Sunday, November 2, 2014

Adventures In Recordland, #17: The Bs, part 14: Lenny Bruce marathon

I normally do three records a day- I was too tired yesterday to bother writing a blog, so now I'll write about all six records I've listened to over the past two days- which is all right since they're all Lenny Bruce.

#1: Lenny Bruce- "I Am Not A Nut, Elect Me", 1959:

This is early Lenny, when he was still doing "bits" instead of free-form ad-libbing the way he did after he was busted. The highlight is undoubtedly his classic "Palladium" routine about a third-rate comic bombing at the London Palladium. It takes up nearly all of side 2 of the album and is a tour-de-force. The rest of the album feels more like filler- most of the bits are either dated or not especially funny, although his bit about being censored on the Steve Allen show is also noteworthy. This would be a minor Lenny album if it weren't for the Palladium bit.

#2: Lenny Bruce- "Interviews Of Our Time", 1958:

This was Lenny's first album, and it's an odd one. Somehow the record company (Fantasy Records) must not have had much faith in him, as he is forced to "share" the album with other material- the "interviews of our time" are Henry Jacobs interviewing Dr. Sholem Stein about calypso music, and jazz musician Shorty Petterstein who really has nothing to say and rambles on about it anyway. These interviews take up nearly half the album, and are so odd that I'm not even sure whether to take them seriously or not.
The rest of the album is Lenny- very early on, doing short bits. And the bits are not even treated very well- some of them are just cut off in the middle without a punchline. What's there is pretty good- the most interesting bit is a slightly Twilight Zone-ish studio-recorded bit, "The March Of High Fidelity", about a hi-fi addict whose head turns into a Victrola. Other than that, this is a curious footnote in Lenny's career. He wasn't happy about having his material used as an afterthought to an otherwise rather pointless album, and as you can see, he asked for his name to be removed from the back cover.

#3:  Lenny Bruce- "The Law, Language And Lenny Bruce", 1974:

This is, obviously, a posthumously-released album, recorded around the same time as the "Berkeley Concert" album in 1965. That was towards the end for Lenny, and it was at this point that he was reading his trial transcripts onstage in a desperate effort to prove that what he was doing was not obscene. So it's not his funniest album, it's more of a rant- and even the parts that are funny duplicates a lot of material from the Berkeley show. It's more of a historical document than a comedy album.

#4: Lenny Bruce- "Lenny Bruce Is Out Again", 1966:


This is probably the best of all the Lenny albums I have. It repeats a lot of material from his other mid-'60s albums, but he's in good form here, it's one of his most enjoyable performances.

#5: Lenny Bruce- "The Sick Humor Of Lenny Bruce", 1959:

 More early Lenny. This was his first full-length album, after "Interviews Of Our Time." They don't call it "sick humor" for nothing- he opens with a bit about a plane crash, and the album also contains a bit about Hitler and a poem about a man who's in love with a horse. Some of it is uncomfortable today, and unfortunately much of the rest of it is dated, but it shows you how daring Lenny was in the beginning and why he stood out as somebody who was different.

#6: Lenny Bruce- "What I Was Arrested For", 1971:

This is a compilation of the bits that got Lenny arrested, as the album title would imply. It's remarkable to think that Lenny got busted for material which any comedian today could use freely. Toilet humor, sex jokes, gay jokes, words like "bullshit" and, in one notorious instance, "cocksucker"- comedians have been using such material for decades now, but in 1961 it was Lenny who got in trouble for it. There are some bits that are funny, but again, this album really is a historical document of a comedy martyr, I can't rate it based on whether it's funny or not.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all these great Lenny Bruce album reflections