Friday, October 31, 2014

Adventures In Recordland, post #16: The Bs, part 13

#1: Foster Brooks- "The Lovable Lush" (1973):

Many of you reading this blog probably are old enough to remember Foster Brooks. But if you're not- he specialized in an act which you could probably never do today, but which was a staple of comedy for many years- the "drunk act." He played the part of a man who was a bit loaded but trying to hide it (and not hiding it very well, of course).
He was unusual in that he didn't become famous until he was well over 50. However, his act as recorded on this album is really just typical comedy of its day- he tells the same jokes that any Vegas comic could have told around that time, just with the drunk schtik to give it a bit more punch. There are some laughs, it's not a bad album, but it's a bit dated.

#2: Big Bill Broonzy- "Big Bill's Blues" (1956):

Big Bill Broonzy at the time this album was made was one of the last survivors of the first generation of recorded blues musicians. He passed away just a couple of years after he made this album.
It's not a typical music album in the sense that it's not a polished production- it's more like a jam session, with Big Bill playing what he felt like playing and telling some stories between songs. The informal nature of it makes it fun. If you're a blues fan, I'd recommend this one.

#3: Lenny Bruce- "The Berkeley Concert" (1968):

Lenny Bruce is such a mythic figure in comedy history that I hardly need to introduce him. But I think it's unfair that history seems to have essentially labeled him "the first dirty comic." Yes, he used profanity, but unlike many of today's comics, he used it for a purpose- and definitely unlike today's comedians, in this two-record set which is 80 minutes long, the word "fuck" is only used once.
There was a lot more to him than just using dirty words. He was a satirist and a social commentator, trying to provide some insight into human behavior in this country. His material was, if not always hilarious, at best thought-provoking, something which is definitely missing in comedy today. That was Lenny Bruce.
By the time this posthumously-released album was recorded, he'd been arrested several times, and while he's not yet reading the transcripts of his trial onstage, he does spend a considerable amount of time talking about and analyzing laws and the way they work. He also talks about Lyndon Johnson, Jews and gentiles, men and women, drugs, and many other things. It's not his funniest album, but even when he wasn't being "ha-ha" funny, it's always interesting to me to simply listen to a man with a unique mind exploring ideas. He would get up there and say whatever was on his mind, bluntly and honestly. This was what made him an innovator and one of the most important figures of the late '50s/early '60s comedy revolution- there was so much more to him than just the four-letter words.
I have quite a few of his albums and will be going over them the next few days. Stay tuned for that.

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