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STARS & HANK

The Residents

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars This album marks the transition into the pattern of music The Resident would fall into for at least much of the nineties (I lost track of them after a series of less than thrilling albums). Much like what the eyeball guys would do later on "The King & I", they pick a couple of composers and deconstruct their music into their own weird vision. But unlike the Elvis project, here they seem to actually like their subjects.

The first side of the LP covers Hank Williams. Now I don't like much country music, but I was familiar with most of the original versions of these songs. The Residents take them and make them all ominous and eerie, whale making each sound discretely different from each other (something they didn't attain with the above mentioned "King" album, and even less on the live show that went with it).

While I find the renditions here all brilliant, I am especially astounded by Kaw-Liga, which is set over a very familiar bass line (Michael Jackson's Billie Jean, believe it or not), and Jambalaya, with just a simple spooky rhythm track and mostly spoken lyrics.

The second side, featuring the music of John Phiilip Sousa, is no less incredible. Set as a marching band, with a strange sounding drum corps introducing and transitioning each song, The Residents take the familiar marches and warp them into mind bending keys, using the vintage synthesizers they would keep on with to lesser effect for at least the next decade. The result is like the soundtrack to a nightmare. It's positively entralling.

I was obsessed with this album when it came out in 1986, and played my first copy to oblivion. I still get overjoyed when I listen to the LP occasionally now (I have yet to buy the CD).

It's a work of genius. One of the finest albums from this mysterious band.

Report this review (#745425)
Posted Friday, April 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
admireArt
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Whoever thought that Hank Williams , or even better yet, John Philip Sousa will never have a mention in the Prog-Kingdom will be proven wrong by no one else but "The Residents"!

Who else could transpose the country music of Mr. Williams far away of its picket fences, into the realms of the underworld of Prog, the RIO/AV world.

A playful rendition for both composers, with an unusual empathy for their pen-written characters and music.... If it were not The Residents, one could easily call it a "tribute", as it sounds. (the same as with The Beatles-Residents "covers"). Enhancing the already there "surrealistic" feeling of the original Hank William's songs, they move around the "subtle" rules of his very distinguishable musical idiom.

Anyone who has heard country music (the Canterbury's did) notices this almost constant weirdness (to call it somehow), in timing and structure, and of course in lyrics, so by match The Residents have a field day!

On the other side Mr. Sousa's work is "acted up" as a march procession of his melodies, that keep on rolling without mercy, but never abusing the conceptual part of the original tunes. And that is exactly what makes this work (one of the few) more approachable and easy to listen to (for outsiders, of course), than the rest of the very extensive Resident's catalogue. It's virtue is the withholding of excesses, in favor of austerity (Resident-like, of course) with superb musical arrangements, that let course to the already there ORIGINAL musical language of the 3 entities involved.

The Resident's page is one of those, where my ratings almost match with the other "raters", so we 10 people can't be wrong!!

****

Report this review (#1044123)
Posted Wednesday, September 25, 2013 | Review Permalink
LearsFool
COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars Past "The Commercial Album", The Residents have been in an era of hit-or-miss, love-it-or-hate-it, take-it-or-leave- it albums. But the second in a series of albums of the anonymous kooks covering great composers and musicians who came before them, here Hank Williams Sr. and John Philip Sousa, is a rare and perhaps only masterpiece from them past 1980. Side One covers Hank I, the founding father of country music and one of its vanguards even decades after his untimely death. The Residents wonderfully cover a few classics of his into variously weird or eerie directions. Those tracks given the latter treatment, such as "Six More Miles", are the major shining moments of this record. Side Two redoes Sousa, the American March King, and this is where things go masterfully off the rails. Now long tried and true patriotic marches are turned into horrorshows done in the massively whacked and parodic fashion as some of the covers on "The Third Reich 'N' Roll", done in an ever seguing and theme sharing suite style. As well, samples of crowds and sirens figure. This is The Residents at their best, a perfect companion to their legendary second album and its own gem.
Report this review (#1319007)
Posted Tuesday, December 2, 2014 | Review Permalink
TCat
COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Team
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?

Report this review (#2249362)
Posted Saturday, September 7, 2019 | Review Permalink

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