For his fifth full-length Atlantic Records album, Bobby Short looked back 30 years to create the genre exercise The Mad Twenties. It turned out to be a wonderful evocation of the 1920s that restored that roaring decade's sense of musical abandon. Short, always a bravura performer, was abetted by appropriately jazzy Dixieland-style arrangements by conductor Phil Moore and a small horn-and-rhythm band that knew the music and played it with the right spirit. The instrumental passages were full of the sound of the jazz age, and Short was completely in the spirit of the music as a vocalist, even affecting a croon on "Sweet So and So" and "I'm Bringing a Red, Red Rose" as if he were Rudy Vallée singing through a megaphone in his Ivy League tones, and plaintively handling the recitation in "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" as if he were Ted Lewis smiling through his tears. Such performances bespoke a thorough understanding of the style of '20s pop and jazz music. This was no attempt to update an older style, unlike so much of '50s light pop; Short re-enlivened the '20s by playing its music with the irreverence and verve with which it was played originally. It was hard to imagine what record buyers of 1959 could be expected to make of the album, but on its own terms, it was terrific.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann