Friday, June 26, 2009

Suitopia Parkway

We're aware that someone's started a whole proper blog picking out odd albums on Spotify, but the person who runs it has written that the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band have "no redeeming features" and so can fuck right, right off. Instead, here's some more of the oddities we've excavated and summarised for little benefit.

The Very Best Of The Wombles
The Very Best Of Windsor Davies & Don Estelle
Witness the two sides of the novelty 1970s coin. On the one hand the Wombles, a successful transition from not overly song-based stopmotion series of no little charm to glam hitmakers. Mike Batt, of course, the story being that deep in debt from a failed musical venture he was invited to write the theme and instead of straight payment asked if he could have the character rights for musical production, which he was granted as the estate of Elisabeth Beresford didn't think they'd be worth anything. Four gold albums and four top ten singles later, with a studio band featuring the astonishingly prolific drummer Clem Cattini and hard sessioning rock'n'roll guitarist Chris Spedding (he produced the Sex Pistols' demos) the clean up campaigners who must have seen their fair share of cruising on their travels nearly became worldwide stars. Writing Bright Eyes and pretty much being front centre of the rise of pop-classical never comes into it now biography-wise. Cuh. Fair to say Batt and co had real fun playing with various genres from classical to folk to Beatles, the absolute standout being The Myths And Legends Of King Merton Womble And His Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, which ploughs the rarely visited furrow between kid-friendly dayglo pop and taking the piss out of Rick Wakeman. And it really does.
On the other hand, the two stars of It Ain't Half Hot Mum were pretty much left at the mercy of producers with doo-wop and bobbysoxer obsessions once their treble/baritone cover of The Ink Spots' Whispering Grass had hit number one in 1975. Pretty much the rest of it is hotel piano-heavy slung out covers of standards with a slim panacea of light crosstalk comedy, apart from the slightly odd Davies in character monologue A Message From Battery Sgt-Major Williams. The version of Nagasaki (from a spinoff of a WWII comedy?) isn't as good as the one from Jeeves & Wooster, by the way.

The Best Of Arthur Askey - The Bee Song
Well, it's answered its own discussion point already. More music hall shenanigans with no 'side' as it was being done at the time when everything was straight up and all-round entertainers could get by on a limited catalogue of song ideas. He liked his playful songs about sprites (The Bee Song, The Pixie, Ev'ry Little Piggy's Got A Curly Tail, Chirrup!), he did. Then there's things like I Want A Banana that make you wonder what 1995 Damon Albarn really saw in all this, then there's the routines straight off the stage. Big And Stinker's Parlour Games has the least repossessing title ever, and is a seven minute routine about deciding on a board game. 1940's More Chestnut Corner, on the other hand, is the sort of routine that was still playing well on BBC radio into the 1970s. Best bit: Sarah! Sarah!, which begins not only with high grade self-deprecation but the suggestion "don't play this first, this is the other side". Not like double sided records to be superceded. Aythangyou.

The Wedding Album
So is the idea here cutting costs by playing a CD of organs and choirs playing and singing appropriate songs meaning you don't have to hire the church organist? Graham Jackson's our man on the pipes attempting to imbue Sheep May Safely Graze with some sort of pastoral longing that surely wouldn't work in a cathedral setting.

Celebrity Commercials Of The 1950s & 1960s
And that's exactly what it is, American radio adverts with figures of the day, some even broadcast. Pat 'county bassoon' Boone, pre-Metal Mood, eulogises both the Chevrolet and the country in acapella. Ray Charles gets all emotional over Coca-Cola. Nat King Cole "doesn't pretend to be a wine expert" but he seems to know Italian Swiss Colony California Pale Dry Sherry inside out. Bill Haley shills for government schemes, while Frank Sinatra avers "communism will destroy our way of life just before he suggests haircuts are the way forward and well before reworking High Hopes in campaigning for JFK. Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, Wilson Pickett, the Spencer Davis Group and Martha & the Vandellas are among those taking part in the cola wars with judicious rewording of their hits. BB King and Kenny Rogers put the case for credit card debt. There's plenty to feed off in these 73 tracks of all someone's yesterdays. The track that really makes this our pick of the week? Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, when not plugging marching for the poor, attempting to plug their 1953 film The Caddy without breaking down into wanton and unbroadcastable swearing. They fail miserably.

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