This is the sort of album that could be a big disappointment. But it isn't. It's a very special album for more than one reason. After all, how many numbers do you know about your willy? Having to secure it with, 'a bit of wire and a wingnut', has stuck in my mind since hearing the album in the '70s. The boozed up, 'Bout of sobriety', is a terrific romp.
Apart from Stanshall daftness, the other reason to treasure this album is that most of Traffic are playing on it. The presence of Winwood, Capaldi and Grech means that some numbers sound like refugees from a Traffic album.
If you have any interest in Stanshall, Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead will make you love him all the more.
After 30 years, this brilliant album is finally available on CD. This was Viv's first solo effort after leaving the Bonzo Dog Band, and he took the opportunity to explore types of music that the Bonzos couldn't or wouldn't. Don't expect "Sir Henry at Rawlinson End" either--this album is short on comedy and long on songwriting and experimentation. It's almost a world music album, with lots of unusual instruments and African drumming. Very powerful and wonderful stuff--it's a crime it was unavailable for so long.
I didn't ever believe we'd see this released after all these years. I remember playing it for the first time as a young teenager, having been used to the Bonzos for years and thinking - what the...? It grew on me. There is pain and a little joy in the lyrics, as well as a playful use of words. My favourite is the last track, 'Strange Tongues' which contains a Viv favourite line "Corpses peeping out of windows". And now crackle free! It is an indispensible part of the Bonzos history and an important step forward for the brilliant and sadly missed Viv. The musicians come from Viv's associations with Traffic, including Steve Winwood as well as his old and trusted friend, Neil Innes. Glad that the packaging reflects the orginal product - I hope it too comes with lyrics and Vivs original sleeve drawings. Is it too much to wish for some of the recordings he made prior to his death to make it to CD in the future?
...insane in the Brain". That relatively recent song wasn't written by Stanshall but it aptly describes this one of a kind album that has finally gotten a commercial CD release almost 40 years after it was made. Viv would not have been surprised by this for this remains one of the most highly personal albums ever made and one for which the 5 star rating is purely subjective. I bought this album back in 1974 when it first became available as an import (I already had all the other Bonzo albums). Friends and acquaintances either loved or hated it and the same holds true for today although the former is beginning to catch up with the latter. Here is Stanshall in all his demented glory, his faults and brillance on display for all to hear. How you take it or where you go from there is up to you.
The opening Afropop influenced DEAD EYES sets the tone from the get go that this recording will be "different and original like everybody else". Despite the schoolboy lasciviousness of HOW THE ZEBRA GOT HIS SPOTS and DWARF SUCCULENTS which remain both shocking and funny and the sad but wry observances of RED EYE and BOUT OF SOBRIETY, STRANGE TONGUES remains the true masterpiece of the album as it creates its own harrowing atmosphere of someone trying to come to grips with his inner demons. Once heard and processed it cannot be forgotten. Now I can throw away my CD-R taken from less than satisfactory downloads and have the original artwork and extras as well. "Stop the tape, I got spittle all over my moustache." VIVA VIV!.
It has taken 30 odd years for this Viv album to make it onto cd. The tracks that I loved as a teenager are a joy to hear again. Hear this and then go and see Three Bonzos and a Piano live (other Bonzos are available). We have sadly lost Viv so lets make the most of his pals while we can. WHY CAN"T I BE DIFFERENT AND ORIGINAL LIKE EVERYONE ELSE?