It’s not every day that an album review in Rolling Stone turns me into a quivering mass of geek, but recently, one small review did just that.
It was a little blurb about the CD re-releases of Another Monty Python Record and Monty Python’s Previous Record, complete with bonus tracks. I have those on vinyl, but my turntable is broken, so for years I had been unable to listen to them.
Of course, as soon as I finished the review, I dashed to the computer to see if they could be (legally) downloaded, and in fact, they were on iTunes. So after a quick download, those classic albums were mine.
Almost every geek my age knows all about Monty Python. Who among us doesn’t know every line from their movies? Some of us with serious Python-geek issues have the complete TV series on DVD, the book of the scripts, and the compilations of songs and ‘greatest hits’ on CD. Some of their later albums were available on CD as well, but they haven’t held up as well as their earlier work.
But the early Monty Python albums weren’t available on CD, until now. These two CDs are the troupe’s second and third record, and were the first ones available in the United States. They were released even before PBS started to show the TV show. In fact, the popularity of these records on some FM radio stations spurred PBS to import the show.
The first Monty Python album was just a recording straight off of the first season of TV show skits from the BBC, and while it has its moments, it’s definitely best in a visual medium.
These two records, though, while having many sketches in common with season two and season three of the TV show, are totally reworked for the audio market, and the new material definitely uses the sound medium to its comedic potential.
Another Monty Python Record was released in 1971, and brilliantly combines some of the favorite season two sketches and new material. The group blends sketches together, such as the Spanish Inquisition showing up during the Architect’s sketch. The long form “Piranha Brothers” sketch really works as an audio bit as well.
The second half of the album drags a bit, with some long bits that are only mildly amusing. The bonus tracks are just OK, except for a downright hilarious one for “Treadmill Lager.”
Monty Python’s Previous Record, released in 1972, is their audio masterpiece. The troupe maximizes the potential of sound as comedy, with all kinds of effects and noises enhancing the sketches. “Dennis Moore” holds the first half together, and to me the pacing of this bit is better on album. The “Money Programme” and “Eric The Half A Bee” are riotous as well.
The second half could be even better, as the Pythons move into game show parodies, a marvelous bit on soccer goalies paying tribute to the Yangtze River in poetry and song, and the capper was a fairy tale that concludes the record that will leave one rolling on the floor even on repeated hearings. The bonus tracks, though, are less than stellar, and one can see why they were left off of the record.
It feels good to have these two albums now in my iPod and on my computer, especially when you put your iPod on shuffle and “The Travel Agent” sketch comes on right after “Black Betty” by Ram Jam. That’s quite the juxtaposition, and I don’t think Python would have it any other way!