Review and Analysis of Fuego del Ande by Nicholas E. Limansky
From Yma Sumac - The Art Behind the Legend
used with permission - all rights reserved, © Nicholas E. Limansky
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This album came as quite a shock to record buyers, after such a confection as Legend of the Jivaro. It was here that listeners were finally offered the real thing. Unfortunately, the recording seems to have been cursed from the start. The arrangements for the album were embarrassingly rudimentary. Yma's singing was uneven at its best, and, worst of all, the recording had to be withdrawn shortly after its first pressing (and then re-released) because of false copyright claims made by Moisés [Vivanco]. Fuego del Ande has never been one of Yma's popular recordings, and, to be truthful one can see why. It is unfortunate, though, because it was the most authentic recording she had made since 1943 and the Odeon 78 disks.
Fuego del Ande signalled the severing of artistic ties between Yma and Capitol Records. It was an inevitable falling out that had been brewing for years.
The album cover boasted a color photograph of Yma with a prominent white streak in her hair, talking to a bright red parrot in a cage. Unfortunately, on this album, Yma does very little talking with the birds.
There are various reasons for this uneveness. Undoubtedly, personal problems at the time had much to do with the lack of vocal inspiration. Nowhere on the album can you find the secure and authoritative singing Yma was to demonstrate a few years later during the Russian tour. By then, however, Yma's beloved Incan material had been resuscitated.
Also, the arrangements used to frame Yma on Fuego del Ande are lame, ineffectual and occasionally, just vulgar. In an unsuccessful effort to keep up with the times and changing musical tastes, Yma and company discarded the aloof elegance that had always been her trademark. Trying to settle into a comfortable, folksy feeling for this album, they failed miserably.
The few good moments that Yma does provide are not enough to carry the album. Her top register, which is rarely used, is cautious and seems precarious.
Although the shift from elegance to down-home folk music is not successful, the fresh change in the substance of the liner notes is. Most space is taken up with accurate descriptions of the represented dance forms and their American equivalents.
Other songs on this record are intermittently interesting for modernization of arrangements and Yma's excellent diction. Her native tongue of Quechua is used in the refrain of "Mi Palomita" but otherwise, most others are in Spanish.
Taken as a whole Fuego del Ande was is an unsuccessful venture. Despite the merits of such a project on paper, in reality it was a poor frame for Yma's particular talents. The exotic title of the album: "Fire in the Andes" is misleading. There is no fire here. There is barely a flicker.
Additional notes: recorded in Hollywood, California 1959 and released both in both mono and stereo April, 1959. Released only as a 12" LP and was the first stereo Yma Sumac recording, with the mono and stereo sessions recorded separately. This is one of Yma's more popular recordings in Perú but is one of her least popular here in the U.S. and abroad.
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