The recently departed Jim Nabors is best known for his acting on The Andy Griffith Show and its spin-off Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., and secondarily for his career as a balladeer. For this 1965 LP, sung entirely in Naborsâ€™ nasal â€œGomer Pyleâ€ voice, his singing and comedy came together. With songs written by the legendary Billy Edd Wheeler, John Loudermilk and Roger Miller, the material is several cuts above the typical TV star cash-in, and with Nabors twin talents as a vocalist and comedian, the results are funny, entertaining and endearing. Like any comedy album, itâ€™s not likely to get spun as frequently as a straight music album, but youâ€™ll be surprised at how quickly youâ€™ll be singing along, and if you have kids, they may just love the tongue-twisting â€œHoo How, What Now?â€ and the corny rock â€˜nâ€™ roll of â€œHeart Insurance.â€ [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]
A musical battle between Hanukkah and Christmas is really no battle at all. As the popularity of recorded music grew through the twentieth century, so did the Christian-to-Jew population advantage. A 50:1 advantage in 1900 grew to a 150:1 advantage by 2000, and magnified by Western commercialization of Christmas, its celebrants produced an unparalleled abundance of popular holiday music. Hanukkah, in contrast, mostly made good with candles, dreidels, latkes and music that bore more resemblance to traditional Jewish melodies than the top of the pops. Sure, thereâ€™s the catchy â€œDreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,â€ but itâ€™s more of a nursery rhyme than a hit single, and Adam Sandlerâ€™s â€œThe Hanukkah Songâ€ (covered by both Neil Diamond and the hardcore rockers Yidcore) was a heartfelt, but ultimately self-conscious response to the dearth of Hanukkah songs. Beck, They Might Be Giants and Ben Kweller, to name a few, have given it a shot, but donâ€™t expect to be humming along to a Muzakâ„¢ version of Tom Lehrerâ€™s â€œIâ€™m Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monicaâ€ any time soon.
Even with the LeeVeesâ€™ Hanukkah Rocks on the shelves, Hanukkah fights the musical battle with both arms tied behind its back. If Christmas is the Beatles, Hanukkah is at best a lounge band covering the Four Seasons (cf: The International Battle of the Century). The relentless repetition of Top 40 hits, on the radio and in stores, has made dozens of Christmas songs icons of the season. And in keeping with the secularization of Christmas as aU.S. celebration, many of the best-loved Christmas songs were written or sung by Jews. The Idelsohn Societyâ€™s two-disc set traces the transformation of Christmas from a religious holiday to a popular bonanza, and further emphasizes the second-banana position into which the relatively minor holiday of Hanukkah was pressed. The songs on disc two demonstrate how Christmas cut across cultural lines to become as much a secular seasonal feeling as a religious celebration. As the setâ€™s liner notes point out, American Jews celebrated Christmas â€œnot because it was Christian, but because it was American.â€
At the same time, the designation of Christmas as a national holiday in 1870 set off a desire among some Jews for Hanukkah parity. And though Hanukkah songs were written and revived, none ever reached true popular acclaim. Disc one, â€œHappy Hanukkah,â€ includes historical odes, folk songs (including Woody Guthrieâ€™s â€œHanukkah Danceâ€), traditional melodies, klezmer, cantorial standards, childrenâ€™s songs, chorals and humor. The discâ€™s one hit is Don McLeanâ€™s â€œDreidel,â€ which just missed the Top 20 in 1972, and is really only Hanukkah-themed in its title. Disc two is filled with popularly familiar artists (The Ramones, Bob Dylan, Benny Goodman, Sammy Davis Jr., Herb Alpert, Mel Torme), all of whom are Jewish. The song list features many perennials, including Irving Berlinâ€™s classic â€œWhite Christmas,â€ which author Phillip Roth characterized as subversively turning â€œChristmas into a holiday about snow.â€
The two discs and accompanying 36-page booklet are entertaining and thought-provoking. The story of Jewish assimilation into American society is perhaps nowhere more evident than the secularized national celebration of Christmas, and the failed (and perhaps misguided) attempt to bring Hanukkah to parity. Christmas iconography – Santa, reindeer, snow, trees, candy canes, decorations, lights and brightly wrapped presents – are generally more visible than Christian religious symbols, and the holidayâ€™s musical hits, even when referencing historical places and people, have more often taken a general celebratory tone than one of liturgy or dogma. Jews may sing a Hanukkah song or two by the menorah, but the soundtrack to most holiday gatherings, office parties and shopping – for Jews and Gentiles alike – is filled with Christmas music. [Â©2012 Hyperbolium]
Country parodist Cledus T. Judd follows closely in the footsteps of Ray Stevens (to whom he recorded a tribute album, Boogity, Boogity), and earlier acts like Homer & Jethro and Sheb Wooley. To the MTV generation, weaned on video hits of the â€˜80s and â€˜90s, heâ€™s more likely to appeal as the Al Yankovich of country music. Like all of these humorists, heâ€™s a passable vocalist who treads a fine-line between clever and sophomoric as he lampoons the melodies of much-loved hit songs and pokes fun at Nashville stars. The parodies work best as singles, sandwiched between the real McCoys on radio, and will most please those familiar with the originals. Judd also writes original material that keeps his albums from becoming formulaic.
Returning from radio stints at WQYK, Tampa and WUBL, Atlanta, Juddâ€™s parody excels when he bites into contemporary events. His rewrite of Brad Paisleyâ€™s â€œWaitinâ€™ on a Womanâ€ snapshots the societal disaster of W and the political ineptness of McCain, and he catalogs outsized hopes with â€œWaitinâ€™ on Obama.â€ He translates Larry Cordleâ€™s sharp â€œMurder on Music Rowâ€ into the even sharper â€œMerger on Music Row,â€ digging behind Nashvilleâ€™s crossover trends to consider the shrinking landscape of the music industry. His originals are infectiously silly as he celebrates the Dukes of Hazzardâ€™s â€œCooterâ€ (with killer harmonies to accent the very mention of â€œCooterâ€) and gives one of Santaâ€™s original eight his chance to escape Rudolphâ€™s bright red shadow on â€œDang It, Iâ€™m Vixen.â€
The albumâ€™s other seasonal tune, â€œChristmas in Rehab,â€ gives junkies, crackheads, coke fiends, tweakers, alcoholics and glue sniffers a surprisingly cheery start to the holiday season. The fantasy â€œ(If I Had) Kellie Pickerâ€™s Boobsâ€ is cornpone, and â€œTailgaitin,â€ written and recited with Colt Ford answers the question of whether anyone really needs country rap (thatâ€™d be â€˜noâ€™). Judd is joined by Ashton Shepherd, Brooks & Dunn, The Grascals and Daryle Singletary, who clearly find him as likeable as does his audience. As the world economies continue to convulse and global politics spin further out of control, itâ€™s good luck to find someone whoâ€™s retained their sense of humor. [Â©2009 hyperbolium dot com]