Having started my critiquing career in the weird hell of the 80s Sound Choice magazine with sniveling idiot editor David Ciaffardini (ex-OP-associate of a-holes Scott Becker and Ritchie Unterberger over at OPtion), you'd think I'd have had a crawful of DIY strangeness, enough to last a lifetime, but what that brief stint engendered, following a spate of off-the-wall, creative as all get out, and just plain goofy musics was a love for talented oddballs, because, well, that's where most of the truly intriguing stuff comes from. In that milieu, acts like Ham Sandwich, John Wiggins, The Trouble with Larry, John Zawacki, and a roster of garage maniacs and daunting tunescrafters leavened my appetite for progrock and jazz with a sharpened craving for exotic side dishes. Hopefully, I'll never lose that jones, and cats like Doctor Sparkles show just exactly why no one should.
The gent's promo-lit head shot depicts a Mad Hatter who turned to the light but refused to divest the looniness he'd grown so fond of over a suburban career of entertaining. Then a scattershot liner melange of photos of the good minstrel in various guises injects a syringe of kickapoo joy juice prepping the listener to the ukelele cabaret recording artist's decidedly off-kilter but very righteous ditties. Drenched in humor, a predominantly Left point of view (okay, he digs Ron Paul, a decided conservative, but, hey, given the choice between Moron McCain, CorporObama, and Ayn Paul, who would *you* choose?), and a not-so-distant cousin of jug band music, Scary Country is indeed cabaretic, hitting a very wide range. Something Pretty, f'rinstance, strays into balladic tones in semi-classical Romantic refrains before progressing into an almost Alice Cooper-ish vein a la the archly mellowesque side of Nightmare, Goes to Hell, or DaDa. This lithe turn of events, thank Gawd, finds itself unrestrained by big label pressures or agents fretting about whether or not MTV might find teen-dream idols within.
Then there's Sparkles' wielding of not just the uke but also banjolele, balalaika, and the ever-popular home-made Dinty Moore Stew Canjolele (no, really, it's right there on the cover!!), and, as you listen, you'll uncover elements of The Firesign Theater, Nash the Slash, Swami Beyondanda, Ian Whitcomb, and sundry way-cool wackos. The Freakin' Fifth is a riff on the Bill of Rights, not Beethoven, and Homeland Security Chum extols Sparkles' views of TSA while Rescue Pig (Episode 1?) is a lighthearted ditty a la the ol' Underdog theme. In voices theatrical and melodic, you get a nonstop dizzying parade of great satires, commentaries, smartassery, zaniness…and, oh yeah, a buttload of wonderful music too, everything quite impressively rendered. Put this guy in a studio with a few bucks for a budget, and I guarantee you'd be astounded at the result.
Move over, Weird Al.
And be sure to visit http://www.doctorsparkles.com. There's a carnival of free funny-as-hell stuff and music; you could spend half a day there there's so damn much, but don't dare miss the video of There's a Special Place.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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