Monday, July 01, 2024

Nobody Likes a Wiseass, Simels!

Okay, there are days I think this is the funniest thing I ever wrote. From The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review in June 1990.


Consider the compact disc. A marvel of modern technology, it's the result of hundreds of thousands of scientific manpower hours and countless dollars for research and development. Truly a monument to man's ingenuinity and genius, it represents on every level -- intellectual, aesthetic, whatever -- the finest, most noble impulses and accomplishments of the human species.

Like...William Shatner singing "Mr. Tambourine Man"?

Well, yeah. Which is why it's such a thrill to hail the CD release of Rhino's Golden Throats: The Great Celebrity Sing-Off. Because in this one gleaming five-inch package science, art and commerce have come together in a transcendent collision of the ridiculous and the sublime. It proves, whether by accident or design, that even in the latter half of the Twentieth Century (once described by Isaac Bashevis Singer as "on balance, a complete flop"), the ideal of the Renaissance Man is alive and well.

Yes, Renaissance men (and women, to be sure) are the very raison d'etre of Golden Throats. For you can find -- whence, as Alan Funt would say, you least expect it -- greart thespian talents, artists who've enriched our lives with their portrayals of Gomer Pyle, Sgt. Joe Friday, and Family Affair's Mr. French, artitists who refuse to rest on their hard-earned laurels. Here, making much -- not for crass commercial gain, but because they must -- they bring their skill and inspiration to bear on the Muse of Song.

For these selfless offerings, of course, mere mortals can only give thanks before listening, awestruck, to the recorded results. Breathes there a music lover who will not thrill to the very idea, let alone the reality, of Joel Grey (father of Dirty Dancing's Jennifer Grey) negotiating the haunting chord changes of Cream's "White Room," and in a big-band arrangement to boot? Is there out there a sentient mammalian so soulless as to be unresponsive to the Byronic nonchalance of Sebastian Cabot's virtuoso recitative of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe?" Could even the stoniest-hearted among us audition Jack Webb's "This is the city"-styled performance of "Try a Little Tenderness" without shedding a silent, solitary teardrop? Like, get real, dude.

There will be, sad to say, those whoe decry Golden Throats in the sure and certain knowledge that Allan (The Closing of the American Mind) Bloom was right, and Western civilization is doomed to the dustbin of history. Lonely, loveless, and probably physically unattractive, these bitter dweebs will note Mae West's "Twist and Shout" (superior, even, to the Rodney Dangerfield version), Eddie Albert's "Blowin' in the Wind" (featuring the very same band that backed Dylan on Blonde on Blonde) or Leonard Nimoy's virile baritone rendering of John Fogerty's "Proud Mary" and, if pressed, respond only with a scornful "Huh?!" Such people, it goes without saying, are to be avoided, for they will someday borrow money from you that they have no intention of repaying.

But that's another story. So, returning to the CD at hand, let us close by praising Rhino's usual superb rematering, by offering our condolences to my friend Greg, who nearly had a religious experience and drove his car off the side of I-95 on hearing Golden Throat Shatner assailing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," and by thanking whatever gods we recognize that such a digital experience is available at better record stores at popular prices. And let us contemplate the myriad wonders awaiting us when the visionaries at Rhino offer us an ever greater celebrity anthology, one sure to include excerpts from the Robert Mitchum Calypso Album, the Brady Bunch Kids' "American Pie," and (oh joy!) Ted Knights' "Hi Guys!".

And people say that life is not worth living.

I also can't believe my notoriously strait-laced and humorless editors let me get away with it. But we'll tell you that tale on another occasion.

PS: Here's what the above looked like in the mag.

If you're having trouble reading it, just click to enlarge.


mistah charley, ph.d. said...

i listened to joel grey's "white room" and enjoyed it, although i think i would have preferred a simpler, more explicitly cocktail piano arrangement

he's 92 now

musing on how people i knew - including myself in my younger days - used to work harder at sorting music into categories, and ranking those categories along various dimensions, i thought about the lyrics to "sultans of swing", and found the following passage at the songfacts website:

Alan Freed played trombone in his band named Sultans of Swing. He is credited with coining the term "Rock and Roll" on his radio show in Cleveland in the early '50s. It is ironic that the lyrics, "They don't give a damn about any trumpet playing band, it ain't what they call rock and roll" references the type of band Alan Freed led.

steve simels said...

I did not know that Alan Freed story. Wow.

ChrisE said...

I'm not sure if Rhino ever anthologized those songs by Robert Mitchum, the Brady Bunch and Ted Knight but they DID put out three MORE volumes of GOLDEN THROATS cds, including one devoted to Country Covers and one devoted to Beatles Covers. Volume 2 in the series, which, like Volume 1, featured general celebrity versions of rock & pop hits of the day, contains one of my all-time favorite slices of vintage cheese, Sammy Davis Jr's hilarious so-hip-it-hurts rendition of Elvis Presley's "In The Ghetto".

Jai Guru Dave said...

Hey Steve: how about that money you borrowed and said you were gonna pay back???

steve simels said...

Ohmigod -- I don't think I ever heard that. Excuse me while I go listen...