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Monday, March 2, 2015

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band: The Complete BBC Recordings

THE BONZO DOG DOO-DAH BAND: THE COMPLETE BBC RECORDINGS (1967-1986/2002)

1) Do The Trouser Press; 2) Canyons Of Your Mind; 3) I'm The Urban Spaceman; 4) Hello Mabel; 5) Mr. Apollo; 6) Tent; 7) Monster Mash; 8) Give Booze A Chance; 9) We Were Wrong; 10) Keynsham; 11) I Want To Be With You; 12) Mickey's Son And Daughter; 13) Craig Torso Show; 14) Can Blue Men Sing The Whites; 15) Look At Me I'm Wonderful; 16) Quiet Talks And Summer Walks; 17) We're Going To Bring It On Home; 18) Sofa Head; 19) Can­yons Of Your Mind; 20) I'm The Urban Spaceman.

And another one for completists only — released on the semi-official Strange Fruit label that, among other things, specializes on disclosing radio archives (such as the various John Peel sessions, etc.). I have no idea whether this is really «complete» (most probably not, since there are too few track repetitions for a «complete» package), but it does combine tracks from a variety of performances, mostly recorded for «Top Gear» in 1968 and 1969, and ending with a very brief snippet of ʽUrban Spacemanʼ, performed solo by Neil Innes on vocals and acoustic guitar for «Late Night Lineup» as late, indeed, as 1986.

Even the true completist might be disappointed, though, because the collection offers no genuine­ly new material. The few songs that had not been included on the original LPs are available these days as bonus tracks (e. g. the mini-spoof of ʽThe Craig Torso Showʼ), and others have been included on Anthropology (ʽSofa Headʼ, ʽGive Booze A Chanceʼ). If I am not mistaken, the only exception is ʽWe're Going To Bring It On Homeʼ, a quirky mix of a flute-led art pop song and a barroom-style roots-rocker that is neither too funny nor too touching (in the same way as quite a few songs on Keynsham) — Strange Fruit have a monopoly on this one, having originally re­leased it in 1990 as part of a small Peel Sessions EP.

Everything else is just the same old stuff, treasurable only for the fact that these are the original young Bonzos playing their material live in the studio, showing off their accomplishment as genuine musicians and offering a rare occasional twist on the studio version. (Actually, I think that the first live version of ʽCanyonsʼ here might predate the studio version, because instead of the rather incoherent "to the ventricles of your heart / I'm in love with you again", Stanshall sings "through the ventricles of your heart / I am pumping you again" — what looks like the probable original lyrics, later censored by the band themselves in order to avoid extreme ambiguity by inadvertently introducing a new meaning of the verb "to pump" in the English language.)

It should probably be added that Stanshall's vocal style on ʽThe Monster Mashʼ leans here to­wards the «comically crazy» rather than the «ironically croony», and that the «trouser pressing» guitar imitation on ʽDo The Trouser Pressʼ, done without the benefit of additional studio effects, is still inventive and funny (the freshly demented Syd Barrett would have probably appreciated it). Other than that, there is nothing to add — except that I am still a little disappointed to learn once more that there are indeed no hidden wonders in the vaults for Britain's greatest comic band of rock music's finest era. Oh well — at the very least, it's not as if the album, loaded with all these wonderful tunes in solid renditions and stable sound quality, were an unpleasant listen or any­thing. Completists won't be disappointed.

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