At Audio Affair we know that when one speaks of must have albums the artists that instantly pop into mind can be extremely subjective. There have of course been mainstream hits – you cannot avoid the ubiquitous Scissor Sisters & Katy Perry’s. However one album that has been quietly filling the shelves of discerning consumers of both music and comedy is the April release of the Tom Lehrer Collection. Certainly, the music has been heard elsewhere before and in much more comprehensive form, however the must have quality is the inclusion of a DVD featuring the only ever television performances of this reclusive genius.
The Tom Lehrer story is an interesting one; this purveyor of “intellectual lowbrow” musical comedy started his professional life as a Mathematics professor; at Harvard he made his way into music by playing gigs for his students. Although his first albums were low circulation (and self funded) they were so well received that through shared records and home taping he soon became a cult phenomenon. Despite this his career was brief; his charisma and talent aside he intensely disliked the repetition of playing the same songs night after night and soon returned to whence he came – academia.
In spite of his relatively small output he has had an appreciable influence on musical comedy since and continues to be popular amongst his fans – the limited reissues of his records sell out and when they find their way onto ebay can sell for three figure sums. If you’re new to Lehrer this is the perfect way to make an introduction – the compact disk features a fine selection of his best-loved recordings and will guarantee to titillate the literate. If you’re an old fan you will most likely own all of the recordings already, but it will be worth its modest price tag if only for the accompanying DVD with its previously unreleased television performance. In our opinions a worthy addition to any collection.
What it’s like –
It’s Gilbert and Sullivan but more relevant, Flanders and Swann but ruder, Weird Al Yankovic but more intelligent.
When to play it –
After dinner if you’ve got friends round and the wine has been flowing freely. Warm summer mornings, cold winter afternoons.