comedy

THE GOLDEN YEARS OF MUSIC HALL    SAYDISC CD-SDL 380

The Golden Years of Music HallMusic hall entertainment originated in the saloon bars of public houses during the 1830s and became increasingly popular with audiences until, by the 1850s, pubs were replaced by new music hall theatres designed so that people could eat, drink and smoke in the auditorium while the entertainment took place. There was a rich mixture that in addition to singers, dancers and comics included male and female impersonators, mime artists and impressionists, trampoline acts, magicians and much more. The popularity of the halls created a great demand for new and catchy popular songs and this hugely enjoyable CD from the excellent Saydisc label features many of the best recorded between 1901 to 1929. The performers are Mark Sheridan (Who were you with last night?), Dan Leno with his zany Beefeater sketch, Albert Chevalier (My old Dutch), Little Tich, deadpan comedienne Vesta Victoria (the wonderful Look what Percy’s picked up in the park), Billy Williams (Little Willie’s Woodbines), Harry Champion (I’m Henery the Eighth), Jack Pleasants (I’m shy, Mary Ellen, I’m shy), ‘Entente Cordiale Singer’ Harry Fragson (Hello! Hello! Who’s your lady friend?), the great male impersonator Vesta Tilley (Jolly good luck to the girl who loves a soldier), the ‘Queen of the Halls’ Marie Lloyd (A little of what you fancy), George Robey, Clarice Mayne and James W. Tate, alias ‘That’ (I was a good little girl till I met you), Ella Shields (Burlington Bertie from Bow), George Formby (Snr.), Sir Harry Lauder (Roamin’ in the gloamin’) Gertie Gitana (Nellie Dean), Charles Coburn (The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo) Florrie Forde (Down at the Old Bull & Bush) Will Fyffe (I belong to Glasgow) Lily Morris (That’s where the soldiers go), Gus Elen (It’s a great big shame) and Hetty King (Love ‘em and leave ‘em alone). Informative program notes are by Hugh Palmer, with biographical information and recording dates. This is a marvelous collection of warm, funny and often touching songs from the English music hall that bring to life a vibrant age of entertainment.

MY KIND OF MUSIC - MAKE ’EM LAUGH     USMMDCD028

Make Em LaughHumorous novelty songs were a major staple of Tin Pan Alley from its start in the late 1800s and they continued to proliferate in the early years of the 20th century, some rising to be among the biggest hits of the era. They included songs with an unusual gimmick, such as the stuttering in ‘K-K-K-Katy’, silly lyrics like ‘Yes! We Have No Bananas’, and invocations of foreign lands, such as ‘Oh By Jingo!’ and ‘Nagasaki’. Novelty songs were popular on radio right through to the 1980s and often broke into the top 40. The line up on this bargain two-CD collection features, among many others, Flanders And Swann, Joyce Grenfell, Gracie Fields, Norman Wisdom, George Formby, Charlie Drake, Tommy Cooper, and Charlie Penrose (The Laughing Policeman). King of skiffle Lonnie Donegan performs My Old Man’s A Dustman, Peter Sellers is brilliant as always on Any Old Iron and Goodness Gracious Me (where he is joined by Sophia Loren) and The Goons feature with Ying Tong Song and I’m Walking Backwards For Christmas. The undisputed king of music hall, Max Miller, sings of Mary From The Dairy and great story tellers such as Bob Newhart and Alan Sherman star in Driving Instructor and Let’s Shake Hands With Uncle Max. Humour is a notoriously individual thing but there is sure to be something among these two hours of comic classics to appeal everyone. You would be a real curmudgeon not to feel happier listening to Spike Jones And The City Slickers (Cocktails For Two), Stanley Holloway (The Lion And Albert) and Jimmy Durante (I’m The Guy Who Found The Lost Chord).

BOB & RAY - A NIGHT OF TWO STARS      RADIO ART RACD 6000

BOB & RAY - A NIGHT OF TWO STARS CDThe brilliant Bob and Ray may be little known outside the USA but their affectionate, deadpan satires of American radio deserve a much wider audience. Robert Brackett Elliott and Raymond Walter Goulding were born in New England and began working together in 1946 at the WHDH radio station in Boston. Their improvised parodies gradually developed into a marvelous world inhabited by such off-the-wall characters as befuddled reporter Wally Ballou (and his wife Hulla Ballou), Webley Webster, ignorant sportscaster Biff Burns, incompetent actor Barry Cambell, Mary McGoon and cowboy singer Tex Blaisdell, the garrulous McBeeBee Twins, and soap opera heroine Mary Backstayge, Noble Wife. Admirers of Bob and Ray have included Sid Caesar, Groucho Marx, Woody Allen and Kurt Vonnegut. During a long career together the droll duo won countless broadcasting awards and in 1984 performed in ‘A Night of Two Stars’ at New York’s sold-out Carnegie Hall. That concert is captured wonderfully in this double album that makes a perfect introduction to Bob & Ray’s genius. Highlights include Wally Ballou at the Paper Clip Factory, Mr. Trace, Keener than Most Persons, The Komodo Drago, Mr.-I-Know-Where-They-Are, and the Slow Talkers of America. The sponsors are Einbinder Flypaper, Mushies (the cereal that gets soggy without milk) and the makers of chocolate cookies with white stuff in the middle. The album was produced by Larry Josephson, who continues to perform an invaluable service by re-issuing Bob & Ray material via the Radio Foundation. To find out more, or to buy one of the many CDs available, visit the website at www.bobandray.com or telephone +1 708-486-1350.

THE BEST OF BRITISH COMEDY, VOL. 2       DISKY CB 903514

British Comedy, whether in film, radio, television or on record, is famous for its consistently quirky characters, plots and settings. The roots of British humour include an historical reaction to intolerant Puritanism (thus the acceptance of ribald and smutty humour, although this existed much earlier, as evidenced in the Miller’s tale from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales). The tradition of absurd and nonsense poetry made popular by Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll led to the eccentric form of ‘home-brewed surrealism’ created by the Goons, Monty Python, Ivor Cutler, etc. A long-standing free press and coffee-house tradition allowed a politics of visual satire to develop in an atmosphere of intellectual freedom that resulted eventually to political satire becoming a major TV comedy form. Throw in traditional pantomime, with its mix of social role reversals, and its easy to see how the British Isles have produced some of the the most unique and memorable comedians, comic actors and characters in the last fifty years. This wide-ranging three-CD collection brings together more than fifty recordings, including sketches, stand-up routines and songs. Among the well-known performers are Peter Cook and Dudley More (with the still hilarious ‘uniped’ Tarzan audition), Morecambe & Wise, Peter Sellers, Benny Hill, Kenneth Williams, Victoria Wood, Lenny Henry, Barry Humphries (as Australia's outrageous cultural attache, Sir Les Patterson), Billy Connolly, the Goons, Frankie Howerd, Tommy Cooper, Smith & Jones and the Two Ronnies. There are also many rarities from the likes of Kenneth Cope, Terry Thomas, Roy Hudd (a saucy version of ‘The end of my old cigar’), Harry H. Corbett, Sid James, Charlie Drake and Bill Maynard. Also recommended - The Best of British Comedy, Vol 3 box set (Disky CB 795122).

P D Q BACH - OEDIPUS TEX & OTHER CHORAL CALAMITIES  TELARC CD-80239

This dramatic oratorio demonstrates that the only two sure things in life are death and Texas, plus two more choral works and Classical Rap. No serious musicolologist can be without at least some of the fascinating works of P.D.Q. Bach, the drunken youngest son of the great Johann Sebastian. Serious music lovers must be grateful to Professor Peter Shickele for his vital part in the (often commissioned) discovery of these works of a forgotten genius. The quality of Telarc’s recorded sound is - all joking apart - truly excellent. More information can be found in a scholarly biography, ‘The Definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach’, published by Random House (ISBN 0-394-73409-2) and on Professor Shickele’s enlightening website - www.schickele.com. The music is almost beside the point when P.D.Q. Bach is mounting an inspired attack on music. The droll lyrics of his latest foray include lines like ‘Billie Jo Casta, Queen of the Rodeo’ and the liner notes tell us that ‘keyboard harmonicas were very popular among cowboys who had gone to conservatories’. But the music has many infelicities of its own, not least instruments that should never have seen the light of day and compositions (‘The Eyes of Texas’ overlaid on ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’) by the insanely gifted Professor Schickele. Anyone with a love of classical music and a sense of humour will find this sublime spoof irresistible. The lyrics are inspired and the music is performed with gusto by Professor Schickele himself, with the Greater Hoople Area Off-Season Philharmonic, Newton Wayland, The Okay Chorale, Grandmaster Flab and the Hoople Funkharmonic. Soloists include Pamela South (soprano), Dana Krueger (mezzo-soprano) and Frank Kelley (tenor). Fantastical, absurd and hilarious - this is P.D.Q. Bach’s finest collection yet.

BILLY CONNOLLY - LIVE IN CONCERT UNION SQUARE MUSIC METRO METRCD160

BILLY CONNOLLY - LIVE IN CONCERTBilly Connolly, one of the world’s most famous Scotsmen, was born in Glasgow in 1942. He left school at fifteen and a year later went to work at Stephens Shipyard as a welder. It was in the shipyards that he learned much about the idiosyncratic style of Scottish humour. After a spell in the Parachute Regiment of the Territorial Army he embarked on a career in music, playing first harmonica then the banjo in ephemeral folk music bands until becoming a member of The Humblebums. Connolly’s comedy became an important part of the band's live show and were even more so when he was launched as a solo artist. The tracks included on this CD are mostly taken from his second LP, ‘Solo Concert’, released in 1974. Its success led to a contract with Polydor Records and the release of many more hit albums. Highlights here include spoofs and parodies of popular songs, a device which would later lead to his huge 1975 hit, ‘D.I.V.O.R.C.E.’. The Connolly family today live in Los Angeles, but have a house in the Scottish highlands. The tracks include Glasgow Accents/Nine And A Half Guitars, The Jobbie Weecha!!!!/Please Help Me, I’m Falling, Glasgow Central, The Crucifixion, Why Don’t They Come Back To Dunoon, Nobody’s Child and Salt Coats At The Fair.

ROBB WILTON’S WAR    FLAPPER PAST CD 7854

The incomparable Robb Wilton (1881-1957) was a hugely popular star of music hall, films and radio (most memorably as Mr Muddlecombe, JP). After opening with two delightful patter songs - I Should Say So and Good Night, Everybody, Goodnight - this joyous album features all Robb’s best-known routines.as he tries distractedly to cope at the fire and police stations (with his wife and stage partner, Florence Palmer), in the Home Guard, and as a munitions worker and food controller. All his commercial recordings are included together with three live recordings (one of them made at Windsor Castle) showing his perfect timing and effortless mastery of an audience. The CD also includes riotous performances by two of Robb Wilton’s music hall contemporaries, the resolutely northern comedian Frank Randle (The Old Hiker, recorded at the Feldman Theatre, Blackpool) and Birmingham born Billy Russell (exuberant live performances of On Behalf of the Working Classes and We're Gonna Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line).

MAX MILLER - THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE     FLAPPER PAST CD 9714

Max Miller was one of Britain’s leading comedians from the 1930s through to the 1950s. Born in Brighton in 1894, Thomas Henry Sargent was given the stage name Max Miller by his wife, Kathleen, and went on to become a hugely popular stand-up comedian in variety, famous for his quick wits and mischievous double-entendres. Dressed in an outrageously loud suit, co-respondent shoes and tilted trilby hat, he would come on stage to the sound of the orchestra playing his signature tune Mary from the Dairy, then tempt the audience to choose from one of two gag-books - the ‘Blue Book’ or the ‘White Book’. Inevitably they would pick the Blue one and be in the palm of his hand as he charmed them with gags, songs and his larger-than-life personality. His legendary timing and delivery have never been surpassed and he always had complete control of his audience. The Cheeky Chappie features recordings made between 1936 and 1939, including live performances at the Holborn Empire and Finsbury Park Empire. More of Max Miller’s artistry can be heard on THE PURE GOLD OF THE MUSIC HALL (Flapper PAST CD 9736), including many songs and a hilarious Auctioneer routine. There’ll never be another, as these recordings prove, and both CDs make essential listening.

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