Friday, December 21, 2007

Reasons To Be Cheerful: week of 12/21/07

Another week, another batch of bits and pieces and debris...

1. Follow the link to: Alice Illustrations other than Tenniel - - an ongoing project found over at
Hugo Strikes Back!

Different artist's visions through the looking glass, old and new and from all over the globe.

(clicking on images makes them larger...)

⬆ Top row, L-R: Jan Svankmajer, Dmitry Che, Michael Hague, Willy Pogany

⬇ Bottom row, L-R: Arthur Rackham, Saulo Corona Gtz, Khodozhnik S. Goloshchapov, Aleksandr Dodon

2. This week I've been enjoying listening to The Bonzo Dog Dooh-Dah Band's NEW studio album, 'Pour L'Amour Des Chiens'.

It feels so very strange to be saying that, as it's been 35-or-so years since the last one.

The big UK reunion tour that the Bonzos staged not too long ago seemed delightful by all reports.

Bless them, the remaining original band members are still full of spark and whimsy, despite getting a bit long in the tooth.

The new CD is good fun, and if it's not the mad sixties group dipped in amber and perfectly preserved, the album is still SO much better than it probably needed to be.

But clearly, this is an album for the fans, a fine addition to the Bonzos canon, but certainly not the place to begin for the novice curious about the band.

There's a healthy amount of the tweaked twenties-trad-jazz that is unmistakably Bonzo. It's wonderful to hear Rodney Slater's exquisitely tortured saxophone again.

There's something slightly off however, as the sound of seasoned older musicians recreating that vibe now comes off so much different than the one created by young art students bucking trends in the swinging sixties.

Now they also seem to be making an effort to hit on a wide variety of different musical styles as the album bounces merrily along, almost as if they need to make up for lost time since their last recordings.

As always, Neil Innes' contributions are practically perfect in every way, though it sounds like some of his tunes are ones he may have been toting around a little while.

I suppose I miss the psychedelia-tinged fringes of the old albums, and the feeling of rough edges. Thankfully, it sounds entirely like the band is doing what they please, not trying to hit an expected mark.

Of course it's the presence of the departed Vivian Stanshall that's missed the most, though 'shiny new millenium' Bonzos Stephen Fry, Ade Edmondson and Phill Jupitis seem only too willing to try to fill the gap. Who could blame them for living a dream?

3. Being released to US-Region 1 DVD in a few months is
'Shemp Cocktail: A Toast to the Original Stooge'.

It could easily turn out to be as dreadful and shoddy as much of the apocryphal Stooge residue floating around out there, but this release sounds promising to me:

"This long-overdue 2-disc spotlight on Shemp – one of the first and one of the last Stooges and older brother of Moe and Curly Howard – contains five early ‘30s solo Shemp shorts; a trio of Shemp’s Three Stooges shorts; a live TV Camel Comedy Caravan with Shemp, Larry, and Moe; the complete 1942 feature Private Buckaroo, starring Shemp and The Andrews Sisters - and more, including outtakes from Africa Screams and sequences from the 1935 drama Convention Girl, in which Shemp plays it straight as a smalltime hood!"

Shemp definitely turned up in a lot of places, and was working hard in Hollywood for a long time - - apart from the Stooges more often than not.

I've often been curious about all those hundreds of Hollywood film shorts from the 1930's and '40's that mostly we NEVER get to see anymore.

I recall some late-night surfing at IMDb, following one
cross-reference to another. I was amazed at how many different series of comedy shorts there were at Columbia Studios alone, in a vein not disimilar to that of the Stooges.

Take a peek sometime at listings for some of the 'repertory company' of folks you might associate with The Three Stooges. Producer/Director Jules White, actors Christine McIntyre or Emil Sitka - - There's a heap of appearances they made in shorts and two-reelers that sound very familiar, but for the fact that they're Stooge-free.

See also: Follow the link to In The Balcony.Com's Short Subject Department, and scroll down the page to the 'Solidly Shemp' listing.

4. This 'Wheelbarrow Race' ⬇ clip on YouTube should be worked into a 'Wide World of Sports'-type
'Thrill of Victory' opening credit sequence on TV, don'tcha think?

Wait for the thrilling and slick home-stretch manuever that sends the crowd into a frenzy and makes you proud to be human...

(Via Nothing To Do With Arbroath, via David Thompson.)

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