Shel Silverstein

Songs & Stories

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Songs & Stories (1978) -- the seventh long-player from the late great scatological renaissance poet, author, and satirist Shel Silverstein -- was issued six years after its predecessor, Freakin' at the Freakers Ball (1972). Both albums are decidedly adult in content and aptly demonstrate one of Silverstein's most distinguishing lyrical motifs when dealing with controversial material. Through innuendo, he primes listeners into filling in their own lurid deductions. This album features a baker's dozen of titles tackling a myriad of social taboos, including homosexual incest ("Father of a Boy Named Sue"), prolific marijuana ("The Smoke Off") and cocaine ("They Held Me Down") use, and even an interspecies love song ("The Cat and the Rat"). Silverstein's poetic mastery also spins with equal humor on the less confrontational, irony-laden, and sardonic tales "Diet Song," "Peanut Butter Sandwich," "Sure Hit Songwriter's Pen," and "Goodnight Little House Plant." While comparatively innocent in nature, these compositions retain the same irreverent spirit. Although Silverstein occasionally accompanies himself on acoustic guitar, the undeniable rhythms inherent in his lyrics provide a majority of the understated cadences as well as a quirky melodic sense. Likewise, there is a certain palpable comfort in his conversational style of delivery, ruminating line upon line, as if talking to an old acquaintance. This is particularly effective on "Never Bite a Married Woman on the Thigh," which contains the distinct elongation of the final syllable of each line. Another example can be found during the saga of the rock group called "Scum of the Earth," which is presented in a stream-of-consciousness recounting. The tune could easily be a follow-up to his lyrics for the Dr. Hook hit "On the Cover of the Rolling Stone." In 2002, Songs & Stories was issued on CD by Unfortunately, the audio was taken from a rather worn vinyl copy. The sound suffers immeasurably, almost to the point of being inaudible at times. This is due to the noise reduction that is used in masking the pops, clicks, and ticks inherent on the LP from which the compact disc is derived. Adding insult to injury, this is one of the very few Silverstein albums to have made the leap into the digital domain.

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