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The Residents - Stars & Hank CD (album) cover


The Residents



4.33 | 33 ratings

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4 stars The Residents' short-lived "American Composer" series regrettably came to an early demise after only two albums, "George and James" (celebrating (?) the sounds of George Gershwin and James Brown), and this particular gem "Stars and Hank" (paying homage (?) to Hank Williams, Sr. and John Philip Sousa). Who else but The Residents could pair these four obviously non-related artists together? Unfortunately, for everyone, the album series wasn't as popular as hoped, so this quickly ended. Now, if you are a fan of any one of these four musicians, you may want to think twice about searching for these albums as The Residents are known to deconstruct any covers they do, and that is exactly what they do with "Stars and Hank". Yet, you are bound to get more than just a chuckle out of these destroyed covers.

"Stars and Hank" was released in 1986, 2 years after the "George and James" album. Even though the two albums belong to the same immoral series, "Stars and Hank" is the better of the two albums. The first side takes 5 tracks from the Williams songbook and, instead of staying with a singular style like they did on the first album in the series, they take his songs of Americana and send them through a variety of styles totally unlike their original forms, and in the process, deconstruct them and remake them into something quite different. "Hey, Good Lookin" gets all of the joy removed from it and emphasizes the repetitivness of it all. "Six More Miles", the one song that should have been dark, ends up being a fun and cheery song, "Kaw- Liga" gets turned into a danceable and, yes, even quite accessible, that should have fooled the public into thinking The Residents might actually have their best interests at heart. "Ramblin' Man" is also fun, while "Jambalaya" gets reduced to a depressing anthem. All five are examples of The Residents sense of humor and sarcasm, while also showing a bit of respect for the artist.

The second side is made up of a suite of 6 popular march themes by Sousa. Most of these will be familiar to you, but these tracks are more deconstructed than the ones on the first side. The familiar orchestral strains from the rousing original marches are replaced by kooky synthesizer effects. Beginning the suite (which collectively is called "Sousaside"), you get fairground crowd sounds, and "Nobles of the Mystic Shrine" gets successfully demoted from a regal march to memories of cotton candy and throwing up in a garbage can. "Stars and Stripes Forever" gets demolished by what sounds like a bad school marching band. The same treatments get done to the remainder of the songs, and all through it, you get background crowd noises, like off-cue clapping (as you would get from a crowd at a parade who have totally ignored the marching band to watch the scantily-dressed Miss Teen Cheesehead waving from a glittery float. The funny thing is, The Residents hit it spot on, depicting what these marches have been reduced to in popular culture.

I don't know if the first volume 1 had been done better like volume 2 that the series might have caught on better or not. If nothing else, it would have been interesting to see who else The Residents would have paired together, maybe David Bowie and Jimmie Osmond? (That actually happened, by the way, but it was done by some dunderheads in a corporate music office who wanted to promote two random artists and sent out a promo with the pairing). Anyway, this is something we'll never know, but it might make for a great forum topic "Which two unlikely artists would have been paired for The Residents'American Composer Series Vol. III"? Any takers?

TCat | 4/5 |


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