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Monday, September 07, 2009

Theme Time Radio Hour Season 2: New Compilation from Ace Records. U.K.

The good people over at Ace Records U.K. were kind enough to send Dreamtime an early review copy of their second compilation of Theme Time Radio Hour music, "Theme Time Radio Hour Season 2," available today (September 7, 2009) in the U.K. and tomorrow (September 8, 2009) in the U.S. at better retail outlets everywhere.  You can pick it up in the United Kingdom by following the Ace Records link above. Get it in the Amazon U.S. store through the image or title links above.

As its title implies, the new 2-CD set includes 50 cherries plucked from the 375 tracks played over Season 2 - opening with The Sherman Williams (not Sherwin Williams Our Host would remind us) Orchestra's "Hello," and closing with Rilo Kiley's "With Arms Outstretched."

Sandwiched between is music spanning eight decades, from The Georgia Crackers 1927 "Diamond Joe," to Jolie Holland's "Goodbye California," released in 2004. Jump, jive jazz. Nouveau wave and novelty. Captain Beefheart and Desmond Dekker. Parties, Pretty Girls, and Cadillacs. The Cold Hard Facts of Life, Gloomy Sundays and a Young Man's Blues. The package inludes a "fully illustrated 40-page book packed full of rare photographs and memorabilia including detailed notes on each track..." according to the Ace publicity blurb. That material wasn't ready when they sent me the review CDs, so I can't comment on it.

Unless you happen to be TTRH producer, Eddie Gorodetsky, who had a hand in putting this compilation together, or a very dedicated listener to the series, the chances are you'll hear several songs you've never heard before that will amuse and delight you.

However, there's an inherent flaw with Ace's TTRH: Season 2, as there is with the half-dozen other collections of music inspired by the radio show, and we might as well get that issue of the way now. TTRH: Season 2 is not TTRH: The Show. It does not include any of Bob Dylan's commentary on the songs, nor any of the other features that made Theme Time Radio Hour so memorable. No def poetry, no bad jokes. No jingles, no airchecks, no phone calls. No Ellen Barkin. No Top Cat behind the ending credits. Just the music, folks. I emphasize this because you wouldn't believe the bitter email I get from people who feel that they're being rooked out of their hard-earned shekels every time a new TTRH music compilation is released, no matter how much a label like Ace emphasizes that they're only offering the music.

Given that, do I still recommend TTRH: Season 2? Yes, with the qualification that you understand you're not getting the show itself. But as with the first Ace compilation covering Season 1, listening to TTRH: Season 2 is like listening to a mixtape put together by a very musically-knowledgable pal, maybe a sneak peek into Eddie Gorodetsky's fabled music collection, maybe a chance to hear some of the music on Bob Dylan's lost iPod, as a fortunate few were rumored to have done way back in 2005.

Being the compleat collector that I am, I have every TTRH music compilation in existence, as well as a bunch of other weird ephemera associated with the show, including a half-eaten burrito stolen off of Tex Carbone's sound board. Of the half-dozen compilations, Ace's "Theme Time Radio Hour Season 2," and its Season 1 predecessor are easily the best collections of TTRH music currently available. That's not only because both have the imprimatur of the Theme Time team, but also because Ace went to the trouble of including contemporary music still under copyright, as well the older, royalty-free pieces used in the various other collections. Unlike other compilations of the show's music, with TTRH: Season 2 you get a taste of the full breadth and depth of the music played on Theme Time Radio Hour. At Dreamtime we say, "accept no substitutes."


Canute said...

Fred ... you hit the nail on the head and the reason I have avoided buying any of the compilations out there. Bob Dylan is not on them and if I want to listen to the oldies I can go and get one of my discs of the Theme Time shows and put it on at home.

Unknown said...

as someone with a (marginal) involvement in the ace ttrh compilations, i also wrote a piece for the ace magazine

here it is . . .

Imagine, for a moment, that you’ve lost your entire memory. You’ve forgotten everything you once knew about life and the world. Or maybe you’re a Martian in possession of a good spaceship and in want of a wife on Earth.

In either case, imagine further that you are handed a copy of Theme Time Radio Hour with your host, Bob Dylan – Session 2 and told: let this be your guide. How will you do? What will you learn about life, love and the world? Will its 49-tracks — from many decades, places and genres — teach you enough to strike out on your own?

Saul Steinberg’s famous New Yorker cover (March 29, 1976) imagined the ‘View of the World from 9th Avenue’ — that is, through the psychogeographical prism of uptown westsiders. The partiality of its vision is its truth. Here we have something similar: a View of the World from Studio B of the Abernathy Building. (Call me sceptic but I do sometimes wonder if that location actually has a zip code or phone number.)

What do you learn if you let Bob Dylan show you how the world looks out of that studio window? And how might that partial view measure up in practical terms? How much useful information will it give you about the physical and psychological environment of that big world out there that is currently a total blank to your cerebral cortex? (I’m guessing a little here, to be honest, about the details of Martian brain structure.)

Here is what I reckon you’d learn. Some of it, anyway — even the best of guide books leave you work of your own to do. Think of this as a top ten fact about the world as viewed from the Abernathy.

1. Human beings like to have sex with each other — and with each other’s partners. This causes problems, sometimes to the point of violence (Loretta Lynn’s Fist City), murder even (Porter Waggoner’s Cold Hard Facts of Life).

2. Love is a complicated thing (Laura Lee’s Separation Line, Jo-El Sonnier’s Tear-Stained Letter, James Brown’s Three Hearts In a Tangle, BB King’s Walkin Dr Bill, The Dirtbombs’ Your Love Belongs Under a Rock, Lucinda Williams’ Changed The Lock).

3. Chickens have a special significance, particularly at celebratory events (Wanda Jackson’s Let’s Have A Party). They also choose to spent at least part of their time in trees (Mississippi John Hurt’s The Chicken).

4. The French pass their early mornings pondering whether to wear a red or a blue sweater. Or, to be more specific, that’s how young Franco-Tunisian women of the mid-1960s spent the first part of the day (Jacqueline Taïeb’s 7 Heures du matin).

5. Cigarettes are both a central fact of night-time life and a contra-indicator to marital stability (Joe Maphis and Rose Lee’s Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Loud, Loud Music, Red Ingle’s Cigareets, Whusky and Wild Wild Women).

6. People change their names, sometimes to somewhat silly ones (Sun Ra’s Rocket Nine Takes Off For The Planet Venus, Swamp Dogg’s Sam Stone).

7. Inter-generational conflict has an inevitable quality to it but it is also one which changed somewhat in the late 1950s (Mose Allison’s Young Man’s Blues).

8. If you’re after bagging a big, stripy cat or two in the subcontinent, you could pick worse guides than the man from Toronto whose starlight years were the two in the mid-1920s that he spent working in an alcove of the New Princes Restaurant, Piccadilly (Hal Swain and his Band’s Hunting Tigers Out in India).

9. Women are human beings of many parts, not all of them always the ones they were born with (Archibald’s She’s Scattered Everywhere).

10. When it comes to satisfying a man, you should not underestimate the attractions of a limp wrist (Charlie Feather’s One Hand Loose).
Frankly, as catechisms go, I’ve come across worse guides to the many meanings of life, love and chickens.