Norrie Paramor
Amor, Amor!





It’s always questionable to recommend love-themed albums to Exotica fans, but alas, I can’t help it. The dubious looks and raised eyebrows exceed the Roger Moore threshold by a wide margin, often rightfully so. If the topic is not exotic enough, as is the case with the wonderfully jungular sacrifices of Frank Hunter’s White Goddess (1958) or the transparent festivities of utter devotion on Stanley Wilson’s Pagan Love (1961), chances are that the Exotica listener shies away from many an album that is inebriated through lovestoned romance serums. More often than not, the material is simply too cheesy, the orchestra too standardized to let the important point come across: paradisiac escapism.


Maybe British conductor, arranger and bandleader Norrie Paramor (1914–1979) can add that certain something to the formula? My answer is: yup. Or to be more precise: the 12 love tracks on Amor, Amor! are indeed charming to those who want to bathe in pink waterfalls full of strings… with adjacent bongo splashes as their great addendum! Released in 1961 on Capitol Records and loaded with Latin styles such as Merengues and Mambos, Amor, Amor! celebrates the good things about love, ostracizing all unwanted forces such as jealousy, betrayal and whatnot. The liner notes are provided by Dave Dexter, Jr whom Exotica fans know as a collaborator on Les Baxter’s Jewels Of The Sea (1961). Let’s see whether Norrie Paramor’s Space-Age/Exotica symbiosis regarding an ancient topic has in store.


Delight from the first beat of the drum: Norrie Paramor’s LP launches with a bongo pattern! There is only one other love-themed album where the magic of the drum lures the Exotica fan, and that is Dominic Frontiere’s Love Eyes (1960). Paramor’s approach is more laid-back though, probably due to the source material being Osvaldo FarrésCome Closer To Me. A female chantress, oscillating theremin-like Wurlitzer organs, a Latin piano and a majestic array of violet strings waft around the bongo aorta and echoey castanet rhythms, making this gateway a silkened portal into a mellow world. Norrie Paramor makes sure to seduce the listener further, albeit in an aural way, no worries, as two unique sparklers follow, both penned by the British composer himself; Amor, Amor lends the album its title and is presented here with gorgeous glissando globs of stringed goodness, pizzicato pericarps, Space-Age vocals and bongo billows aplenty, whereas Para-Cha-Cha adds the unison of an acoustic guitar glued to a pitched vibraphone by making this a saccharine fairy tale aureole fueled by maracas and bongos.


Ary Barroso’s famous Baía follows, presented here in an uptempo swinging way. Still mauve-tinted due to the cajoling strings, its Bossa Nova transmogrification and golden sun-dried guitars make it a wonderful addition for the Exotica fan, with Adolfo Utrera,’s, Eddie Rivera’s and Eddie WoodsGreen Eyes returning to easygoing vocal-fueled coppices loaded with castanets, purple pizzicato plasticizers and a wideness augmented by echoes, before Nino Rota’s Luna Rossa (Blushing Moon) finishes side A with a suave breeze of smarmy strings and literally rotatory piano helixes in order to add a pinch of eclecticism to the Space-Age formula.


Side B, as the saying often goes, offers more of the same, be it the soothing harmonies, svelte surfaces or auroral arrangements. Albert Gamse’s and José Maria La Calle’s Amapola however creates a swamp-like mucoid panorama due to the cricket-like claves and the placid alcoves amid the string washes, making this a sunset or even nocturnal site to enjoy. A two-track ode to Ernesto Lecuona follows: Always In My Heart is bursting at the seams with strings, but at the same time features the same hollow rhythm-and-vocal backed quiescence that let the British Electronica duo of Bent sample the singing coquette on their tune Always off Programmed To Love (2000) for reasons of unharmed directness and easy distillation, while the Exotica gold standard The Breeze And I aka Andalucía comes in a mellifluous gestalt veiled in midtempo bongo rhythms, lovelorn vocals and some wonderfully warped waves as realized by Space-Age strings par excellence that still enshrine the Latin pompousness in their whitewashed state.


Afterwards, a shift in tempo takes place within Egberto Gismonti’s Cavaquinho (Little Guitar). The helical string waves of The Breeze And I are brought to the forefront here, making it the signature element in adjacency to the Samba-like maraca tropics and bongo-accentuated rhythm shifts. George Thorn’s and Otilio del Portal’s Sweet And Gentle then bewitches with an actually great use of sugary pizzicato strings that are retrojected onto their legato next of kin, both of them carried by the fusillade of argentine shakers before Agustín Lara’s You Belong To My Heart brings in the cowbells and string-based magenta photometry in this Space-Age vocal-fueled piano peritoneum before silence covers the listener and the album is finished.


Using the stylized oomph of adventurous Exotica – the exclamation mark, of course – and the amorous eyes of a beautiful lady who, incidentally enough, serves as the second aesthetic marker of these times, Norrie Paramor’s Amor, Amor! is a strictly mellow effort, hopelessly in love, strikingly keen on the string side of life. It is most certainly not one’s first thought when asked about the Exotica genre, maybe not even the second, but it could well serve as the third thing that crosses one’s mind after all, or what else to call the constant chromaticity of the lush bongo rhythms? It is here where Paramor’s Space-Age episode glows and shines, right amidst the tropical hue, as there is many a composer and arranger of that decade who only injects the sound waves of classical drums such as timpani to the setup.


The reliance on the bongos therefore turns out to be a boon, even though they are actually Latin by nature, not based on the Exotica genre. Once the dust settles and the rhythmic cohesion starts to work, Amor, Amor! gyres towards the Space-Age side of life: the vocals of the enchantress, the prismatic glissando of the violins, the well-oiled vignettes of reflection and most importantly the cavalcade of accessible melodies make this an album that is less chintzy than the 101 StringsThe Exotic Sounds Of Love (1971), although not quite as vivid and imaginative as Dominic Frontiere’s aforementioned Love Eyes. Paramor’s Amor, Amor! is a great album regardless and has been reissued digitally, with the vinyl incarnation still being easily available.


Exotica Review 498: Norrie Paramor – Amor, Amor! (1961). Originally published on Aug. 22, 2018 at