Tuesday, December 23, 2008

bonkers music

hey everyone

apologies, if required, for the lack of updates of late. we've been busy with one thing and another, the least of these of course being far from James' birthday and getting ready for the arrival of Father Christmas!

in between all of that, i have taken the time to listen to two infamous and odd records. they have always taken my fancy, and with it being the season to be jolly, i took the decision to pick them up and give them a whirl. this despite the first one on the list being the only thing my dear wife has urged me never, ever to buy or bring into our home.

but who could resist the chance to own The Transformed Man by William Shatner? over the years i have heard one or two rough bootlegs of it, so when the chance came to have the pristine, shiny cd in my hands, i took some liberties with the comments that Michele made about it being in the house!

this was a wise decision, for the album is a majestic odyssey. it's not everyone who would think to mix up recitals (if by recitial you mean to understand some shouting) of Shakespeare with rather odd interpretations (if by interpretation you understand some shouting) of the works of Dylan and The Beatles.

the masterpiece of the album is easily Theme From Cyrano/Mr Tambourine Man . once finished with his recital, Shatner if anything seems surprised by the arrival of the mellow, melodic sounds of the song Mr Tambourine Man, and thus gives a somewhat startled singing performance of the tune. when he isn't just shouting "Mr Tambourine Man" over and over again.

there has always been an "is it or isn't it about...." question in regards of the exact subject of The Beatles' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. the odd, free-flowing, ranting workout Shatner gives it on this album makes it pretty clear that he feels he knows exactly what it's all about. brave are they few who have taken on Lennon and McCartney classics; Shatner's attempt simply must be heard to be believed.

if you have heard of the legend of The Transformed Man and have been curious, well, my advice would be to seek out a copy and enjoy! that said, though, there is one actor-recorded album that surpasses the brilliance of Shatner, even if the actor isn't quite as well known or (sadly) celebrated to the degree Shatner is.

Peter Wyngarde's masterpiece, originally self-titled but renamed as When Sex Leers Its Inquisitve Head for its reappearance on CD. after being released and quickly withdrawn back in 1970 (or thereabouts), there has always been a mythical status attached to this one. it's often spoken of as a "lost masterpiece". i am delighted to say that, as bonkers as the record is, this is indeed the case, and what a delight that it has been recovered and made available!

the album was, it seems, withdrawn from release for two reasons. firstly, it was intended by the label that the album would be a flop and something of a tax write-off. it wasn't, it sold in large volumes and thus increased the tax bill instead. secondly, it features what we will call that track, or if you will track three. the more attention the album got, the more likely damage to the name and reputation of the label was and it would court publicity that neither they nor any sort of business would wish. as for what that track is, well, google away if you don't know!

it's a great shame that the lyrics of that track pretty much prevent you playing it too loud anywhere, as it is a great, funky little number. if only there were an instrumental of it somewhere! not that this is the best on the album - the production values and instrumentation on Neville Thumbcatch are well ahead of their time and this is really a standout track. another gem hidden away on the album is Hippie And The Skinhead, which starts with Wyngarde reading out a letter from the Sunday Times newspaper, this giving way to a bizarre, improvised rap. a rap with a country and western backing track, no less. it's fair to say that the album is quite some distance from the collection of Sintatra songs that the studio expected.

Wyngarde's lyrics, in particular on that track, would offend or at least not be too comfortable to the ears of most listeners. that said, it's well worthwhile checking out what happens when you allow an idiosyncratic and gifted actor a free hand in a recording studio - far more interesting than the drivel today's "actors" produce when their muse on a whim inspires them to make music. away from the lyrics, the production values and instrumentation on this lp are lavish and light years ahead of what was doing the rounds at the time. it's a must-listen for all musos and normal music fans alike.

if you are not quite as excited about Take That's concept album or the other drivel which takes up the charts at the moment, by all means check out either of these albums and remember a time when music was creative and, most important of all, fun!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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