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1979: Albert's (in Omaha) is lit!

Friday, September 12, 2008

here's a fine how-do-you-do

I've raved before about the 1970 Bell Telephone Hour recording of "The Mikado" in which Groucho Marx plays Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner of Titipu. Thanks to one of my pals here, I even have a copy of it.

For those who don't, I'll just say again that the first time I heard this, I thought it must have been re-written for Mr. Marx, when, in fact, it was not changed one bit. The show was carved down to an hour -- minus time for breaks and such -- by the expedient of trimming away much of what didn't directly concern Mr. Marx. I believe I approve, since it's always possible to find a complete performance, but how often can one get the chance to hear such an inspired bit of casting?

It is now possible for others to get the recording, in 320kbps mp3 files, from ReDiscovery, a music vendor who specializes in rescuing obscure classical performances and selling them at budget prices. This is in their "Paperback Classics" series, and is offered free of charge. Dang!

The company also reissues some of the "Basic Library of the World's Great Classics," which used to sell in grocery stores for a dollar, one album a week. We had a bunch of these in my house growing up, and I used to read the booklets that came bound into the box, and even listen to some of the anonymous performances. I saw the first nine releases of the collection at an estate sale last week, and had to restrain myself from buying them all again (having painfully forced myself to part with all but a tiny sample of them years ago in an effort to reduce the bulk of my records). ReDiscovery has done detective work and found out who the artists were who recorded most of them, and if you buy their records, you too will know. They're nice performances.

The link is above. Look down at the bottom of the page, and there's Groucho's doing the Mikado (with some help from Helen Traubel, Stanley Holloway, and some other people, including two guys named Gilbert and Sullivan). You'll be taken to a download page where you'll need to click on the two parts (side one and side two, I'll wager) to go to yet another page that will finally give you this wonderful recording. The link in this paragraph will tell you more about the cast and so forth. If any of you ever find a video recording of this TV special, please, please, let me know. (Same goes for Peter Schickele's performance of the PDQ Bach Concerto for Piano vs Orchestra on "Evening at Pops" around 1974-5.)

If you've never heard this classic tale of love and decapitation, this is a splendid introduction. And if you like it, do what they always advised at the end of every Classics Illustration adaptation and go out and get the whole thing. The parts they cut out are as good as what they left in. Go.

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