Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bat Pie; The Crown City Four - Sing a Song of Sickness

I first saw the cover to this like 12-15 years ago on some "weird LP art" site and it always freaked me out a bit with it's Charles Addams-like illustration of a couple of creepy beatnik-types gazing lovingly over a giant pie as a small colony of bats erupt from the pastry into the evil-scientist-like lab settings.

Add to this the title of "Sing a Song of Sickness" and I totally needed to find this and see what the hell was up. It HAD to be disturbing; how could you look at this cover and not be intrigued? So many questions: what are their intentions? Why is the pie crust seemingly liquid? Why is the boy gnawing on the table? Is this some sort of visual allegory for a joke common in the early sixties? What the fuck?
Well - many, many years later and I found it somewhere. I can't remember where I lucked out on this sort-of-rarity, but I probably got a vinyl-geek hard-on and had to walk away from the wherever-it-was slightly bent over.
When I flipped it and looked at the back cover my expectations faltered a bit on seeing a caricature of four clean-cut smiling lads' heads caught in a swirl of musical notes, and their group name going by The Crown City Four. I was enough of a record-nerd by this point that these two signifiers would bring me to an album of barbershop-quartet music. But I had hope.
No, it's barbershop-quartet music.
I don't have enough hyperbole or adjectives or adjectival hyperbole (aside: when I was a kid, I thought for years that this was pronounced "hyper-bowl", and that's the most interesting fact in the entire world) in my system to convey my pure dismissal of this form of music.
BUT! with song titles like Watch World War Three (on Pay TV) and The Annual Get-Together of the KKK and the NAACP, this had to have some merit, and yeah okay it does.

In case you're unfamiliar with what the hell barbershop quartet music is, it's quite obviously four guys singing. And they have a closely dynamic harmonic range, baritone to tenor, or however deep-to-high voices are done up (no castratos here), and it's usually acapella but these boys have the instruments going sometimes. And not just boys. Two tracks have a female solo vocalist, the funnier track being I Saw Adolph Today, the tale of a woman seeing the nefarious dictator working behind the counter of a Jewish deli after falling on hard times.  Yes, it's all pretty much black humor dressed up in wholesome-sounding b-shop-q flavors, and it works for the most part, especially if you know what the hell they're singing about.

Dated from the early-1960's, these guys had a previous album out on the PIP label entitled Smash Flops and it looks as if it had the same amount of Robert Colbert-like satire as this one does. Here's a portion of the back cover, go ahead and click the thing.

Track listing:

A1     Watch World War III (On Pay TV)     2:14
A2     Fill Out The Policies, Mother     2:06
A3     The Annual Get-Together (Of The KKK And The NAACP)     1:38
A4     Guillotine Days     3:05
A5     Fifty Million Commies Can't Be Wrong     1:43
A6     That Big Sporting House In The Sky     2:59
B1     It's Fun To Be Hazed     1:56
B2     Oh What We Grow (In Old Mexico)     3:02
B3     Send The Girls Over There     1:48
B4     I Saw Adolph Today     1:53
B5     The Richer They Are (The Slower I Cure Them)     2:21
B6     Leave The Slums Alone

Download here:

(PS - Went through all previous entries and added track listings where needed. No idea why this never occurred to me before. No - I'm not OCD with typing tracks out and measuring the times; they're merely copy-pasted from music-sites. Also added nice green "download here" prompts.)