The Residents

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Stars & Hank Forever!: The American Composer's Series - Volume Two

The Residents - Stars & Hank Forever!: The American Composer's Series - Volume Two ©1986 Ralph Records
1. Hey Good Lookin'
2. Six More Miles (To The Graveyard)
3. Kaw-Liga
4. Ramblin' Man
5. Jambalaya
6. Nobles Of The Mystic Shrine
7. The Stars & Stripes Forever
8. The Thunderer
9. The Liberty Bell
10. Semper Fidelis
11. The Washington Post

At some point in the 80s, The Residents got it into their collective eyeball-heads that they would issue a series of records over the years covering various composers and musicians. In theory, they would produce sixteen of these albums. However, this ambitious project lasted all of two records: George & James and this particular album which gave a go at Hank Williams and John Philips Sousa. Much like the vast majority of The Residents' overwhelming discography, the results are entirely hit or miss.

The Hank Williams' side of the record is actually rather good. In fact, it's some of the most enjoyable Residents output I've heard over the years. Their renditions of these old country tunes are warped (naturally), but not so much that it is aggravating. In fact, there's a bit of a catchiness to the Residents' versions. Granted, the southern drawl and deadpan vocals are somewhat amusing, but overall the songs are appropriately re-envisioned with a creative new outlook. "Kaw-Liga" and "Jamabalaya" are particularly well done. While The Residents have often been guilty of being weird simply because they can, they manage to recreate these songs without the annoying aspects of a lot of their music.

And that brings us to side two, cleverly entitled "Sousaside". As enjoyable as the Hank Williams' songs are, the renditions of various John Philip Sousa marches are full of dismay and discord. I've often grown weary of The Residents when they get too cute with their desire to be weird and when it sounds a bit forced. In the case of "Sousaside", they've managed to create a side of music that is tough to sit through. I suppose that may very well have been the point, but men in my family seem to pass away in their sixties so I can't squander much of my life span listening to such drivel.

Despite the nonsense of the Sousa covers, Stars & Hank Forever! still gets at least a moderate recommendation because of the strength of the first side. The Residents are guilty of forcing fans to pick and choose the good material in their prolific output, so perhaps that'll help newcomers find something worth sitting through.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2011

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