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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Songs & More Songs By Tom Lehrer
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 April 2016
My parents bought the long-players containing these songs in the fifties, when I was a boy. They were hysterically funny then, and they're no less hilarious today.
Tom Lehrer (who - at the time of this review - will be 88 next week!) was an agnostic Jewish mathematics professor, who became remarkably popular and fairly well-known in the fifties and sixties, partly due to his appearances on TV's That Was the Week That Was (US version) and The Frost Report. But songs this wildly inventive and stomach-achingly funny would have found an audience anyway.
His influences are obvious: Gilbert & Sullivan (well, Gilbert, at any rate), Cole Porter and the brilliant musical theatre composers of the early twentieth century, and no doubt such off-the-wall ditties as those sung by Groucho Marx and the like. In his turn he was an influence on the great contemporary singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III (who has had the good grace to admit as much). And I expect Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, and one or two others had heard and absorbed these songs.
None of them is longer than three minutes in length, most between one and two minutes. Lehrer lampoons - often with surprisingly pungent irreverence - as many sacred cows of US culture and society as he can, such as the Alma Mater song (Fight Fiercely, Harvard), the upright scouting motto (Be Prepared - with its subtly bawdy last lines), the peon to the Deep South (I Wanna Go Back to Dixie), the nostalgic number (My Home Town - this delirious example populated by a set of highly dubious characters), the love song (the nicely grisly I Hold Your Hand in Mine), the Xmas song (A Christmas Carol, which skewers in under two minutes all I dislike about the 'festive season'), a mad Latin number called The Masochism Tango, which is exactly as you'd expect, the cheery fatalism of We Will All Go Together When We Go, a scintillating Gilbert & Sullivanesque rundown of The Elements, and the hearteningly sadistic Poisoning Pigeons in the Park...and many more, including the only song he wrote which approaches anything tender or lyrical, The Old Dope Peddler, though that's more due to the tune than the inevitably dubious lyrics.
Then there's the sheer glorious filth - always implicit - of I Got It From Agnes.
From the start (as early as 1952) Lehrer made mocking fun of his musical achievements, implicitly encouraging his listeners to do the same, and I'm glad to say the booklet that comes with this compilation of most of his songs - we don't get the ones he wrote for TWTWTW, so no Vatican Rag, arguably his greatest and most irreverent song - reprints the original mock-dismissive liner notes and comments that were such an integral part of the old LP issues.
In later years, Lehrer bemoaned (none too seriously, one imagines) the fact that he never became as lauded as Dylan or other 'protest' songwriters, but he was being atypically disingenuous: Dylan, Ochs, Paxton, Simon and the rest were doing something different, with other musical and lyrical aims, and besides, the one thing Lehrer never managed, or presumably wished, to do was to move the listener. He makes you laugh fit to bust, but you'd be unlikely to listen to him for any other reason than to laugh your head off.
I've lived with these timelessly scabrous songs all my life, since a far too young age, and I can't imagine a world without them. If you're discovering them for the first time, and you have a broad sense of humour, then I really do envy (and pity) you.

Unlike anybody else - I'm glad to say!
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on 27 November 1999
The New York Times commented that "Lehrer's muse in not inhibited by such factors as taste" and the acerbic nature of his lyrics have not dimmed over the thirty years since the music was originally written. His songs are hysterically funny and the wit as caustic as ever.
All I can suggest is; buy it, play it and see.
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on 5 March 2002
Tom Lehrer prepared me for a career as a semiconductor engineer. Without his wry view of 1950s USA I would have had more difficulty in surviving the vicissitudes of silicon valley and beyond in the 70s 80s and 90s.
For some 40-odd years a knowledge of his work has served me as a touchstone - Americans who know his songs are uniformly easier to work with!
Buy it, it is still relevant to a scary degree, especially in the era of George Dubbya Bush.
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on 22 September 2011
The first time I heard of Tom Lehrer was when my brother (who was almost a decade older than me) brought home the 10-inch LP 'Songs by Tom Lehrer'.I suppose I'd have been about 12 or 13 at the time and I thought them the naughtiest, funniest songs I'd ever heard. Of course, being a kid, there were some things I didn't get and my bro had to explain those bits to me! I recall my dear old Dad being outraged when he heard a snippet of 'The Old Dope Peddlar' and I was 'forbidden' to listen to this dreadful record. As subsequent albums were released my brother bought them and we used to enjoy them together, sitting cross-legged on the floor in the 'front room' with our ears pressed up against the speakers on the radiogram - so the parents couldn't hear, of course! My favourite TL album was the live 'An Evening (Wasted) with Tom Lehrer' not least for his wonderfully acid comments and asides to the audience and the often hilarious introductions to the songs. Many of his remarks have stayed with me through all the intervening years, eg 'Life is like a sewer; what you get out of it depends on what you put into it' and, of 'Dr Gall, inventor of the Gall Bladder': 'He practised animal husbandry - until they caught him at it...'......wonderful stuff. So this album has been a real saunter down Memory Lane for me, bringing fond memories of my late brother and thoughts of how he would have enjoyed this. Lehrer's biting wit has not dated with the passing years, only insofar as some of the subject matter, the Cold War for example, is now thankfully, a thing of the past. But those of us of a certain age can still remember the anxiety and paranoia of those times and the fact that Mr Lehrer was able to make us smile at our fears of nuclear annihilation - no mean feat! A clever, funny man with (for me anyway) a wonderfully superior manner.
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on 25 July 2017
I've heard many of the songs before and look forward to hearing some more. Good collection. Just ordered another copy, as a gift!
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on 23 August 2017
just as I expected
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on 11 April 2017
Excellent as ever
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on 21 September 2017
Loved it!
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on 31 October 2003
this is an excellent album - it had me laughing out loud and i'm still discovering new funny bits as i listen to it again. obviously the elements song is a must for any science teacher, which is why i bought the cd, but there's much more to it than just that song. the only odd thing is the repeated songs on the second half. but which album should i get next?
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on 20 April 2017
excellent collection with a few extras thrown in
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