Monday, May 9, 2011

The Complete Collection (2004)

There were two previous "Best Of" albums by Dore, but nothing in the way of any rarities on them, and not even any pictures on either one. Then there was another compilation on CD, apparently put out by Dore in 1996, but was poorly mastered from scratchy old vinyl. For years, I wondered if their albums would ever come out on CD properly. In September of 2004, browsing the "Net one day, I made two startling discoveries. One was that there was an official website dedicated to H&L. The other was that there was a boxed set containing all of their work--remastered and unedited--with rare and unreleased material. I could barely contain my excitement as I scoured for more info on where I could send for it. I got the money together, sent for it, and before I knew it, it was in my mailbox, and up in my room.

It's a 3-CD boxed set, with all four Dore albums, eight unreleased routines, and five bits that were released as singles (either on their own, or b-sides). It has informative liner notes by the guys who put it together, plus a few cool pictures of the guys that I had never seen before, and clever picture-discs. The first two discs have all four albums (with a few loose bits on the third one), although not in the original running order as the albums.

After picking through the first two discs, I immediately headed for the third one. The unreleased bits are out-takes from Hanging In There, and all of them are good. Any of them could have gone on the record, or could have been used as b-sides to the singles released from it. Among them: "Joe Needles", about an out-of-luck ex-con calling into a radio talk show, and trying to beg a hundred bucks off the host. "College Chums" has two old college roomies running into each other after 20 years' time, and comparing their lives and offspring. "The Poodle" is a short one, with a very foppish guy trying to get his poodle meticulously clipped and gussied up before the big Dog Festival show. "Flying" is a very short bit about two airline pilots who realize they've been down in the airport lounge a little too long.

Towards the end of the disc are the five single-only bits. I have never seen them anywhere on vinyl, so they're probably even rarer than The Weird Kingdom. "Harlow's Kids" has Harlow and the missus sitting around the cabin on a rainy day, wondering if they should have some more youngins, and then noting how bad all previous seven of them turned out (with a rather abrupt and bizarre ending). "The Chocolate Freak" is an interrogation bit where a chocolate junkie is being grilled by detectives about where he gets it, where it comes from, and how it spreads around. These were not recorded in front of an audience, and sound like they were recorded in a small broom closet, at least by the recording quality.

"The Gas Man" is a weird little musical ditty about a snarky little guy who creeps around in the wee hours of the night, siphoning gas from unsuspecting people's cars, with hilarious voice cameos from all the characters we know and love (this was released as a single, backed with "Sir Basil", although I'm not sure which was the A-side!). "Fate Of The Mightiest Nation" (the flip-side of "The Chocolate Freak") is an oratory piece written by Art Hoppe, narrated solely by Hudson, with two guitars in the background, quietly commenting here and there on what's being talked about. Is it about colonial America, the present state of the country, or another time and place altogether? A rather strange but fascinating little vignette.

"The S.O.B. (Shortage Of Booze)" is the long-lost sequel to "Ajax Liquor Store" that appropriately closes the boxed set (with "Harlow's Kids" as the flip). It's the same guy a few years later calling the store to order some booze, only to find out it's being rationed out on certain days of the week (shades of the gas shortage going on at the time). Some great jokes go on in this one, just like the original.

And, that's it! Although a reunion of these guys never seemed to have happened, and is an impossibility now, listening to the "new" stuff on the third disc was like having them back together again, if only for a little while.

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