City Paper is not for tourists
Incredibly, or perhaps strangely, this disc, like Vol. I, pales in comparison to the companion print volumes. The books, also by Andrea Juno and V. Vale, are fascinating, informative investigations that delightfully deliver what the title promises. The problem with the disc is that it’s not enough of a bad thing; the LP covers reproduced in the booklet hint that greater treasures exist. These 17 tracks are so wide-ranging that a continuous listen is more jarring than jaunty. Most of these cuts were released in the ’50s and ’60s, and their “strangeness” results largely from instrumental goofiness (Harry Breuer’s “Bumble Bee Bolero,” Billy Mure’s “Chopsticks Guitar”) and misguided attempts at pop relevance, such as the Nirvana Sitar and String Group’s strangling of the Box Tops’ “The Letter,” and Rod McKuen’s sub-Maynard G. Krebs reading on “The Mummy.” With three cuts, “Word Jazz” poet Ken Nordine provides some aural consistency, though his playful soundbites are intended to be laughed with, not at. Likewise, bawdy comedian Rusty Warren is not quite an obscure oddity, rather a show-biz trouper in the burlesque tradition, whose material was unsuitable for airplay in those more restrained times. Surely, people will look back from the next century and find plenty of “strange” ’80s and ’90s music (hello, Kenny G?). In the meantime, one hopes that RE/Search will open its vaultswider.