Friday, March 5, 2010

Deep within the ruined palaces of Addis Ababa, devotional bats chant in an intoxicating symphony of piano, horns and handclaps. Scientists snort eucalyptus and feed capsules of ancient sound to caged hyenas.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Made up of students from three New York schools for the mentally challenged, the Exceptional Citizens Band was the brainchild of Dr. Robert Ianacone, who assembled the group in 1972 to record an album and perform at the Special Olympics in Los Angeles. Dr. Ianacone had spent many years analyzing the relationship between intellectual handicaps and musical aptitude, and he firmly believed that mental handicaps could be circumvented when dealing with musically talented children. His exact method is outlined in the book 7 Ways To Sidestep Cerebral Shortcomings Symphonically.

The project was the first of its kind and it proceeded brilliantly. In the span of just four weeks the students rehearsed all the material, recorded the album, performed three concerts, and took a field trip to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. The accolades poured in. The Gainesville Sun declared "The capacity of the retarded to express themselves through music is truly amazing! Listening to 'One Fine Morning', it's hard to believe that it was performed by people so handicapped." New York Senator Jacob Javits said the record was an excellent example of the ability for the mentally challenged to reach their fullest potential when given the right opportunity. "Hopefully the Democrats in the Senate can draw inspiration from this." he added with a wink.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Monday, March 1, 2010

Bruno Gerussi - Morning High  (Fuzzy Love, 1971)

This offbeat collaboration by two Canadian entertainers and a reclusive poet was borne out of the CBC radio show Words And Music hosted by actor Bruno Gerussi in the early 1970's. The weekly show featured interviews, music and monologues done before a live audience in a small theater. Tommy Ambrose was a regular singing guest. "We had an instinct for each other's work" Gerussi said. "I would read a monologue and Tommy would come up with a song to follow it that fit perfectly into the mood we established." The monologues were written by Gary Dunford, a former Toronto newspaperman who became a recluse by choice in the Toronto wilderness. His pieces covered a wide range of emotions but all of them offered wit, immediacy, and a sense of slightly crazy, slightly surreal truth.

When Gigi saw Noodles on the album cover she defecated all over the studio.

The album followed the same formula as the radio show: a mix of music and spoken monologues. Toronto musicians Doug Riley and Rick Wilkens wrote the arrangements and filled the studio with talented local backup players. Unfortunately most of the songs intending to showcase Tommy Ambrose's singing chops are uninspired covers of James Taylor, George Harrison and the like. Only two of the songs on the album were original compositions written for Ambrose, and they are like awful ballads from a bad broadway musical. Click here if you don't believe me.

The five monologues on the album include topics such as what a dog ponders when it's raining outside and what it's like to be a tree in the middle of a city's concrete sterility. You might find these enjoyable if you're into spoken-word stuff that uses dated 60's lingo, or if you're from Winnipeg (click here if you meet those criteria). In my opinion the monologues would be more palatable if they had been set to music, as was the case with the delightfully whimsical "Morning High", where Duford's poetry, Gerussi's delivery, and Wilken's musical arrangement all come together perfectly.