Dementia 2000: Dr. Demento's 30th Anniversary Collection
I have a confession.
I was once a closet Dementite.
I grew up listening to "The Dr. Demento Show" on WLUP-FM. All through high school, on Sunday nights, I would put a radio under my pillow and when I was supposed to be sleeping, I would tune in to hear the bizarre goofiness of Weird Al Yankovic, Tom Lehrer, National Lampoon, Ivor Biggun and the D Kups, Monty Python and countless others. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, Dr. Demento is to parody songs, and often unintentionally comedic music, what TV's Son of Svengoolie is to B-grade horror movies.
Weird Al is one of the most famous alumni from the "land of dementia" and he got his start on Dr. Demento's wacky radio show, which played his first songs from cassette tapes that Yankovic recorded and sent in. "Another One Rides The Bus," an early Yankovic accordion-backed parody of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," was recorded live on the Demento show and seemed to appear in the Demento "Top 5" for months at a time throughout the early '80s, along with other classic bizarre odes like "Dead Puppies (aren't much fun)," "Fishheads" and "Existential Blues."
You have to pick up one of Dr. Demento's other anniversary collections to find those three classics. But Dementia 2000! Dr. Demento's 30th Anniversary Collection on Rhino Records includes two CDs worthy of other stalwart novelty discs, from Yankovic's "Yoda," "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota" and "Another One Rides the Bus," to Randy Hanzlick's "I'd Rather Have A Bottle in Front of Me (Than a Frontal Lobotomy)," Ivor Biggun's "Bras on 45," National Lampoon's "Deteriorata" (better known as the "fluke of the universe" song) and Leonard Nimoy's "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins."
There are also comedy clips from Billy Crystal, George Carlin, Cheech and Chong and Monty Python's ever-popular "Lumber-jack Song."
It's been awhile since I've been in the land of Dementia with Dr. D., but it's good to know he's still flooding the airwaves with the hysterically bizarre.
Also occasionally bizarre, but in a dark and beautifully moody way, is K-Tel's Darkwave: Music of the Shadows Vol. 2. A collection of some of the moodiest gothic music from the '80s and '90s, this disc includes ethereal, neo-psychedelic and expansive industrial tracks from Cocteau Twins, Lycia, Controlled Bleeding, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Love Spirals Downwards and more.
You probably have to wear black and light some candles to get the full effect. But even without the trappings, this is music for haunting. For vampires. If they still made silent movies, this is what you'd want to play while watching the scary ones ...
Duke Ellington's music wasn't funny or scary. But you can get a good cross section of it now from Columbia's Legacy label. The Duke: Duke Ellington The Essential Collection 1927-1962 is now out, and it includes 65 tracks from the jazz piano orchestra great.
There are a lot of local bands which record CDs on their own independent labels that send me albums to review after reading Pop Stops on the Internet. I often approach listening to these releases with some trepidation — while these bands are trying hard, most of them aren't at all ready for prime time.
But sifting through independent discs occasionally pays off with a treasure — and that's exactly what this self-titled disc is from Toronto's Sound Poets. Opening with "Don't Tell Me Why," a perfect mid-tempo rock number that's currently getting airplay in the Northlands, the band moves through 10 more slices of contemplative pop rock, supporting the sometimes husky, sometimes soaringly silky vocals of Alexsandra Kyrzakos.
This is a professional-sounding CD with overtones of thoughtful folk, and even a touch of Middle East melody atop the funky riff of "Waterfall." The gorgeously melancholic violin and whistle solos, and emotional keyboards of the closing song, "It Was You," are worth seeking this disc out for all on their own.
Sound Poets are all about creating evocative musical textures fleshing out solid hooks. With a catchy melange of B3 organ, tin whistle, sax, accordion, violin and mandolin tucked in amidst the basic rock guitar/bass/drums format, they've created a formidable presence on this exceptional debut.
With the atmospheric pop sense of '80s bands like Quarterflash ("Boomerang"), the sensitivity of a softly strumming Lisa Loeb ("Who Will You Run To") and a deeply individual vocal flair that occasionally touches on Divinyls territory, Kyrzakos and the Sound Poets deserve to break out of Canada in a big way. While there are some big beats and strong guitar riffs, ultimately, this album wraps you up in a warm afghan and hands you a cup of steaming hot chocolate.
Lie back and drink up.
(For more information, see the band's Web site at www.sound-poets.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org).