Naxos, always expanding from the classics into new territory, recently initiated their "Nostalgia" series, of which this cheerful disc is a good example. George Formby was the British version of the United States's Cliff "Ukelele Ike" Edwards (also known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney's "Pinocchio"). His songs, in spite of their often "double entendre-d" and risqué lyrics, couldn't offend a maiden aunt, and his winking stage presence, more adolescent than frankly sexual, made him appealing even to those who normally resisted "blue" humor. Sophisticated? No, not even musically. Formby's nasal voice – you'd think he was 70 when he made these recordings, but he was only in his 20s and 30s – is no more finished than the songs themselves, which are little more than chains of verses and refrains. But were Formby and his repertoire amusing? Endlessly!
Producer David Lennick selected 18 Formby records for this issue. In the early 1930s, Formby recorded for Decca and London, and five of those tracks are included here. In 1935, he started recording for Regal Zonophone, and the shellacs he made for that label account for the remaining 13 tracks. Lennick's transfers are marvelous: the frequency response is full and even, and surface noise is minimal.
What are these songs about? Women mostly, and various stages of nudity. "The Window Cleaner" is just a Peeping Tom, and "Swimmin' With The Wimmin" and "Sitting On The Ice In The Ice Rink" are just opportunities for George to meet the fairer sex in their most vulnerable moments. Of course the only party who ends up being vulnerable is George Formby, which is what makes these songs and these performances so appealing.
English collectors will need little encouragement to purchase this CD. Americans, if you like Benny Hill and other descendants of the English music hall, George Formby will be a diverting discovery.
Copyright © 2001, Raymond Tuttle