What an unusual finale to the week. I am no stranger to comedy music; I occasionally put on a bit of Flanders and Swan, or Victor Borge but (apart from Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah) I didn’t really know too much about Allan Sherman.
Sherman reworks songs, a mix of traditional and contemporary into parodies, think a classical Weird Al Yankovic. It’s all about the lyrics, it’s musical joke telling and this can come in a variety of different executions. A rhyme is a powerful technique and when paired with concept, the anticipation of a word can create the humour without the punchline being said – he does this a lot.
Sherman’s style is based around the Jewish families, mannerisms and traditions and it’s pretty droll. The Ballad of Harry Lewis is set to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic with some nice lyrical work:
I’m singing you the ballad of a great man of the cloth
His name was Harry Lewis and he worked for Irving Roth
He died while cutting velvet on a hot July the fourth
it’s this kind of word-play that makes Sherman work.
Sir Greenbaum’s Madrigal (set to the tune of Greensleeves) is about a medieval knight though basically connects more with modern Jewish families and idioms. I really like lines like:
All day with the slaying and slewing
and smiting and smoting like Robin Hood
Oh, wouldst I could kick the habit
and give up smoting for good
It’s good natured writing.
I also really like the track Sarah Jackman, set to Frere Jacques. This track is just a conversation over the phone between two people about their massive families. It’s just setup, punchline over and over again – It’s fun.
One thing that does grate on me a little is the shrieking laughter from the audience, I know it’s live but it is somewhat distracting and a little obtuse in places. Personally I could have done without it but it’s nice to hear that the crowd is having fun.
I had a really nice time with this album, its the sort of witty back and forth style that I like in comedy music. I’d recommend it if you haven’t heard enough of Sherman or just like a few comical tracks.
Is this album for you?
It depends if you’re a fan of comedy music and parodies at all. The talent is 100% in the lyrics, delivery and comedy style. Quite often it’s not what people are looking for on their regular listening but who knows… Just be aware you are basically listening to a recorded stage show rather than a studio album here.
- Writing: 8/10
- Performance: 7/10
- Style: 6.5/10