The Ben Ali Oriental Band Dance Band Group Dancing with... LP (Ben Ali Oriental Dance Band, 196?)
Listen to enough music and chances are you've heard a hundred versions of Duke Ellington's Caravan. I know I have. From sitting in assemblies in high school to Sun Ra's Astro Caravan, I've heard plenty. My favorite take on the classic is by the Ben Ali Oriental Band Dance Band Group out of Chico, California. First assembled in 1950 as The Chico Shrine Club Oriental Band, these Shriners quickly made a name for themselves, playing parades, community events, and fraternal functions.
"Wait....did you just say Shriners? You mean the guys who ride around in miniature cars and fezzes on their heads?" Yup, not only the same cats but they have one hell of a band. They play Caravan with a nice sense of urgency, the funkiness of their band giving the song an almost Raymond Scott sound. Thus there is a kind of old timey otherworldliness that is Alice in Wonderland psychedelic.
The other songs on Dancing with... are okay. They do a semi-exotica medley that, like most of the other songs, devolves into near frat level humor. The playing is good, but the tongue is too far in cheek. As you'll hear, not so with Caravan.
I am not sure when this was exactly made, but I am guessing early 1960s. I found it at a thrift store for a buck. Quite a deal, I'd say.
I wish I was gay so I could marry you Scott! This is the bestest blog ever! You rule!
However, I can't hears the Shriners playing Caravan. Caravan is one of my favorite songs. I was wondering if you could send it to me? I rarely ask this, as I know mass emails for this sort of thing could be overwhelming.