Firesign Theatre

Forward Into the Past

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Through the mid-'70s, Firesign Theatre had already left a fairly impressive legacy, with nine albums worth of surreal satire tempting the curious -- more than enough material to justify a compilation of the troupe's best material. The only problem is, what to select? A good part of the nine albums were more extended pieces that tended to work best in their entirety, with threads from one sketch playing a part in others on the same album. Forward Into the Past does a fairly good job of selecting bits that seem mostly coherent when taken out of full context, though some (like "Let's Eat") will be pretty much nonsense to those hearing them here for the first time. The inability to adequately excerpt much of the group's material is demonstrated pretty clearly by the fact that "The Further Adventures of Nick Danger" pretty much always appears in its entirety, all 28-plus minutes of it; in fact, it takes up all of side three, fully a quarter of this two-record set. At the time, it was a nice way to get an overview of Firesign Theatre's career up until that point, but it's debatable how useful it is decades on; since its initial release it's been superseded by a newer and longer two-CD set, Shoes for Industry! The Best of the Firesign Theatre, and the first four albums (all of which are worth owning in their entirety) have been cleaned up and reissued on CD at a reasonable price. On the other hand, Forward Into the Past is bookended by two tracks released on single in 1969 that are previously unavailable elsewhere.