Orson Welles

Begatting of the President

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This is a one-joke production, but what a joke it is, and what a voice delivering it. Orson Welles has been at the center of some of the most famous film and radio productions in history, as well as plenty of obscure marvels such as this attack on the American political scene of the late '60s, released on the Media Arts label with one trillionth the impact of Citizen Kane and his sad little sled. Revisited only a few weeks after the late-2005 death of Eugene McCarthy, one of the main characters from the chapters of American history depicted on this LP, the virtuoso Welles performance holds up with a bittersweet majesty, the text itself impressive if on the whole overcooked to the extent of an 18-hour French cassoulet. That many hours or more of material could be concocted from any subject given this sort of treatment, the Biblical makeover with the mockingly solemn narration: "And it came to pass that on the very first day, the record critic held the recording of Orson Welles in his sweaty hand and declared that it is good." Factor in as many puns and elbow-in-the-ribs references to topical material, an actual "L.B. Jenesis" as described in the opening selection, and it is sometimes too good, a bubble bath of social snickery without a drain-out valve. The background music credited to Luchi de Jesus is rich and classy; but of course the tapping of a spoon sounds that good next to the voice of Orson Welles. His rich palette of tonal inflections, treading authoritatively over the apex of the music bed, at times approaches the surreal heights of a Firesign Theatre album.

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