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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Treasury of Shel Silverstein

This is another one of Brian's genius/ecclectic creations, 100% great stuff is my error, I had a bunch more stuff to send to him to flesh this out and i DIDN'T, thus likely there will be a part, for now, enjoy this stuff, and look forward to the second half (sometime down the road), which will have some FAB stuff as well......thanks as always to the forever-hardworking Brian, as he tries (harder than I do even) to get unique, thought provoking material posted here and he does a SPECTACULAR job.....really, without my helpers/guests, this blog would be a shallow imitation of some of the other well-established ones, but my TEAM makes sure that one every occasion, we at least TRY to keep it fresh, and Brian is KEY to that.....Enjoy Shel, hopefully there will be an excellent part 2 submission in the future sometime.

Boy, are you guys getting a gift with this one! This stuff is fairly rare on blogs from what I can tell. And at least three of these can't be found anywhere else! (Hopefully that doesn't mean this gets sniped)

Shel Silverstein can be different things to people. Some may know him from being a songwriter in the 60's and 70's, penning songs for other artists - most notably "A Boy Named Sue", which became a hit for Johnny Cash. He also wrote the classic "Cover Of The Rolling Stone" for Dr. Hook. To others of us who grew up in the 70's and 80's (and maybe later for some), he was the writer and artist of the classic children's books Where The Sidewalk Ends, A Light In The Attic, and The Giving Tree. I know I've had his loopy poems in my head since I was little.

It's only in the last few years that I've gotten into his music, and I've found a lot to love. While technically you could call much of his stuff solo folk music, it's that in name only. It isn't someone standing there singing Woody Guthrie tunes with their heart on their sleeve. The first thing you'll notice is the force of his personality: he shouts, wails, garbles, gasps, and shrieks. I don't think I've heard someone else who's so present in front of a microphone. The guy's energy was boundless.
The first album presented here, I'm So Good I Don't Have To Brag, was recorded live by Chess Records in 1965. It's an intimate, funny affair, with some good between song banter with the audience. The songs are great, too: "Modern Talk", "The Ugliest Man In Town", "Lemmebesomethin'". Also keep an ear out for blues legend Little Walter playing on a few tracks.

Drain My Brain - from '66 - is a more full band rock and roll album, but is no less raucous and fun. "Floobie Doobie Doo", "Hoodoo Voodoo Lady", the title's all great stuff, especially the simple and beautiful "Rings Of Grass". If hippies hadn't been so scene-conscious, they would've flocked to this guy.

Boy Named Sue & His Other Country Songs contains the famous title track, as well as one of my favorites, "Dirty Ol' Me".   It is a more country affair than his other albums, but the genre fits him well. You can see why Johnny Cash took notice of "Sue" by the time he recorded At San Quentin.

Freakin' At The Freaker's Ball is classic. A really fun batch of tunes: "I Got Stoned and I Missed It", "Stacy Brown Got Two", "Don't Give A Dose To The One You Love Most", "Polly In A Porny", the title track... great stuff. If you've never heard this one, give yourself a smack and get to it!

The center of Shel's legacy - whether it be music or books - is of course Where The Sidewalk Ends. And this was the first music of his I'd ever heard. And needless to say, he brings the book to life. He is, in a word, unhinged on this recording. Somehow he seamlessly combines menace and whimsy. To quote a review of him I've read, "he experiments with inflections like a junkie whose fix is the human personality". Do I need to say anything more?

His last album from 1985, A Light In The Attic, is yet another great collection of songs and poems from one of his beloved books. Took me a long time to hunt down this one!

The last one here I'm gonna talk about out of sequence because it's so distinctive and rare. In between Boy Named Sue and Freaker's Ball, Shel recorded this acetate, which came to be called Fuck 'Em. Information on it is sketchy - all I could find is what's on the Discogs page. The disc was auctioned away years ago - never released - but somehow the album ended up on the great and mysterious Song365. It is incomplete - Discogs says 21 tracks, but there's only 14 here. But what is here is gold! "Dope" and "Fuck 'Em" are two of the best songs ever put to tape. Other funny ones, too. Definitely check this one out... I don't think you'll find it anywhere else. Scott couldn't even find it on Pirate Bay. Even a lot of Silverstein fans don't know of it's existence. If someone somehow has a more complete file, please let me know!
 The bonus link for this post is the first album by one of my favorite comics, who OD'ed over a decade ago. I miss Mitch... he was really unique. More people should know about him.







  2. Thank you for sharing these. I never knew of him as a singer or songwriter, only a children's author. I was just browsing over at Willard's Wormhole. A contributer named Gilberto posted Hairy Jazz and Inside Folk Songs on the Son Of Links page, and the dl links are still good -
    That is all that I know of them. Again, thanks for the share!