Neil Innes

Taking Off/The Innes Book of Records

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It may be that Neil Innes will always be most acclaimed for his work within the Bonzo Dog Band and the Rutles, particularly in the United States, where nothing else he's done has even gotten the cult audiences that those two bands did. Here paired together on one CD, his 1977 solo album, Taking Off, and its 1979 follow-up, The Innes Book of Records, might not be his best or funniest work, but they're certainly respectable efforts, even if they do tilt the focus away from his most riotous spoofs and toward his more conventional singer/songwriter talents. On each album, his skill for gently ribbing pastiches of a wide range of pop and rock styles is in abundance, though Taking Off (with fellow Rutle John Halsey doing some of the drums) is more musically satisfying. Taking Off covers a lot of ground in its slightly wacky tunes, from hoedown country ("Crystal Balls," which opens with the memorable line "I got my hand up the skirt of Mother Nature") and gospel-rock ("God Is Love") to a moving ballad to an inflatable doll ("Randy Raquel"), a cheery murder mini-epic ("Drama on a Saturday Night"), and easy listening pop ("La Vie en Rose"), as well as "Shangri-La," which was eventually redone in the 1990s on the Rutles' second album. It doesn't all border on satire, however; much of it's pleasingly melodic, if wry, observational-oriented pop/rock that shows Innes to be a pretty able fellow traveler in the steps of fellow British icons Ray Davies and Paul McCartney. While The Innes Book of Records is similar to Taking Off, it suffers a little in comparison, mostly due to a more mainstream, occasionally AOR-ish dated late-'70s production feel. It still has enjoyably affectionate, if low-key, knock-ups of late-'60s John Lennon-penned Beatles songs ("Montana Cafe" will find favor with Rutles admirers), lightly disco-fied '70s British pop ("Here We Go Again"), actual disco ("Amoeba Boogie," one of the least effective tracks), British music hall, reggae ("Human Race"), Tin Pan Alley ("Spontaneous"), and Latin-lite easy listening ("Etcetera"). And there's still room for some pretty funny lyrics, à la "You're so spontaneous, please don't ever change."

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