hit. The vernal gravity however is completely annihilated in Ralph Rainger’s and Leo Robin’s Blue Hawaii, a curious critter even by Exotica’s standards due to the conglomerate of whitewashed strings, lullaby vibes and Hayman’s harmonica. Once the warped sustain of the steel guitar chords sets in, that Hawaiian mood is temporarily resurrected, if only for short moments that resemble mirages more than anything.


While Joe Young’s, Mabel Wayne’s and Sam M. LewisIn A Little Spanish Town brings the traveler back to Europe by throwing him or her into a curious but gleeful dialog between a slick Jazz guitar and one certain harmonica expert amid multitudinous strings and hazy woodwinds, it is the following Madagascar which is the real treat of the album, as it is Hayman’s own concoction supercharged with scything strings and their superb Space-Age brethren, trilling fifes and clarinet blotches. A sense of adventure is in the air, the rhythmic triangle stops evoke a caravan; a slight Orientalism can be felt, making Madagascar an undeniable symphonic Exotica piece.


Albert W. Ketèlbey’s 1923 symphony In A Chinese Temple Garden then enchants with the expected gratitude and majestic clemency of pentatonicism with the mandatory temple gongs firmly in place, but there is more to it than these clichés: the harmonica is seemingly de trop but can thankfully be neglected, as the duskily raspy strings more often than not evoke a cinematic majesty, a certain portent of the upcoming spy era. Pointillistic marimbas round off the mighty impression, with side A’s last composition A Little Bit Of Heaven by Ernest R. Ball and Jacob Otis Brennan sporting a rustic gypsy charm due to the harmonica’s fiddle-like lamentos that is the opposing force to the mountainous freshness of the good-natured strings.


Side B opens with the Latin standard Brazil. Ary Barroso’s hymn has been cited, played and transmuted so many times that its appearance on every third Exotica album does not come as a surprise anymore. Well, color me surprised regardless, for Richard Hayman’s version is surprisingly different in the context of Easy Listening. Sure, the melodies are all intact and hummable, but the Dixieland-esque backing, the largely shuffling maracas and other shakers let this harmonica-centric piece differ from the competition. The harmonica is still in need of getting used to in this Brazilian aura, the arrangement itself however is top-notch. Meanwhile, Albert W. Ketèlbey is cited one more time on this album with his oft-cited exotic dust scenery called In A Persian Market. And this one is the real deal! More Asian than Middle Eastern, Hayman’s orchestra is aglow and aquiver with energy, shuttling between pompous yet amicable timpani-underlined tone sequences and beatless legato washes carried by a lead violinist. This section covers too much of the playtime of less than three minutes, but the Persian fleeting visit remains another strong destination of this album.


The traditional Santa Lucia is coming up next, there is not much else to write about it if one considers Irv Cottler’s take as presented on Around The World In Percussion (1961). Sicilian fiddles, harmonica adjuvants and sparkling music box-like vibraphone droplets let the heat spread freely and make this an awfully saccharified yet dreamy mélange of a better place far away from the listener’s location. Nat Burton’s and Walter Kent’s less considered The White Cliffs Of Dover brings the British tinge into the endemic gallimaufry and features the most sophisticated and spiraling harmonica sequences of the whole album. We’re not talking Cool Jazz here, but the jumpy oscillations are noteworthy regardless.


Johann Strauss is taken into consideration as well: I’m In Love With Vienna is prone to enthrall with magnitudes of strings, fluffy flutes and a double bass-accentuated Waltz physiognomy that are altogether farther away from Exotica’s nucleus than all the other presentations here, but a certain yearning and sylvan incandescence cannot be denied. The finale comes in the shape of Ben Oakland’s, Irving Mills’ and Mitchell Parish’s Sidewalks Of Cuba, which is mercilessly exotic due to its cleverly clave-centric percussion, the mellow flute flumes and acoustic guitar-backed string concoctions. Even the harmonica somehow fits into the scenery, the textures and loftiness work in tandem and make this a delightful closure of a mixed bag.


As a travelog, Come With Me To Faraway Places! works sure enough, and this is the most important thing one needs to know about this album. This adage is essential, it is truthful no matter how Exotica-driven the listener or the humble reviewer could ever be. Having said that: stylistically, Richard Hayman’s album is narrowed down, it is not reliant on all too many textures. There is only so much you can do in 1957 with a limited budget. The Exotica genre is on the rise from this year onwards, and percussion albums are not en vogue until the beginning of 1959. Even with these things in mind, Come With Me To Faraway Places! is driven by a genius, Hayman himself. His skills on the harmonica are all over ten out of 12 compositions, but there is one particular prestidigitation and aesthetic self-assurance that is of much more value: the arrangements. On Ary Barroso’s Brazil, Hayman shies away from the usual symphonic realization and rather favors an eclectic pattern of shakers.


In A Persian Market is equally successful in pinpointing both the vivid and dreamy sides of Exotica – whether this is done on purpose or not – and even manages to add a regal solemnity to the scenery. Since the harmonica is so often situated in the spotlight, one needs to at least tolerate this peculiar instrument, or there is not much hope in terms of enjoyment. The orchestral girdling is, at least in my book, wide and wealthy enough to create an excellent textural bouquet overall. Fans of the harmonica will have a field day with this album anyway and should also check out Warren Barker and Tommy Morgan’s Tropicale (1958) which is based on a similar scheme, ameliorating a set of tropical songs with the aid of Morgan’s much more Arizonian harmonica. Come With Me To Faraway Places! is available on vinyl and as a remastered download version.


Exotica Review 403: Richard Hayman – Come With Me To Faraway Places! (1957). Originally published on Jan. 10, 2015 at