This is The
Firesign Theatre's 'rarities' album.
Austin, Proctor and
Ossman were relatively favorable toward it, largely citing historical
value. Bergman, on the other hand, dismissed it as not being representative
of their work. When i ordered it, i expected the usual hodge-podge
anthology that often comes under the 'rarities' banner: stuff that
was left over for obvious reasons, stuff of hisorical interest that
would appeal to the real collectors (like me), and - hopefully -
a few gems. Instead, i rate this as a "must" for Firesign
fans. For three reasons.
amount of "good " Firesign stuff makes it possible to
measure the album according to that instead of by it's lesser points.
2) The Jack Poet stuff, although necessarily
brief, is not only genuine Firesign material, but represents a period
in their writing (i.e., "How Can You Be", "Dwarf")
that was never repeated: the quick turn-around of familiar advertising
or political propoganda phrasing, strung together and highly compressed,
to form a kind of surreal vaudeville. I feel that, for all their
collective genius, Firesign have forgotten about this, while cintinuing
to the other aspects of thier spoken art.
hearing the "Pink Hotel" track just once, i recognised
in it what i hadn't heard in the group since their Golden Age; it
had that chemistry...the plot had more of a "Bozos" feel,
while the dialogue proceeded in a fast, busy "How Can You BE"
style. After hearing it a second time, i decided that this track
alone was worth the price of the album.
I know that The
Firesign Theatre will never read this, but if they did, i would
make two requests of them...to compare the jokes in the Jack Poet
ads and the "Exorcism" sketch with "The American
Pageant", also from the early days, and see if a commonality
in style doesn't emerge, one that maybe should be dusted off...and
please, PLEASE finish "The Pink Hotel Burns Down" (this
was the first seven minutes of an album that was rejected by the
record company, which can only be explained by the fact that it
was the beginning of the 80's - or what Ossman called 'the Teflon'
decade. As much as i like "Give Me Immortality", in my
opinion "Pink Hotel" would have been an even more classic
Also, "Excorcism In Your Daily Life"
seems a good blueprint for future work. The 'every man' type from
the first four albums can be seen modestly in the teenager in this
short play, and he is up against stereotypical authority figures,
as in those albums as well. To top it off, listen to the section
consisting of the mayor's "working model". This is a miniature,
cruder, version of Clem's trip through the wall of science. Phil
and David's soap opera is of the highest quality. The two are completely
immersed in their performances.