Col. Jubilation B. Johnson

Moldy Goldies: Colonel Jubilation B. Johnston and His Mystic Knights Band and Street Si

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In 1966, when Bob Dylan asked producer Bob Johnston to help conjure the booze-soaked Salvation Army band sound that kicked off the album Blonde on Blonde with its stumble-bum arrangement of "Rainy Day Women #12 & #35," he probably had no idea what he was starting. Johnston (here performing as Col. Jubilation B. Johnson), for reasons lost to history, became so enamored of the shambolic sound of "Rainy Day Women" that he and the Nashville session crew who played on Blonde on Blonde used it as the basis for an entire album, the obscure, one-shot Moldy Goldies, credited to Col. Jubilation B. Johnston & His Mystic Knight Band and Street Singers. Featuring covers of eleven pop hits of the day (including "Rainy Day Women"), Moldy Goldies turns each song into a massive practical joke, with nearly every number featuring addled march time drumming, bleating horns, incongruent sound effects, and vocalists desperately trying to keep a straight face amidst the chaos (and occasionally failing, collapsing into gales of laughter on at least two numbers). Greil Marcus described one track by writing "a demented hillbilly utters "The Name Game" as if he's sure it holds the secrets of the universe," and there's simply no improving on the accuracy of that statement; elsewhere, "Leaning on a Lamp Post" sounds as if the Village Idiot had been brought into the studio after knocking back a pint of Thunderbird, "Bang Bang" is punctuated by machine gun fire, errant slide whistles dominate "Monday Monday," and the horn section invokes Stephen Foster while the rest of the band staggers through "Hang on Sloopy." A dazzling anti-masterpiece if there ever was such a thing, Moldy Goldies may be the most engagingly off-putting album ever released by a major record label, capturing a number of gifted musicians sabotaging their own performances for a hearty laugh. So how come this still hasn't been reissued on CD?

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