Even in an overwhelming discography like Eugene Chadbourne's, an album like this one doesn't turn up often. Forget the tape experiments and shaky live recordings that make up the bulk of his House of Chadula releases (which do have their merits, mind you). Now Return Us to Normal is a pristine studio recording from 1979, long lost and unearthed in 2002. Back in the day, Chadbourne often duetted with Randy Hutton whenever he came back to Calgary (by then he was living in New York City). And when the stars were well aligned, CBC engineer Wade McGregor would help the pair sneak into the high-priced studio for free. This particular reel of tape has been digitally remastered and sounds like it was recorded yesterday. Chadbourne plays prepared guitar, dobro, and a 12-string. Randy Hutton sticks to an acoustic six-string guitar he handles very well. Both men were strongly influenced by Derek Bailey's revolutionary playing and it sounds like they grew into avant-garde music together. This CDR presents three extended improvisations, three shorter numbers (including a "Slide Workout"), and is capped by two solo pieces from Chadbourne. Now Return Us to Normal doesn't top The Guitar Lesson with Henry Kaiser, still the Doctor's best album of acoustic guitar duets, but it stands as an enjoyable platter of demanding free improv and his best-sounding sessions of the '70s.
AllMusic Review by François Couture