84 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of British Satire
The genius that is Flanders and Swann lives on in this boxed set of their complete works. One cannot help but wonder how they might have changed the historical course of musical satire had Michael Flanders lived longer and they had continued writing and recording their songs. This is musical satire at its very best, and along with Tom Lehrer are memorable examples of...
Published on 14 Feb 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts
Flanders and Swann were a great double act, Flanders having real talent as a lyricist (sometimes in the Coward class) and Swann providing a neat counterpoint in pastiche with the music. Some of the best of their work is here, but it is mixed with a fair amount of the second-rate.
Published 5 months ago by Mr. A. J. Downs
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84 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of British Satire,
By A Customer
The genius that is Flanders and Swann lives on in this boxed set of their complete works. One cannot help but wonder how they might have changed the historical course of musical satire had Michael Flanders lived longer and they had continued writing and recording their songs. This is musical satire at its very best, and along with Tom Lehrer are memorable examples of the genre. Even though I already own the three individual analogue recordings that comprise this set, the compulsion to hear the recordings without the crackles, hisses, pops and squeaks of black plastic was overwhelming. As a bonus, there are some previously unreleased songs on the last CD....fine examples of what might have been. Gone, but not ever forgotten, these two great artists have their rightful place in the history books for their contribution to music and comedy.
70 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Example of the Genre,
Flanders and Swann epitomise the 1950s and 1960s revue and (gently but somehow more powerfully) satirical comedy (c.f Tom Lehrer). The context is amazing (brought together in the booklet and with sleeve notes compiled by John Amis, an erstwhile friend and colleague of them both) - they wrote songs for other people and then decided they would hire a theatre and invite a few friends to hear them sing "At the Drop of a Hat"! There is also one video (EMI/PMI MVP 9913393 - it may no longer be available) to feature them with COLOUR footage recorded in the US in April 1967 which contains some of the old favourites and a few of the newer songs. CD set is well worth having even if you have them on analogue.
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless humour,
I don't expect there are many 20-something year olds who enjoy Flanders and Swann but I am proud to be one of them. I learnt to sing the Hippopotamus Song at school and then my mum introduced me to this fine collection.
Nothing makes me giggle more that The Gas Man Cometh or playing the Song of Patriotic Prejudice at top volume with 'foreigners' in the house!
I am proud to say I once saw Donald Swann on stage about a year before his death (and, thanks to a kindly employee, even have his autograph). Together, Flanders and Swann were one of a kind - unmissable British humour at its best!
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real humour,
By A Customer
From touching songs such as "The Youth of the Heart" and "Friendly Duet" to "Misalliance" and "Madeira M'Dear" to the animal songs, Flanders & Swann showed not only their talent for displaying clean, true humour, but their range of talent as well. They were a credit to comic musicians who today, would do well to learn from the example this duo set forth.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very English Brilliance,
By A Customer
The outputs of the partnership between Michael Flanders and Donald Swan are very English and very much a product of their time.
They predate the age of satire that followed with the likes of TW3. Their performances are genteel, subtle, and funny. This is not the "English" humour of Monty Python or the Goons. It is an understated humour that is perhaps more rewarding in the long run.
Songs such as "The Hippopotamus" and "The Gas Man cometh", are timeless, but those songs that date the performers, such as their sad euolgy to the railways before the Beeching cuts, convey a deep feeling for the period and should not be discounted.
All in all, an essential item on the shelf for all lovers of English humour.
52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They make an old fan very happy,
Flanders, the perfect after dinner speaker with a delightfully mellow and versatile baritone voice; Swann, the supreme partner, both on the keyboard and in the singing. Michael Flanders is expert with language, Donald Swann with music: the latter achieving the highest art -- that of singing counterpoint with MF while playing the perfect accompanist on the piano to them both. All this, and it is VERY funny: even when the jokes are dated they retain their punch and they are told and sung so well that they still convey their humour, and, on occasion, biting satire. These are timeless pieces with duets, solos, monologues and instrumental displays linked by MF in inimitable form. There will never be the like again.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Transcending age,
Written and performed 50 years and more ago these monologues and songs have, for the most part, managed to remain unravaged by time and many still have much relevance today. If you're wandering who they were, Michael Flanders and Donald Swann were performers of comic songs and short monologues, in particular two stage shows 'At the drop of a hat' & 'At the drop of another hat'. They wrote songs you've probably heard but not thought about like 'The Gnu song', ("I'm a Gnu, a G'nother Gnu"), & 'The hippopotamus song',(" Mud mud glorious mud"), for instance. They also wrote of subjects that, although technology has changed things, still encounter similar problems today like utility services and various means of transport. A great favourite was their wry look at all sorts of animals.
They were parodied in 'The Armstrong & Miller show' who called their characters Brabbins & Fyffe, one on a piano and the other bearded character in a wheelchair singing bawdy songs that got worse as they progressed. Flanders & Swann were also pretty risque for their time and although not downright smutty would happily use innuendo and double entendre, usually to great effect. The standard of their writing was always very good and much of their songwriting, when not leaving you laughing out loud, will have you singing along with them.
An odd pairing and certainly an odd release, this will grow on you, it is very comprehensive with over 50 tracks across 3 CD's this comes in at close to three and a half hours running time. Nevertheless I have not given this 5 stars because it still seems pricey. The content alone is well worth 5 stars. For those old enough to remember them the image of a bespectacled Swann at the piano while the impressively bearded Flanders bass voice bellowed forth while seated in his wheelchair will no doubt raise a smile.
For those new to the duo then perhaps the EMI comedy CD may be a wiser choice. Obviously it's not as comprehensive but it has many of their best loved works and is a reasonable introduction to Flanders & Swann without having to spend quite so much.
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comedy changes with the seasons, wit is timeless,
Comedy changes with the seasons, but wit is timeless. Oscar Wilde never goes out of fashion, because he ignored fashion. In the same way, Flanders & Swann remain relevant because their material was selected with care to tap into the eternal concerns of middle-class audiences.
There is still much to surprise and delight as F&S take on public transport, hi-hi, parking, xenophobia, relationships, popular songs, animals fictional and real, even war (arguably, F&S were never more powerful and relevant than in the two very dark anti-war songs included on the third CD, perhaps inspired by Swann's Quaker sympathies), and much more besides.
True, many songs and commentaries by Flanders & Swann may seem dated because the personalities are long gone, but the veracity of Flanders' rapier wit in pricking inflated egos is just as relevant today as it has ever been, echoing the skills of WS Gilbert and others to transcend their time (just insert the names of your least favourite politicians!) While Flanders publically mocked satire ("It has rightly been said that the role of satire is to strip away the veneer from society. Our role as I see it is to put it back"), he was not averse to indulging in what for the time was fairly pungent satire (shame that the wonderful 'Hole in my Budget' is not included here.)
But overall, the mood is light and affectionately funny. Who could fail to enjoy Madeira M'dear, The Gasman Cometh or Ill Wind. Simple, light, refreshing and performed with consummate skill, and leaving the listener with a smile. What more could you want?
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, civilised, scintillating,
Bliss! If you tire of entertainment aimed purely at the lowest common denominator then this is the welcome antithesis. The other reviews say it all really. The wordplay of Flanders is just fabulous, the wit perfect, Swann's music light but expertly arranged, and they're not afraid to make references that are, for want of a better word, "intellectual" - in other words, for all the fun and silliness (and they really are very funny), they treat their audience like grown-ups. The result is a box set that is highly original, utterly pleasurable, and often of a range and depth that one wouldn't have at first suspected. "Misalliance" is, at first glance a trivial piece of nonsense about a honeysuckle and a bindweed, but ends up as a surprisingly powerful piece about the freedom to love regardless of race, religion or any other restriction.
I too would place Flanders and Swann in the same corpus as Gilbert and Sullivan, Wilde, Jerome K Jerome, Chesterton and Wodehouse, but that doesn't mean this box set can't sit next to your Franz Ferdinand or Scissor Sisters albums - the criterion isn't whether something is modern bur whether its good. Listen to these three CDs and you realise you are in the presence of two massive talents. Sometimes you have to look to the past to find something new and Flanders and Swann are a breath of fresh air. Brilliant!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You may be a trifle concerned at the thought ...,
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... of buying three CDs of two men singing comic songs.
Flanders and Swann's "comic songs" are different from most. They have bite, wit, character, fire and - just below the surface - sometimes profound meaning. These are no "ordinary" comic songs.
Neither is Swann's accompaniment at the piano ordinary.
These are CDs that contain true gems. Buy them.
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