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Easy Money
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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.

Report this review (#173742)
Posted Thursday, June 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars This album was to be the first volume in a series of albums by The Residents called "American Composers Series" which was be a long string of albums released from 1984 to 2000 profiling and deconstructing songs from a group of famous songwriters. There just wasn't enough money to fund this expensive endeavor and only 2 albums were released. This album features two very different composers that have nothing to do with each other.....George Gerswin and James Brown....yep, there you go, The Residents offbeat humor once again.

So, yeah, deconstructing George Gerswin and James Brown, sounds like a difficult job to strip selected works from these excellent prolific composers down to the basic bare bones played mostly on keyboards and electronics, and it's an excess of minimalism, another example of The Residents humor. All dynamics, feeling and flourish ripped away to produce flat sounding music performed badly all on purpose. Quite hilarious at first, but it grows old long before it's over. This is humor taken to extreme to where it isn't even funny anymore, but you got to fill space right, so it continues and the joke remains throughout the album.

"Rhapsody in Blue" maintains most of the main themes which many will recognize throughout the 10 minute deconstruction of this normally emotional and beautiful composition. It's all played cheaply on cheesy keyboards, kind of lampooning electronic artists like Tomita and Wendy Carlos who did the same kind of thing, but were completely serious about it. This classical/jazz fusion masterpiece becomes one of the cheesiest songs ever. They also destroy "I Got Rhythm" as they strip away all of the rhythm and most of the syncopation from this jazz standard. Then they take on the famous aria from "Porgy and Bess" called "Summertime" and remove all of the sultriness and emotion from the song and turn it into blandness with a lot of dissonance mixed in. At least there is some interplay with a piano here.

The 2nd part of the album takes on side one of the album "James Brown at the Apollo". All of the fun and emotion and excitement is sucked right out of the vocals and delivered in a deep voice in complete deadpan stereo for you deconstructive enjoyment. Again, very funny at first, and after that only funny because it continues on all the way through without letting up. This is what James Brown would have sounded like if he had no soul. In fact, the background singers have more soul in this album than the fake James Brown. Oh, and this version of James Brown can't sing either. The crowd noise is also electronic.

I can't say this is a very loving tribute and maybe it's only making fun of the many bad tribute albums out there, which is what I tend to believe. Whatever it is, it is very funny, but it wears out quickly. Maybe it would have been better to have an album full of tributes to different artists done poorly instead of just choosing 2 artists at a time. The next album in the series features.....can you guess? John Philip Sousa and Hank Williams. Yeah I know. Anyway, this is more of a novelty item than anything else. Makes me wonder what other artists were going to get The Residents treatment....I'm sure Dark Side of the Moon would have been in there somewhere. Sorry guys....only 2 stars this time....but the first time around, it is a funny study in minimalism, but after the first time, it is only annoying.

Report this review (#1392268)
Posted Thursday, April 2, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album is The Residents in full "swing" covering James Brown and George Gershwin The positive with this albums is they way The Residents do Gershwin, where they still use alot of emu emulators which they had for the last years, and this works very well until you play the James Brown side, Which at first listen is a very funny one, but it grows irritating and in the end falls flat (imho) Again, if they could only get the complete "American Composer Serie" pRESERVED Boxset of it all, My dice would be much higher, based on some excerpts released on the various uweb`s and 7"s ____Here they do much more Justice all together as a boxset
Report this review (#2691574)
Posted Saturday, February 12, 2022 | Review Permalink

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