humour

HOFFNUNG       REGIS FORUM FRC6142

HoffnungGerard Hoffnung was a unique talent. Born in Berlin in 1925, he went to London in 1939 as a refugee from Nazi Germany and went on to become an artist, teacher, cartoonist, caricaturist, musician and tuba player, as well as a broadcaster and raconteur. Although he died at the early age of 34, he achieved much in his short life, including several hilarious symphonic concerts and many wonderfully absurd drawings with a musical theme. His public persona as an eccentric and wit rather overshadows his more thoughtful and serious side. He joined the Quakers and was active in their prisoner visiting scheme, and his outlook on race relations, homosexuality, nuclear disarmament, the treatment of animals (especially hunting) and even the music of Schoenberg was liberal and impassioned. This new release features two classic events in the much loved man’s LP recording history. The Hoffnung Music Festival Concert of 1956, recorded at the Royal Festival Hall, features not only Hoffnung but also memorable contributions by such musical luminaries as Malcolm Arnold, Dennis Brain, Norman del Mar and Gordon Jacob. Gerard Hoffnung’s 1958 address to the Oxford Union features the famous Bricklayer’s Lament. The great man died in the following year at the absurdly young age of 34.

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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