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The Residents - George And James CD (album) cover

GEORGE AND JAMES

The Residents

RIO/Avant-Prog


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js (Easy Money)
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3 stars During their long career the Residents' output has been inconsistent almost to the point of being bi- polar. When they are good they can amaze with their brilliant satirical look at rock, but when they are bad their songs just drone on and on and their cheap keyboard sounds and monotone vocals can become unbearably annoying. This record, George and James, is a little bit of both extremes. The Residents' approach to both of the musicians they pay tribute to on here, George Gershwin and James Brown, is highly unique, yet I don't think a lot of this record holds up well under repeat listens.

The Residents are best when they are deconstructing someone else's music. Their many Beatles satires and the album Third Reich n Roll are testament to how good they are at remolding someone else's work. It really is a lot of fun to listen to them take on a difficult subject like James Brown. I think very highly of James and I think his idea of building music from interlocking melodic ideas not only revolutionized much of RnB and rock, but also had a huge influence on progressive rock bands such as King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Yes and many others. It would have been easy for the Residents to make a gratuitous and disrespectful satire of James, but they are smart enough to do otherwise. It is hard to explain how they remake James on this album, but he becomes an odd cartoonish little man who sometimes seems lost and bemused by his own banter and endless prattling between songs. The crude 80s computer derived drawing of James on the cover says it all. On this album James has become like a little figure from an 80s computer game, scurrying about and making odd noises but never really getting anywhere. The James Brown songs on this album are a lot of fun at first, but like a lot of humor, they get old after awhile.

Of the three George Gershwin cuts, the best one by far is Rhapsody in Blue. This somewhat lengthy composition gives the Residents a lot to play around with and is really interesting because of the way the old familiar themes are twisted and truncated into something entirely different. Because of all the synth sounds on this piece it ends up sounding like other kitschy classical remakes by people like Tomita, Les Baxter and Martin Denny. This is the one cut on this album that really holds up well under repeat listenings. The other two Gershwin remakes sound like typical monotonish Residents filler material.

I would highly recommend this album for Residents fans, lovers of avant-rock, anyone who wants to hear a bizarre but tasteful satire on James Brown or people who enjoy kitschy synth remakes of classical standards.

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Send comments to js (Easy Money) (BETA) | Report this review (#173742)
Posted Thursday, June 12, 2008 | Review Permalink

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