Here we have Volumes I and II of The Great Un-American Songbook, and band leader, conductor, arranger, and alto sax player Ed Palermo is currently working on Volume III. If it is going to be half as interesting as what I am listening to now then I can’t wait! It certainly sounds as if the 18-piece EPBB is having a load of fun, and there are characters having conversations between songs that certainly add to the humour, while the final uncredited song bookends the album incredibly well. These songs have been totally rearranged, sometimes they are close to the original, while others they are miles away yet still retain the melody if you listen hard enough, while some have been transformed into instrumentals and others partly so.
But, one of the things I really enjoyed is the sheer variety of the songs that have been given this treatment. While The Beatles are an obvious choice, King Crimson and The Nice probably not quite so much, but anyone who can bring in both Blodwyn Pig and Traffic is the owner of a record collection I know I’ll appreciate. The mixing and melding of The Beatles with Miles Davis also must be heard to be believed, and who thought that Radiohead would appear as a jazz act? If I was going to pick just one song to highlight all that is great about this album (and it was a toss-up between this and the combining of “America” and “American Idiot”) then it is “I Wanna Be Your Man” which has been given an almost tribal beat, and a wonderful call and response between violin and electric guitar, a xylophone makes a brief addition, then come the end it is the brass driving everything along with the violin just managing to stay on top. This is a number that builds and builds, with the only disappointment that it fades out when I would have loved for it to have kept going for another ten minutes or more!
This is Ed’s fifth album for the label, and sadly it is the first I’ve come across: I know I’m going to have to go back and find some of his arrangements of Zappa, as they must be incredibly.