After the unceremonious cancellation of the short-lived Stan Freberg Show -- CBS Radio's last episodic comedy program -- Freberg's record label Capitol issued several LP's worth of material gleaned from throughout the series 15-week run. The Best of the Stan Freberg Shows (1957) is one such compilation containing nearly 45 minutes of the finest and funniest moments. Joining Freberg -- whose interaction with his troupe was like that of a ringmaster -- are voice-over legends June Foray, Peter Leeds, Hans Conried, the incomparable Daws Butler, as well as musical direction from the one and only Billy May and the CBS Radio Orchestra. While obviously subjective as to what constitutes "the best" of the lot, overall these selections reveal Freberg's uniformly inventive "theater of the mind" antics. Proving that classic parody is ageless, "Elderly Man River" is a poke at needless censorship. The type that can irrevocably destroy or alter legitimate works of art. So, as not to insult the more senior members of the listening audience, Freberg is incessantly corrected from singing the offensive lines in the show tune "Ol' Man River" by the network censor, Mr. Twidley, who is brought to life by Butler. "Face the Funnies" is a bizarre twist on serious panel discussion shows that would bring well known newsmakers and reporters to talk about the most pertinent topics of the day. Here, the pundits are educated in the likes of L'il Orphan Annie, Li'l Abner, Tarzan and Dick Tracy. Another not-to-be-missed example of Freberg's dauntless excursions into "theater of the mind" are the made-for-radio acrobatic antics of the "Zazaloph Family." While the cast could pull off short joke-filled skits, it is the longer, more involved works such as the spoof of the typical western on "Bang Gunleigh, U.S. Marshall Field," or the cinematic "Gray Flannel Hatful of Teen-Age Werewolves" which surreally blends the plots of three then-current motion pictures into a sci-fi-meets-Madison Avenue epic. Yet it is the pseudo-western "Incident at Los Voraces" that may be Freberg's most ambitious production. The segment ravaged the excess of the burgeoning Las Vegas strip as well as the cold war. In fact, it was considered so controversial by the network, it had to be re-written and re-taped in front of a live audience before being aired. Included here is the edited version, although the original can be heard as part of the inaugural broadcast on the Stan Freberg Show, Vol. 1 (1996) box set.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer