"I want to be a dentist..." - Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
The perfect title for a delightful look at the popular music scene some forty years ago. Pop covers from a jazz ensemble? Least we forget that during the formative years of jazz with such icons as Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman, jazz was in fact the popular music of the day. While I have perused two other recordings doing their own riff on a similar concept, neither had the eclectic set list and the organic appeal that has The Misfit Toys and Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is head and shoulders above other slightly more alternative ensembles with a deceptively subtle commercial appeal smoldering just below the surface.
Every fiber of my sophisticated jazz being screams "NO!" when I catch the smoking hot banjo on "Green-Eyed Lady" which is so deliciously evil from a jazz purist p.o.v that I simply have to hit repeat. This would be the tune that is the harmonic ground zero for the Misfit Toys or as they describe in the liner notes, "...a slightly twisted, pop influenced, improvised music with hints of bluegrass in a world fusion jazz context." In other words, they don't have a clue either...you can't pigeon hole great music. The somewhat ambient trip of "Bless The Beasts And The Children" is perhaps the perfect vehicle for Dan Moore on vibes, marimba, percussion, bells and programming while Matt Wilson does his thing on drums. Wilson is a master technician with no real wheelhouse as he can play anything and lay down a righteous groove no matter the lyrical path the ensemble takes. Robert Paredes who plays clarinet and recently lost his long and hard fought battle with cancer turns in some epic performances best described as Benny Goodman on steroids which includes his some more subtle nuances on "Hello It's Me."
Purists may cringe with some ridiculously tasty reharms of "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree" and Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" doing time on the same release but herein lies the beauty.
Melody...The power of a simple yet incredibly beautiful and rich melody can be transformed with rhythmic clarity be it the country-tinged ska of the Chicago hit "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" or the funk infused hoedown of Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City" by a group of harmonic misfits just trying to have a little fun.
The entertainment factor alone is 5 stars...Everything else is just gravy.
Tracks: Geronimo's Cadillac; Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?; Alone Again; Living For The City; Boston Marathon; Ironman; Drugs Introduction; Drugs; Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree; Hello It's Me; Mama Told Me Not To Come; Green-Eyed Lady; Grand Illusion; Bless The Beasts And The Children.
Personnel: Paul Elwood: lead vocals, harmony vocals, banjo, bowed banjo, chatty boy; Dan Moore: vibes, marimba, keyboards, loops, theremin, MIDI marimba, malleKAT, percussion; Matt Wilson: drums, percussion, speaking vocals, loops, hippie maracas, final piano chord (Tie A Yellow Ribbon...); Robert Paredes: clarinet; Matt Grundstad: harmony vocals; lead vocals; Liesa Parko: chatty girl; Mark Weiger; oboe, english horn.