COLLECTORS CHOICE (www.ccmusic.com)
The Complete Warner Brothers Commercial Allan Sherman Recordings
There's a place for the cool Rhino Handmade boxes that gather up everything an artist did for a label and then some, rounding up things that fell outside the lines in one way or another and might not be all that significant but are there for the uber collectors; and there's a place for the original albums to be presented as close to their original form as possible for the purist collectors as well as the tourist. As has been the case with previous Rhino Handmade boxes that have gone out of print, the underlying sets come to pass as single releases on Collectors Choice. Now we come to the Warner output of Allan Sherman which also makes Collectors Choice the home of all of Sherman's commercial recordings (except of course for the Eln Shoimin borscht belt records he made 20 years earlier--which oddly enough are now under the Rhino umbrella---probably off hiding in a corner).
Vaughn Meader wasn't the only comic whose career basically came to a crashing halt that day in Dallas, November 1963. Part of Sherman's catapult to the top was that Jack Kennedy put the high sign on "Sarah Jackman" and the star maker machinery took over from there. An unlikely pop star, even for the pre-Beatle 60s, this unemployed, old, fat, broke, yid with no voice gladly took a $1,500 advance to make a record of the song parodies he had been doing at parties for years. As much as he didn't want to be identified with Jewish humor, he was the poster boy for it for the times. It's fitting that Collectors Choice hired Dr. Demento to write the liner notes for the series as Sherman would be all but forgotten today is not for Demento airplay. Demento also claims being the link between Sherman and Al Yankovic. Sherman undisputedly influenced Yankovic, but if you want to draw lines about who went where, Sherman probably has more in common with Wild Man Fischer than Yankovic. A meteoric rise followed by just as quick a descent, Sherman left behind 8 WB albums that were loaded with hits and misses but remained clever and engaging even as the audience left him and sales plummeted. With initial albums that ruled the charts for months at a time, even when being released in rapid fire succession, these sets that were often recorded in one live sitting with maybe a three hour rehearsal before the doors opened and the booze flowed, they are a legacy anyone could be proud of.
MY SON, THE FOLK SINGER: Kicking things off at the height of the folk music boom, Sherman's renditions would never get him a spot on the collegiate, network show "Hootenanny", but these were aimed at his contemporaries in the suburbs with mortgages and headaches. He certainly earned his Jewish humor spurs here as all the Jewish Hollywood hipsters took in everything from mulligans on Gilbert & Sullivan to calypso. You can hear the future train wreck he would become in "My Zelda" as he tears through the song audibly losing it along the way. "Sarah Jackman" led the way here with "Oh Boy" (the Mexican hat dance song) and the classic "Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max" (so much for the Irish) and more to keep the laughs flowing in high style.
MY SON, THE CELEBRITY: While this set didn't have the neutron bomb of "Hello Muddah", it had a solid burn throughout, and a load of the Jewish humor he didn't want to be known for, most famously turning "Hava Negila" into "Harvey and Sheila" detailing 60s upwardly mobile Jewishness to the max (but not your uncle) and it didn't end there. Another high octane worthy set in the Sherman canon.
MY SON, THE NUT: 1963 brought us the career maker/career killer "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah". The rest of the album could have been all filler, but he vamped on "Rat Fink" Martians and more silliness that the Mad Men of the time would be playing at parties in their paneled rec rooms. It goes without saying this set is the bomb.
ALLAN IN WONDERLAND: After three #1 albums, the formula was tinkered with slightly, but the times had changed radically. Kennedy was assassinated, long hot summers were starting to burn across America, the Beatles were on the way and even though he was right in the moment kicking this set off with the classic "Skin" not enough people were listening and buying as this set only made it up to #25 on the national charts. The material was getting deeper, longer and crazier. The long time szhlub finally got the attention he wanted the last few years before this but that was beginning to wane. The cleverness was becoming mature here, on a par with Stan Freberg.
FOR SWINGIN' LIVERS ONLY: Loads more Jewish humor, one of the funniest riffs on "12 Days of Christmas" and the curmudgeonly "Pop Hates the Beatles" an unwise move at the time but America was moving in another direction. The commercial descent was picking up steam, but this set was still big enough to be one of the top comedy albums of the year---a year that included the debut of Sherman discovery Bill Cosby, who would continue to change the way America was partaking of it's comedy. This would be the last set of the old formula.
MY NAME IS ALLAN: There comes a time when leaders suddenly become followers and we basically regard them as having jumped the shark. This vamp on the then recent Barbara Streisand hit seemed more desperate than satirical and once the tide turns against you.... Sherman took on all forms of pop culture with a lot of cute but non-essential results. The musical reins had been handed over from long time music director Lou Busch to nascent gospel pro, Ralph Carmichael, who gave the record the slickness WB probably wanted---even if the audience didn't. This was his last album to dent the charts and the last to be recorded with the formerly trusty formula of a live, lubricated audience there in the studio for the hijinks.
LIVE!!! HOPING YOU ARE THE SAME: As is typical of commercial descents, Sherman was still a draw and this set tweaked the formula a bit by recording his actual live show in Sparks, NV. Not a live greatest hits set even if some Sherman classics are revamped, he gets back to the Jewish humor roots bravely delivering the goods to an appreciative 1966 audience. With some social commentary, his intros left in and, oh yeah, Jewish humor it should have been more than a way to mark time and spend down his cross collateralization. Oddly enough, this is his real, first live album and it has a whole different vibe than his live in the studio recordings.
TOGETHERNESS: He didn't know it at the time but this would be the last album he would make in his lifetime. WB knew he was at the end of his contract so they let fly with his first real studio album. Newly divorced and slimmed down, Sherman was casting an eye toward tomorrow and the comeback that never came. Still trying to avoid Jewish humor, he didn't do much of a job of evading it by kicking this set off with "Winchester Hadassah" and vamping on "Fiddler on the Roof". With a kind of cleverness that would have endeared him to the country as it's wacky uncle if anyone was listening anymore, this was an album that didn't deserve to be so criminally ignored. The laughs came, the audience didn't. Over and out.
Volume 33/Number 290
August 19, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record
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