Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sandler & Young: The "In Person" Album

From time to time I’ll post something on this blog based on criteria that do not include “quality”. In the years when Real People was on NBC, and I was a dumb tween, our family would take one night a week and eat fried chicken as Dad powered up the Zenith Allegro and played side two of Sandler & Young’s “In Person” Album.

Singers Tony Sandler (born 1933 in Lauwe, Belgium) and Ralph Young (born 1918 in the Bronx) met in a revue in 1963, and the two baritones became a double act after a successful 1965 gig in Las Vegas. They recorded more than 20 albums together, ten of them for Capitol Records. In 1968, the year Capitol released The “In Person” Album, they became Las Vegas headliners, eventually winning multi-week gigs at the Sahara, the Dunes, the Flamingo, and Caesars Palace.

This record sounds exactly like what you’d expect from talent weaned in a casino environment: well-practiced patter, a crackerjack backing orchestra, an audience that applauds for a held long note in “Malaguena Salerosa”. And then there’s side 2: “Bill Bailey”. In twenty minutes they sing eight arrangements of “Bill Bailey” in various international styles – French can-can, Swiss yodel, Italian grand opera, etc. Sandler, who’s fluent in English as well as French, German, Dutch, and Italian, does most of the heavy lifting for the polyglot lyrics. He plays straight man to Young as they deliver short comedy bits between musical phrases. And then there’s the next-to-last track, straight from Tel Aviv, wherein Young puts on a Yiddish accent and tells three shaggy-dog jokes while the band impressively vamps a single-bar phrase for five minutes, until finally band and singer join in a rendition of a faux-Israeli version of “Bill Bailey”:

    Bill bubbe won’t you please come home, you’re driving me to ruin
    I think that I should tell you that I know what you’ve been doin’
    My cousin is a lawyer from New York and he just flew in
    He told me not to wait, so in the morning I’ll be suin’

This is…what it is. In form and function, The “In Person” Album remains fossilized in its original state, and will have no category beyond Thing That Tourists Agreed To Call Comedy In The 1960s. The production values are extremely high. A close listening reveals that the band and vocalists were both recorded live but for many songs the live vocals were replaced with new studio takes (almost, but not quite, covering the faint sound of the original live vocals captured by the band’s mikes). And some of the humor still cracks expectations nicely – the fact that many in the audience have been playing Keno all day is exploited nicely when Sandler prefaces the opera version of “Bill Bailey” by saying “Opus cinquemila cinquecento cinquanta cinque… (beat) You lose again.” Some of the tunes, stripped of their explanatory introductions, would work well dropped into a mix as a moment of happy WTF. But yes, it’s still a choke-on-your-borscht yuk fest full of lines like “My andante got tangled around my pizzicatta”, and a joke about a condominium ending with the punchline “If I was you, I would still take the pills.” It’s what I grew up on. It’s not recommended. You have been warned.

A footnote: “Bill Bailey in France” opens with Young scatting up a storm in a pinched falsetto, singing “Chee chee, boint boint chee chee, oh oh oh oh oh oh…what the hell ever happened to her?” Nine-year-old me never got the reference. Viva Rose Murphy!

Opening Number
Watch What Happens
Mr. Boom Boom (Mr. Bass Man)
Love Is Blue
French Lesson
Malaguena Salerosa
Sweet Georgia Brown
Bill Bailey: In France
Bill Bailey: In England
Bill Bailey: In Switzerland
Bill Bailey: In Nashville
Bill Bailey: In Italy
Bill Bailey: In the Time of Johann Sebastian Bach
Bill Bailey: In Tel Aviv
Bill Bailey: In the U.S.A.

Album audio & artwork

No comments:

Post a Comment