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Mud, Glorious Mud!
The Best of Flanders and Swann
Michael Flanders with Donald Swann (piano)
Ian Wallace with Donald Swann (piano) *
rec. London 1956-57
REGIS FRC 6127 [76:37]

Experience Classicsonline


At The Drop of A Hat

A Transport Of Delight (97 horse-power Omnibus)
Song Of Reproduction
(I'm) A Gnu
Design For Living
Je Suis Le Ténébreux
Songs For Our Time - Philological Waltz, Satellite Moon and A Happy Song
A Song of The Weather
The Reluctant Cannibal
Kokoraki - A Greek Song;
Madeira, M'Dear?
Hippopotamus (Mud, Glorious Mud)
More Out Of The Hat - Excerpts

Too Many Cookers
Wallace's Private Zoo *
The Hippopotamus Song
The Rhinoceros Song;
The Warthog
The Elephant Song

The opera omnia for Flanders and Swann devotees is the three CD set released by EMI in 1990; it contains At the Drop of a Hat, At the Drop of Another Hat and The Bestiary of Flanders and Swann. There have been a number of CD compilations over recent years and this Regis entrant swells the ranks by mining, in the main, At The Drop of A Hat, adding two songs from the second album and finishing with four songs from Wallace's Private Zoo and sung, of course, by Ian Wallace.

I can’t fault the selection; it contains those favourites no veteran – or indeed neophyte – would want to be without. It really now does cost £1 to ride that Monarch of the Road, or would if there were any 97hp Omnibuses plying their trade on the highway. Back in 1957 the figure must have seemed scandalous. And there’s still a market, a specialist, audiophile market, for jokes about hi-fi. "I never did care for music much – it’s the hi-fi-delity" is a refrain that should have one or two high-end merchants blushing in shame, then as now. Fibre needles may have been consigned to the attic of History but the principle won’t stale.

In our design-obsessed days, where home makeover programmes vie with culinary ones for ratings, Design for Living offers a cold blast of witty scorn. And listening to Je Suis Le Ténébreux gave me pause to wonder whether Dudley Moore had listened to it before formulating his own rather more scabrous pastiches of Benjamin Britten. That miniature marvel, A Song of the Weather, a sort of Cycle of the Months in one minute fifty-two, takes a necessary place in the cavalcade of pleasures and rubs up against the more Tom Lehrer-like charms of The Reluctant Cannibal. Sometimes the introductions to the songs might now strike one as too extended and inconsistent but when compressed, as in Misalliance, both take on a symbiotic beauty of form.

There are two items from the Second Book – More Out of the Hat – in which context Vanessa strikes a rather Noël Coward pose. Ian Wallace, that characterful and stalwart buffo, unveils his Private Zoo with sonorous eloquence and dash to end an hour and a quarter’s pure fun.

Jonathan Woolf

An hour and a quarter’s pure fun ... see Full Review



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