Emile Volel Volume 1
Emile Volel Volume 1 LP (private pressing, no date)
Every vinyl freak has a record like this, the one record that tweaked his/her ear enough to make them start picking up anything that looks remotely interesting. I found this record in the early 90s at a record store called In the Groove. ITG was a great little store in the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael and one of the few stores I've been in owned by a woman. Laura (I never knew her last name) was a great record person and had one of Sacramento's best record stores ever. While not too good on rock & roll and certainly not punk rock, Laura had great jazz, country, and world music sections. Her philosophy was reissues should be cheap because they are what many people use as an intro. I picked up many a Prestige/Milestone double album jazz reissue at her place. Almost always paying no more than five bucks. She also had a great dollar section. That is where I found this recrod by Emile Volel.
I don't know what made me pick it up. Perhaps it was the cover photo. Maybe it was because the blurbs on the back of the record said he was from Haiti. Most likely I was in an adventurous mood and a buck didn't seem too much to risk. With these kind of records - one dollar mysteries - the key is the first song. If the first song hooks you, you will keep the record. If it doesn't, chances are you might track skip but you will never give it a fair listen. Parle-Lui D'Haiti is the first song on this LP and it drew me in.
After a quick piano romp, the song shifts into a slow moody, lounge like tempo. Volel's Belafante's like voice comes in and he is a good singer - nothing special, but good enough to carry the record. Listen closely and you hear that something is off. There is a reason why the song starts with a frantic pace: It is because the piano player is a wee bit eager to show off his chops. As the song goes on you hear the unnamed pianist throw out melody for clusters of notes. Our lounge Monk's thunking is contrasted by an organ which both weazes and haunts. Wrap it all up and the song is a strange mish mash of sounds that shouldn't work together but do.
There are other songs on this LP that are also keepers. Like most lounge singers of the day, Volel has his Beatles' song. In this case, it is The Long and Winding Road. Both this song and The Windmills of Your Mind, another lounge standard, are made by the organ, which gives the songs an eerie psychedelic twist (especially on Windmills, which has a very cool ending). The last song I give you is Volel's version of the bolero Besame Mucho. Instead of using a percussionist, Volel sings and plays guitar to the bolero beat on his organ. While the guy is not Timmy Thomas, he does make some good sounds.
After doing a bit of web research, I have given up on trying to find anything about Emile Volel. I do know that he made a CD in the last 10 years and some folks like his boleros. From the sleeve I gather that he was born in Port au Prince, Haiti and spent some time playing in Washington, DC at places like the Lounge, The Grindle, and the Olney. Since he signed and dated the back, I know that he was playing there around 1971. And there you go.
Here's a list of some of his recordings:
This site www.konpa.info is an incredible resource on Haitian music. Thanks for the post!