Sunday, 28 September 2014

"Electric Shocks" by ROGER RUSKIN SPEAR [of The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band] - A Review Of His 1972 1st Solo Album - Now Remastered & Expanded In 2014 by Esoteric of the UK...

“…A Cup And A Half Of Sunbeams…”

The word eccentric comes to mind - as well as pantomime - and well as oddball, bonkers and raving loony (two words I know). Just how ex BONZO DOG DOO DAH BAND main man ROGER RUSKIN SPEAR got this thoroughly mad album made is anybody's guess? But I'm thinking a serious amount of drugs was involved (never mind tranquilisers for United Artist record company executives). Having said that - I'd also argue that the world (and middle England) is a richer place for it. No one does send up and lampoon quite like The British. So here are the Mad Dogs and Englishmen (and a few details too)...

UK released on CD September 2014 - "Electric Shocks" by ROGER RUSKIN SPEAR is on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2463 (Barcode 5013929456341) and breaks down as follows (48:48 minutes):

1. All By Yourself In The Moonlight
2. I'm A Fly
3. Mattress Man
4. Blue Baboon (or "I Know A Rhino")
5. The Liberty Laughing Song
6. Doctor Rock
7. Patrick Moore
8. Make Yourself A Happiness Pie
9. Living Doll

Tracks 1 to 9 are his debut solo album "Electric Shocks" - originally released on vinyl LP October 1972 in the UK on United Artists UAG 29381

10. Trouser Freak
11. Trouser Press
12. Release Me
13. Drop Out

Bonus Tracks 10 to 14 are the "Rebel Trouser" EP - original released May 1971 as a 4-track 7" single Extended Play on United Artists UP 35221 - it's credited to ROGER RUSKIN SPEAR and his giant orchestral wardrobe. The 16-page colour booklet features outtakes from the cover shoot, a facsimile of the rare EP released before the album, photos of the musicians, a repro of in the inner gatefold sleeve and superb liner notes from noted writer MALCOLM DOME.

Quite apart from the sheer craziness of the proceedings - the first thing that hits you is the great remaster carried out to perfection by BEN WISEMAN at Audio Archiving. The dense multi-tracked original tapes have been given a right polish and all the trombones, funny voices, grunts and gasps are here in fabulous sound quality. PETER BANKS - the original guitarist with YES puts in an appearance on the quirky "Blue Baboon...", THUNDERCLAP "Something In The Air" NEWMAN plays Bass Saxophone on several tracks, B.J. COLE contributes Pedal Steel, CHRIS WELCH and AARON ROWE shared Drums and visiting American Rock'n'Roll band THE FLAMIN' GROOVIES feature on "Mattress Man". There's even a snare drum on loan from Pete Townshend (apparently).

Carrying on in much the same tradition as the Bonzo albums on Liberty - the songs are full of madcap rhythms while Ruskin talks like he's auditioning for Monty Python's "Lumberjack Song", singing in a strangulated voice, choruses that have phrases like "Shi Bardi Bardi Boom" in them. It's very funny (if not a tiny bit dated in places) and when he does a live cover of Engelbert Humperdinck's "Please Release Me" - it's hard not to wet yourself (but in a good way).

All tracks on the album are Spear originals except for "All By Yourself In The Moonlight" and "Make Yourself A Happiness Pie" (lyrics from it title this review) which both date back to 1929 and 1930 respectively. These Vaudeville show tunes are upbeat devil-may-care Charleston dances with stunningly witty lyrics. Both conjure up images of bankrobbers in natty zoot suits - arm-in-arm in some nightclub with their ample molls who carry a diamond-encrusted Dillinger in their garters - partying all night while the country goes into the Depression crapper outside. But the third cover version on the album is the best literally kept ‘til last (final song on Side 2) - a truly hilarious pisstake on the Cliff Richard & The Shadows 1959 hit "Living Doll" on Columbia which is bound to make for a chucklefest in any home. Genius and then some...

In truth - "Electric Shocks" won't be everyone's glass of Babycham and that's for sure. But if you're willing to succumb to its bubbly English charm - you'll be more happily tipsy than stomach queasy. Well done to all the good people in Cherry Red and Esoteric for getting this forgotten nugget back out there...

PS: Esoteric have also been game enough to release his other album on United Artists from 1973 called "Unusual" (Esoteric ECLEC 2464) - which pleasingly displays even more insanity than the debut.

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