Monday, February 7, 2011

If U Seek Yma

Before Mariah, Whitney and Aretha, there was Yma. Her vocal range was over 4 octaves and some sources say at times it was 5 octaves. I don't just like Yma Sumac because of her voice... it's the whole package. Think of her kind of like a Christmas gift exchange: you want to pick the gift that's in the fanciest wrapper and when you're browsing through, the mysteriousness and excitement overpowers you until you pick out the perfect gift!

Let's start out with the Yma aesthetics. As a record collector, our eyes automatically go to the most intriguing record covers. Sometimes the covers are simple, some are complicated, some are beautiful and some are just plain bizarre. Take for instance Arthur Lyman's or Martin Denny's album covers. You're taking a chance since you probably haven't necessarily heard their records, but you can just assume from the cover alone, the musical outcome will be awesome... kind of like after years of desperately wanting it, I finally own a copy of Arthur Lyman's Taboo Vol. 2... I haven't even listened to it yet, but had to own it just for the cover alone:

When I listen to her voice, it's as if I'm stuck in a musical purgatory. While her over-the-top voice is eerie and haunting, at the same time it's operatic, unusual and beautiful. The background music is "OFF THE HOOOOOOOOOK":

There was always a mystery surrounding Yma. Who was she, where was she from? Legend had it that she was a housewife that lived in New York whose real name was Amy Camus (Yma Sumac backwards). Some sources say she was born in the early 20's while other sources say she was born in the later 20's. Some stories said she was a real Incan Princess. Whoever she was, she was nothing short of amazing.

She released several albums during the 50's and 60's. Most of her albums have been reissued. In the early 70's, she released a rock album called Miracles. I've never heard this album, as I imagine it's pretty rare, but I've heard it's NOT a fan favorite. The album cover is below as well as one song off the album. It doesn't sound that bad, just strange funk!!

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