George Formby

Very Best of George Formby: 20 Great Songs [Prism]

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Veteran producer Tony Watts was behind this budget collection of George Formby's work, mostly from the 1930s -- which represented Formby's prime -- and the quality shows, in the good-quality transfers as well as a decent essay/overview of Formby's career. The selection is a good one, touching all of the expected bases ("The Window Cleaner," etc.), all astonishingly catchy novelty and music hall tunes, mostly with a double-entendre element. And 70 years on it's still a marvel to hear Formby's skills on the banjo ukulele come through on these 78-rpm released sides (check out the break on "Mother, What'll I Do Now" -- his playing there, by itself, is practically worth the price of the CD). Indeed, the only flaw one can find is minor -- one wishes that Watts had reached out to one of Formby's most unexpectedly ironic numbers, "Imagine Me in the Maginot Line," from 1940. Even knowing, with the benefit of hindsight, how events worked out in France in 1940, it's still a stitch hearing Formby sing that number. But what's here is great fun and nicely presented.

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