Various Artists

Listen to the Banned

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This collection of wittily salacious songs encompasses familiar personalities (Mae West), longtime musical legends (Cliff Edwards, George Formby, Sophie Tucker, Gertrude Lawrence), and less well-known figures such as Billy Cotton & His Band, Randolph Sutton, and Art Fowler, doing songs that could be considered risqué. The only problem with that notion is that Formby, in particular, is so guileless and offhanded that the censorable nature of "With My Little Ukulele in My Hand" is mostly in the mind of the listener; not so Mae West's "A Guy What Takes His Time," which is an excellent and supremely suggestive musical piece by the actress/singer. What makes this collection different from the various risqué blues collections familiar to American blues and nostalgia buffs is that most of what's here is British in origin (such as "All Poshed Up With My Daisies in My Hand" by Charlie Higgins), and comes from a music hall tradition that, today, seems rather remote. Of course, ASV is a nostalgia label, and the fact that the British dance bands of the era felt they could and should do material such as "She Was Only a Postman's Daughter, But...." will be a pleasant revelation, but the material will mostly still seem tame (and least in tone) next to the risqué blues of the period. In this company, Jimmie Rodgers' "What's It" is as raunchy as it gets. The sound is fairly good -- little of the contents have been totally restored, so listeners do get source and surface noise, but nothing to interfere with the listening, and the annotation is reasonably thorough; there's obviously precious little extant information on some of the artists represented.

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