23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Wacky easy listening,
This review is from: Himself (Jpn) (Remastered) Us (Audio CD)
Yes, there is such a thing. It's a niche market, to be sure, and Gilbert is one of its longest-standing proponents.
HIMSELF, his first album, is arguably his best - while his "prematurely aged social misfit" persona has arrived fully formed, the album sees him venturing into musical areas he seldom if ever visited again.
But let's have a reality check - this is music that not many people will be able to tolerate. To appreciate this stuff, you not only need a peculiar fondness for featherweight early-'70s pop, but also an affection for tweeness and awkwardness. So, if you're the sort of person who actually likes David Bowie's Deram sessions, or pre-disco Bee Gees, you owe it to yourself to check this out. If you're not, leave it well alone.
The singles will be famiiar to most people reading this - the implacably melancholy, self-deprecating `Nothing Rhymed', and `Matrimony' (about a skinflint hurrying his bride to the registry office, aware that she wanted a church wedding). But the true highlights are the album tracks in which all his eccentricities are on display.
`January Git' is word-associative nonsense set to swing-style jazz (complete with clarinet solos); `Permissive Twit' is a vignette of 1930s Northern England, with a young relative of Gracie Fields (no joke!) confessing, shyly and haltingly, that his sister has become pregnant out of wedlock; `Independent Air' is lyrically incomprehensible and musically almost raucous - check out the funky guitarwork toward the end; `Too Much Attention' has more of a jazz-funk feel (with a bit of scat-singing and flute solo breaks); `Susan Van Heusen' is another `scandalous' tale related awkwardly and embarrassedly (a teenage girl catches her father at it with his lower-class bit-on-the-side).
`Thunder and Lightning' is indeed a song about the weather, and it's an r'n'b swinger with an unforgettable set of brass riffs, and a 1950s-style tenor sax break; `Bye-Bye' and `Doing The Best I Can' are breakup songs, the former degenerating into nonsense in short order, the latter has the narrator deserting an alcoholic partner (mockingly singing `bow-wow-wow' throughout the choruses!).
`Houdini Said' is the weirdest, and most perversely charming thing on the album. Arranger Johnnie Spence (yes, he of Dr Kildare fame!) takes Gilbert's slightly embarrassing music-hall style song-fragment, with more nonsensical wordplay and a call-and-response chorus, and turns it into an extravagant kitchen-sinks-and-all mini-epic. Melancholy movie-score strings one minute, a jazz variation the next, and then...Bach-style harpsichord and Swingle-Singers-style choral vocals. And at the end, most improbable of all, a maniacal Jethro Tull-style flute solo over pealing guitar lines as the orchestra piles up countermelodies in the background. In its perverse way, a work of genius!