Prior to his notable presence as the spiritual figurehead and founding member of the funky, folky Fugs, Tuli Kupferberg gained indirect notoriety as the real life "guy who jumped off of the Brooklyn Bridge and lived," immortalized in Allen Ginsberg's epic Howl. Following a few sporadic Fugs reunions in the '80s, Kupferberg was signed to Shimmy Disc, which eventually issued his second solo album, Tuli & Friends, on vinyl in 1989. In 1991 a CD was issued by Shimmy Disc Europe, including Kupferberg's out-of-print 1966 spoken-word solo debut, No Deposit, No Return. Filling out the rest of the disc were ten tracks from the 1989 Tuli & Friends release. According to the discographical annotation on the rear tray card, the rest of the LP was to " be included as extra tracks on Tuli's forthcoming CD, Tuli & the Fuxxons." This title was never subsequently issued, leaving the only CD rendering of Tuli & Friends incomplete. Much of the brilliant satire and faux naïveté that made Kupferberg's contributions to the Fugs so endearing run rampant throughout Tuli & Friends. His inimitably indiscreet storytelling and reality checks have, if anything, been fortified by time and temperament. "Vanity Fair" is a biting parody of the '80s media moguls who devoured any and all publications, leaving them as shells -- and shills -- of their former selves. Sung to the melody of "Scarborough Fair," the lyrics include haunting verses such as: "Are you going to Vanity Fair?/Murdoch, Hearst, Condé and Nast/Remember me to one who works there/She once had ideals in the past." Likewise there are no sacred cows. Kupferberg has the chutzpah to marry the melody of Al Jolson's signature tunes "Swanee" and "My Mammy" with a spate of lyrically sardonic jabs at the pseudo-mysticism of Eastern religious icons on "Swami." "I'd walk a million footras/For one of your Sutras/ My Swaaaami" -- pretty much says it all. The most exposing and unnerving track is also the finest work on the album: Kupferberg's a cappella reading of "Morning, Morning." The tune was first featured on the 1966 Fugs Second Album for the legendary ESP label. Since then, Richie Havens, Long John Baldry, and Yo la Tengo's bassist James McNew's one-man band, Dump, are among those to have also recorded it. Here the song has inherited the wisdom of age and Kupferberg's revealing revisitation is an emotive triumph. As difficult as the multifarious Kupferberg is to pin down, Tuli & Friends stands as a most accurate attempt.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer