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The Rutles • The Rutles (40th Anniversary) [LP+7″]

Ouch! THE RUTLES’ landmark anthology, The Rutles, turned 40 this year and nobody noticed. Was it because of another band’s bigger anniversary? Was it because of bad management? I’ll tell you what I think: I think it was the trousers.

For those wondering just who in the world The Rutles were, well, they were a legend. A living legend. A legend that will live long after other living legends have died. Okay, they were actually a parody of The Beatles. The idea was cooked up by Eric Idle (of Monty Python) and Neil Innes (of The Bonzo Dog Band), who wrote a mock rockumentary (a mockumentary, if you will) that was produced for an NBC-TV special by Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels. That show, All You Need Is Cash, played on television in March 1978 and this record was written and recorded for it by Innes. Like the show itself, the songs parodied the history of The Fab Four by tackling the different types of tunes The Beatles wrote. So, for instance, there’s a song that recalls “I Am the Walrus” entitled “Piggy in the Middle,” or an Indian flavored, sitar clad tune called “Nevertheless” that recalls George Harrison’s forays into middle Eastern territory. It’s all quite clever. Neil Innes’ lyrics are funny and yet still an homage to John, Paul, George and even Ringo’s songwriting. And the arrangements are so spot-on, you would almost think you stumbled upon some unearthed outtakes. These Pre-Fab Four tunes are played by Innes and a handful of musicians who knew the foundational Beatles records well enough to craft twenty songs that bring a smile to the face and to the ears of any fan.

This time the record is presented by, of all labels, Parlophone (The Beatles’ original UK label)! The Rutles was originally released by Warner Bros. in both the US and England, but here in 2018 Warners and Parlophone are both part of Universal, so we get the album cover and labels sporting the latter’s logos and look. Sonically, the album itself is presented as the original was (14 songs), though the mastering job is much clearer than the 1978 issue and even better than the 1990 CD. That CD gave us twenty Rutles tunes – the fourteen from the album and another six that were featured in the TV special but not on the record. To remedy that, included here is a 7″ EP with the other six songs that made the CD but not the original album, in a picture sleeve that’s a parody of a mid ’60s Japanese Beatles record. Also included is the original color booklet, which is a fun read, and an extra special insert of a mock press release. Strangely, the typography on the inside gatefold and in the booklet is different from the originals, but the artwork is otherwise presented fairly crisply so a change in typefaces shouldn’t be a big deal. (If you’re a normal person, which I am clearly not.)

If you’ve never watched All You Need Is Cash, which predates This Is Spinal Tap by six or seven years, it’s good for many laughs and you can get or rent it on DVD and Blu-ray. If you want to enjoy The Rutles’ music, the Rhino CD can be found online or you can treat yourself to this fab 12″+7″ set. For Beatles fans with a sense of humor, it’s not to be missed.

4/5 (Parlophone PCS 7018, 1978/2018)

Dead Men Walking • Easy Piracy

deadmenwalking_band_400pxwideI’m not gonna start this by trying to persuade you that Dead Men Walking are a supergroup, because they’re not—the last group that fit that description hasn’t made a record in over 25 years, and two of the guys aren’t even available to record again even if they wanted to. Besides, calling any group of musicians made up of people already known for other bands they’ve been in is just plain lazy. The only reason you read me using the term is because it’s already been used to describe these guys.

Made up of Captain Sensible from The Damned, Mike Peters of The Alarm, Slim Jim Phantom of Stray Cats, and Chris Cheney of The Living End, Dead Men Walking sound like a rock band with a lot of rockabilly and punk edges. And that’s what you’d expect considering the bands that got them to where they are today. There are a slew of great songs among the fifteen on Easy Piracy, the group’s first actual release. “The Weather Song” sounds like a rockin’ acoustic Damned song (it’s one of the few sung by Sensible), deadmenwalking_300pxwhile “Damned Damned Damned” starts off sounding like a take on Ramones’ “Teenage Lobotomy” until the melody kicks in. The lead off track “Rock and Roll Kills” has some great lyrics, like many of the songs here, while “Whatever Turns You On (Will Turn on You)” isn’t too shabby and wins the Best Song Title award for the album. I can go for “Dr. Henry,” too, but I need to do a little more research to tell you what it’s about. “Song for Eddie,” though, is definitely about rockabilly rebel Eddie Cochran (not the Heinz hit of yesteryear).

You can definitely hear each Dead Men Walking guy’s contribution to the band’s sound (especially if you already know their other bands), and that’s actually a good thing. Too often these “bands made up of dudes you know from other bands” suffer from trying to sound like “Triumph meets April Wine in an alley while Chilliwack channels Loverboy and Bryan Adams gets high.” (A big hello going out to all of my Canadian readers!)

I think this is an album I’ll listen to more than a handful of times. Let’s face it—how often can you say that these days?

3/5 (Slimstyle)

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