Stan Freberg

EMI Comedy Classics: The Madness of Stan Freberg

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Satirist Stan Freberg's eponymous CBS Radio show only lasted a criminally short 15 weeks. After its run, Freberg's record label, Capitol, issued several LP's worth of material taken from the show. This CD boasts wall-to-wall highlights from the final two episodes -- which were, by in large "best-ofs" containing reenactments of audience-requested bits, sketches, and song parodies. Freberg was joined by an all-star cast of luminaries that included voice-over talents June Foray, Peter Leeds, Hans Conried, and the incomparable Daws Butler. The musical direction came from another top-shelf attraction as Billy May was behind the baton, arranging and conducting the CBS Radio Orchestra. "Elderly Man River" is a poke at unnecessary censorship and what modern consumers might call "political correctness." In the bit, Freberg is incessantly corrected from singing so-called offensive lyrics within the established and traditional show tune "Old Man River." Freberg's nemesis -- one fictitious censor named Twidley -- is animated by the always understated Butler. One of the more involved "theater of the mind" pieces is the take-off of the radio western on "Bang Gunleigh, U.S. Marshall Field" and the over the top production values incorporated into "Incident at Los Voraces." In the latter, Freberg aims his barbs at the blatant cultural wasteland that was concurrently emerging as the infamous Las Vegas strip. He marries that with good ol' fashioned Cold War scare tactics and voila, the team created a concept so controversial by the network, it had to be rewritten and re-taped in front of a live audience before being aired. Foray shines through as "Miss Jupiter," and the schizophrenic voice of Freberg plays both himself and the "Abominable Snow Man." Another highlight is a re-creation of the gang's hit novelty single "Banana Boat (Day-O)." While Freberg's entry into the EMI Comedy Classics series is a worthy one, those wishing to hear the complete run -- unedited and just as it aired -- will find it well worth their time to locate both the First 7 Episodes (1997) and the Final 8 Episodes(1997) box sets.

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