The Collector's Choice label, a fit subject for idolatry among fanatic collectors like myself as well as to the more savvy general public, has now chosen to revive an entire set of gems, the 8-disc catalogue of 60s parody sensation Allan Sherman, best known for the immortal Hello Muddah Hello Faddah hit. Though fame and fortune came to Sherman, and millions of his LPs were issued, it is exceedingly difficult to find copies of them in stores, so this reprint campaign is a godsend.
My Son, the Folk Singer was Sherman's debut and sold so rapidly that when the covers ran out, Warners Bros. was able to merchandise just the vinyl, a rather telling indication of how big the composer would become. However, upon a re-listen, oh these many years later, there was a lot more to his work than a casual (or teenaged) listen reveals. Sherman was an adept satirist not only of prevailing social mores but especially the smaller realm of Jewish-American culture. Even more strikingly, his audience was extraordinarily hip, catching every least nuance and laughing uproariously, not canned laugh track nonsense but genuine hurt-the-lungs outbursts. Of course, it didn't hurt that the listeners were hand-chosen and included Johnny Mercer (!), Theo Bikel, Pat Carroll and industry sages (Sherman had previously been a television producer).
Then there were the amazing executions of tongue twisters like his catalogue of Jewish surnames in Shake Hands with Your Uncle Max, the sort of recitation that would have Monty Python beaming with admiration. Sherman may have been basically monotonic melodically but knew the uses of inflection, volume, and timing perfectly. He also made maximum use of just six instrumentalists and six background singers. Add to that a knowing mangling of the English language, as in Sir Greenbaum's Madrigal, as well as just about every ace card a humorist can pull out of the deck, and you had a talent just waiting to make its mark.
Perhaps the most surprising element of this re-issuance is the timelessness of the materials. Were Sherman to appear suddenly with these same songs in the 90s and 00s, they would have gone over just as well—though, admittedly, there's a delicious period flavor as well. And, hey, like the old rye bread advertisements of the time, you don't have to be Jewish to like Sherman's great CDs…but it helps. Oh, and the goyim may want to have their Michael Wex volumes handy (Just Say Nu, Born to Kvetch, etc.) handy, to translate some of the Yiddish. But, of course, you get the Bronx-melodic Christine Nelson and the liner notes of Barry Hansen (the famed Dr. Demento) as well, so if you don't have those books, what's to worry? Sit back! Laugh! You should only enjoy.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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