Monday, May 9, 2011
This was one of two that my Dad had in his collection. I remember seeing the cover for it and thinking it was a pretty bizarre thing to have on a comedy album, a very old photo of two guys hanging by their necks. Then again, always a good thing to have a little "sick" humor, and a clever title to go along with it.
"Ajax Liquor Store" starts it all off, and makes stars of these guys overnight, not to mention a Grammy nomination. For the uninitiated, it's about a guy ordering a boatload of booze over the phone, although he's already a few sails into the wind as it is. This routine has so many great hooks and quotes that you'll be be pilfering from it for years to come, such as "[My wife]'s out of town, but I do this in her memory!" and "Where Bambi goes, nothing grows!" . My favorite part goes like this...
H: You have any beer?
L: Yes, we have beer!
H: Ah, okay!
L: We have 16-ounce cans, and we have 12-ounce cans.
A very creative video featuring characters from The Jetsons can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGJyu5vQRvs
"Hippie And The Redneck" is an equally great routine about a carefree hippie getting pulled over by a loud redneck sheriff (who makes Sheriff Buford T. Justice sound like a Stanford graduate) who's about to call the judge over the CB radio, sees the hippie smoking a little reefer, and decides to take the evidence into his own hands. This a great routine to play for your stoner friends.
W.C. Fields wanders into "Pierre's Restaurant" and is trying to get a roasted duck from a snooty French waiter who's trying to keep him quiet and satisfied. As Fields says here, "Don't put any mayonnaise under the wings...makes their little goosebumps go down!".
"Kearsarge" is a Man On The Street interview segment, where the host is trying to interview what sounds like the dumbest hick that ever came from Deliverance-ville. He's a farmer who grows buckwheat and radishes, specifically to keep the wolverines off his land. A lengthy (and somewhat uninteresting) follow-up, "Five Points", closes the album's second side.
"Top-40 DJ's" is the guys' idea of what it would sound like if two Top-40 morning-radio disc-jockeys met up and talked to each other the same way they do to their listening audience, packed with the stereotypical jockey patter of the day. My favorite part...
L: Like really, man, when the rest are talkin', I'm rockin'!
H: Hoppin', boppin', snap and bingo!
L: John, Paul, George and Ringo!
"Impossible Dreams" is about a very gay-sounding guy at the psychiatrist's office, telling about the bizarre dreams he's been having. The guy who's having the dreams is a pre-cursor to a famous football figure we'll be hearing from again very soon.
"Porno Flicks" finds Landry as a barker outside the local nudie-movie house, trying to convince a sheepish Hudson to go in and check out the movies they're showing; Hudson is wanting to, but coyly muttering, "I dunno...I hear a bunch-a weirdos come down here...if anybody from my church saw me...!!". When he wanders off to go the The Sound Of Music instead, Landry shrugs it off with a classic line: "Boy, you can tell when times are good...people will blow their money on anything!".
"Friar Shuck" is a fire-and-brimstone Southern tent-preacher who is going to "open that good book and take a good look!" and rid the world of true evils, such as rogue, miniskirts and topless dancing.
Lew Bedell, Dore founder and producer, later noted that this album's recording session cost only $500, and it brought them a gold album and single, and a Grammy nomination. Not a bad return at all!
UPDATE: MARCH 28, 2012:
I saw a picture of the 8-track cartridge of this album on eBay, and it has an extra track on it, "The Pilots", which is more than likely "Flying", which later turned up on The Complete Collection.
My Dad had two of their albums in his collection for years. Every great once in a while, he'd play a few bits from them, and though I was pretty young and impressionable, a lot of what they were saying went over my head, although I loved their voices, and thought they'd make great cartoon voices. They reminded me of voices from cartoon segments I would see on Sesame Street, and they reminded me (respectively) of Jim Thurman and Bob Arbogast.
A little later on in years, I would take the albums up into my room, and play them. I discovered that these guys were brilliant! They had some very rapid-fire and witty repartee-isms that are sometimes hard to catch on the first listen, but are well worth listening back to again and again to catch them all. They had some great characters, set-ups and routines that were not like anything I had ever heard before or since. After finding one more album by them, I became a fan for life, and was always playing the albums, memorizing the routines, and turning them onto friends who'd never heard of them.
Their story of being a morning-man team on the L.A. radio station KGBS is pretty well-known, though I have never heard any tapes of the show to compare to their album output, but I imagine it was pretty hilarious.
Here's some great background info and pics of the guys:
http://www.wjma.radiohistory.net/WJMA Ron Landry tribute page.htm
Here is Bob Hudson's bizarre parody of "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa!", credited as--you guessed it--"The Emperor":
Here is some detailed info on the Dore Records label, plus scans of the album covers and track-listings:
Now that that's out of the way, I wanted to pay tribute to these guys in the following pages, going over their four albums, one that they wrote for Jim Backus, three solo projects, and a boxed set containing material that was either unreleased or on single sides. I feel that these guys were greatly talented writers, masters of character voices, but vastly underrated. Maybe it wasn't as cutting-edge as Richard Pryor, George Carlin, or Cheech & Chong, but it was just as funny and memorable enough to hold its own.
Bob Hudson could do all kinds of voice characters from loud rednecks, sloppy drunks, a W.C. Fields that would give Rod Steiger a run for his money, and the gayest football player that ever hit the gridiron. Ron Landry was usually the straight-man, more often as a TV or radio interviewer, but could also do Groucho Marx, Peter Lorre, and various old ladies. Together, there was quite a lot they could do with different voice combinations like that!
I now have everything that they commercially recorded and released. I am always on the lookout for any TV show appearances, live tapes, radio shows, airchecks, or anything else related to them. If anyone out there has anything, I would definitely like to hear from you.
Special thanks to Lew Bedell of Dore Records (and also for a 1996 article he wrote for Goldmine magazine, shedding some light on these guys, and the recording of the albums), to Alan Beck and JD Dancygier at ITP Records and of the offical H&L website, www.hudsonandlandry.com
So with all of that said, let's take a ride to Ajaxville and share in some great adventures with Bob Hudson and Ron Landry....
We found this one on vinyl at the Hill-Top Pawn Shop in May of 1986 (funny to remember a pawn shop even carrying vinyl!), for the princely sum of one dollar. I was amazed there was one more album by these guys, and I couldn't wait to hear it. The cover graphic, with a medieval-era woodcarving of a guy about to be beheaded, is memorable as the first album, and I think it would look great on a blue T-shirt.
"Obscene Phone Bust" starts it off, this time with the loud redneck sheriff trying to interrogate a guy they've busted for making obscene phone calls, but every reply he spews forth is peppered with the filthiest language imaginable. The bad words are covered up with the wackiest sound effects that would put a Looney Tunes cartoon to shame. They don't get too far because of this; one fellow fan noted the contrast between the hot-headed sheriff losing his cool amongst the laid-back/seen-it-all-before vibe from the suspect. Lew Bedell later said that the guys used blue language during the recording session, mostly to get the laughs going, but later covered them over with the sound effects. It would be interesting to hear the original performance!
"Ajax Airlines" has a very inebriated-sounding guy calling up the airline to find out what time the plane leaves, if they have any topless "hostresses", an in-flight movie ("No movie!?"..."No, sir, a rodeo!"), and perhaps if the operator could trace the call and tell him where he is. Will he make the flight with only three minutes before takeoff? (This routine was released as a single, though slightly shortened.)
"The Prospectors" are Zeek and Ray, two gold miners by the campfire, with their beloved pet rattlesnake, Floyd. How long have these guys been out there doing this? Even they don't seem to know, but they do know the coffee's getting cold, as the fire went out just this past Monday. This one will have the phrase "Boy, I couldn't live like that!" in your vocabulary.
"Sir Basil" is a British-style bit about two lords getting together for a spot of brandy, complete with the toast: "Over the lips and over the gums, look out abdomen, here it comes!".
W.C. Fields is back, this time at the "Ajax Travel Bureau", where he can get you anyplace, as long as it's Bogota, Colombia. There's a lightning-fast exchange between the guys when Fields asks the vacationing guy if he's ever seen Don Ho. It goes so fast, you may have to play that part back again to hear it right!
"Frederickism" is a new religion started by a schmoe by the name of Freddy Schultz, who is being questioned by the IRS to see if his new religion qualifies for a tax-free status. How much does he ask from his congregation? "Forty percent of everything you got!". And how many commandments? "Twenty-six! Can't hardly move without gettin' busted!"
"Astro Nut" is the continuing adventure of ol' Wilbur from Kearsarge, who's asking a local guy where he is this time (San Francisco), as he lost the rocket he was traveling in. Mind you, it's made of porcelain and concrete!
If "Ajax Liquor Store" made these guys famous, "Bruiser LaRue" made these guys into comedy legends. Bruiser is, to put it mildly, the gayest footballer to ever hit the playing field. He's so flaming, he may set off the smoke alarm, but you can't help but like him as much as you're cracking up. He goes on to tell sports reporter Ace Grovney how he got his start ("Playing Kick-The-Can in my mother's high-heels"), his favorite play ("Piling on, Ace"!), and his most triumphant play, against the Bradford Beavers ("I just tippy-toed around him and scored a touchdown!"). Totally non-PC in this day and age, but--come on--this is comedy, and you can't get any funnier than this, especially if you're a football fan. A slightly shortened edit of this routine was released as a single (can you imagine this coming out today, or being played on the radio???).
"Friar Schuck" is back, this time on a radio-hour program, bringing his healing powers to a man named Eddie Stokes who has never sweated before in his life. When he gets cured, he instantly gets the bill for the friar's services!
This was their highest-charting album (#35 in Billboard), their best-written and performed, and was even re-released in 1985 as a picture-disc, with cool black-and-white pictures on both sides of the guys in action, probably from a TV appearance. Lew Bedell later said the whole album was written out over Chinese dinner one night between them all, and it was their biggest. Just listen to it, and you'll see why!
This was the other one that my Dad had in his collection for years, and I remember liking the cover a lot as a kid. Again, kind of a strange thing to have on a comedy record, but I loved the little hot-rods jetting off the side of a cliff to the rocks down below. I always thought that they should have had cartoon drawings of the guys in the cars instead of the little raised fists. And then, on the back, we have pictures of the guys in action; at work, and at play. When I first saw it, I thought Bob Hudson was the Skipper from Gilligan's Island, or at least had a strong resemblance. We see them dressed up as their familiar characters, and as characters we will be hearing on the album. Going by these pictures, these guys should have had their own TV show, as they would have pulled it off very well. Ah, what could have been...!
"The Soul Bowl" starts things off, and earns them another classic piece. Ace Grovney is back, this time interviewing the amazing and legendary football coach, Blueberry Hill, who gives us the run-down of the rostrum of players to be in the big game at the Soul Bowl. You will be in absolute hysterics at the list of players' names, such as Booker T. Welfare, "Lima Bean" Greene, "Outta Town" Brown, The Automatic Toe, and too many more to name. Amazed, Ace predicts the upcoming game to be the mother of all losing games!
"Bruiser LaRue Meets Count Dracula"...the title says it all. Bruiser, caught in the rain (and having lost his raincoat in the man-eating plants outside), is welcomed into Drac's castle for a "bite", gets scared by yowling cats, and is intrigued by Sammy the werewolf, who has every hang-up in the book. Bruiser all of a sudden has to "skip along", and goes out to meet Sammy: "Yoo-hoooo!".
"The Rising And Falling Of Adolph Hitler" is the one cut on the record that no-one in the audience seems to find very funny, or interesting. We learn that Der Fuhrer is alive and living in Argentina, although plagued by falling and spastic spells, and is ready to show the world "no more mister nice guy!".
Hudson's famous drunk wanders into "Ajax Pet Store", looking for his lost dog, Fred. He's calling for him, to the annoyance of the owner, and tries to convince him that his pet mouse, Conrad, can whistle like a canary. He asks for a pound of those fish over there, and when he's told they're South American pirhana, he then asks for just half a pound!
"Charlie Chin" is the legendary Oriental detective who's summoned to a billionaire's cocktail party, and asked if he can find out who killed everyone there. The answer, and how he comes up with it, is too silly to mention.
"The Hippo" is a rather odd exercise routine, featuring Sir Basil and Sir Geoffrey, set to a bluesy shuffle in the background, which breaks off into weird, sped-up breaks and another voice cajoling them: "Well, c'mon, guys--charge!!!".
Ol' Wilbur calls up "Ajax Mortuary", as his brother is dead after eating a bad batch of chili con carne, and he's looking for a funeral house on the cheap. Landry does a good Boris Karloff voice, as the proprietor, who tells Wilbur that they can't pick up, as they've been busy and "things are piling up!". Wilbur decides, "Well, it wouldn't be no trick to balance him on the back of my Honda!", making this almost an early prototype of Weekend At Bernie's. Sick humor, indeed, and a favorite of many.
"Murph Almighty" is a good, wacky religious bit about another new religion, where the interviewer is being told about Murph, who came out of a green egg in a warm canal, and now everyone worships him...and aluminum!
"Frontier Christmas"...ah yes, an absolute classic, and definitely one of the best bits they ever wrote. It stars an elderly couple, the Harlowes, with the husband as a cranky old Archie Bunker-type, and the Missus as a sweet old wife who just wants to have a great Christmas, but also is concerned that she doesn't get too wasted for church the next morning! Harlowe secretly gets back an old music-box they'd sold off along the way to their home, with a little help from the local Indian chief, Red Feather. The ending to this bit will actually make tears come to your eyes, and you realize that Harlowe knew the real meaning of Christmas all along!
"The Heads" is actually "Ajax Lost & Found", where the clerk is trying to help a very drunk Hudson find his brother, Fred. There's very many words in this bit that rhyme with "Fred" that would make Dr. Suess proud. Very strange sound quality, it sounds like it was recorded through an old telephone hand-set, and a wacky sound-effects edit at the very end.
UPDATE: MARCH 28, 2012:
I found the cassette copy of this album on eBay, and when I clicked on the picture of the cassette-box label, I noticed that it contained two extra tracks. I sent away for it, and it showed up sooner than I expected. The album's running order is shuffled around a bit, to facilitate space for the extra tracks. They were not recorded in front of an audience, and were perhaps bits from their radio show.
"The Smitherly Brothers", closing side one, has the guys as real Deliverance-type hicks looking to play a prank over the phone on one of their neighbors; not one of their best bits, and it comes to a rather sudden stop. The other track on side two, "On The Street", has Landry as a street-interviewer talking to a masonry worker who loves to patch up imperfections wherever he goes. In fact, he just whipped up a batch of cement and paved over an entire stretch of sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard, outside a certain Chinese Theater!
I got this one as the repackage CD called The Comedy Classics from ITP Records' site in summer of 2010. It had originally been released on Dore as The Dirty Old Man in 1974 or so; it is apparently pretty rare and hard-to-find, as I have never seen it on vinyl anywhere. I also didn't know that H&L had written the material for it, and actually appear here and there alongside Jim Backus himself, so that reason alone was why I had to get myself a copy!
The recording sounds like the same recording sessions from The Weird Kingdom, and are accompanied by a female whose voice I don't recognize (her name doesn't appear in the credits, at least not in the CD liner notes). Backus sometimes sets up the listener for the following vignette, or the routines start off straightaway.
H&L appear with him on the opening cut, "That's Rich", featuring Thornton Updike, a sort of early prototype for Thurston Howell III, whose son comes home with his friend, none other than Bruiser LaRue. Following this is the title track, with a rich old playboy who gets a kick out of calling ladies on the phone and making obscene phone calls, complete with off-the-wall sound effects (shades of "Obscene Phone Bust"). The next cut, "TV Repairman", features Ron Landry as an angered neighbor bothered by the repairman, who sounds a lot like Mr. Magoo; when he finally finds the right customer, they engage in a nonstop barrage of TV show title references. A little corny, but also very clever. The following cut "Frigid" is about a guy in the hotel room next door who's whispering sweet nothings into the ear of his mate, who suddenly goes cold on him.
"Kelsey's Nuts & Bolts" is a bit about a loud guy from Texas on a long flight who loves to spin yarns and tell bad jokes the whole way through. "Pain & Agony" features Bob Hudson, all about a pair of surgeons who would rather be out on the golf course instead of the operating room. It contains the phrase "I chili-dipped it!", which almost sounds like a Seinfeld-type of catchphrase, fifteen years before its time. "Me And My Shadow" is about a guy who got fired from his job and skulks into the local bar, arguring with the little voice of reason in his head the whole time. The last cut "The Happy Cooker" is a parody of a cooking show, but this is the one cut on the album that doesn't seem to really go anywhere.
The rest of the remaining four cuts on the CD are from singles released in the late '50s. My personal favorite is about the office boss laying out the rules for the upcoming office Christmas party, and then falls down the elevator shaft at the end.
More info on the album can be seen at:
October, 1994. At House of Records one afternoon, I was going through the comedy section, and came upon the H&L section. Over the years, I'd always gone through their section, wondering if I'd ever discover something "new" or exciting. There were copies of the first three albums, and--oh!--something called The Best Of Hudson & Landry. I was about to go over to another section when something caught my eye. I fished it out of the rack, seeing a brightly-colored cover, and thinking that maybe someone had left a childrens' record in there. What I was looking at was a cartoon drawing of the guys in the jungle, with Landry as a heroic explorer, wrangling a 'gator, and Hudson watching from a nearby pond. I flipped it over, and I was amazed and then excited to see that this was a fourth album! It made its way to the cash register with me in no time at all. I could not wait to get it home and play it.
The Weird Kingdom is their fourth and last album. What I found that day was one of only two copies I have ever seen of it. It's their rarest because, as Lew Bedell later explained, it was their poorest-selling album, selling only 30,000 copies. He also said they had split up after their third album, and he had to bring them back together to make this one. This was recorded at the Pomona National Golf & Country Club, like its predecessors, but has a slightly lower recording quality than the first three. Despite this, it's got some great gems to behold on it.
Mutual Of Tokyo presents "The Weird Kingdom", hosted by Merlin Marlon, and starring Ralph, the fearless explorer, who mistakes a sleeping alligator for an old log. He quickly notices the 'gator has a bad tooth and replaces it with a big gold one. A wacky and wild parody of Wild Kingdom, with sound effects to go along with the action.
Landry's impersonation of Groucho Marx stars as Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates, hosting "The Heaven Game", while Hudson appears as a Pole, a Mexican and an old black man (Booker T. Welfare, by name), who are waiting to get into Heaven. Is there no bigotry or prejudice in Heaven? Play a round, and find out!
"Cornelius Vanderbilt"...ol' Wilbur works for him, not knowing he's the biggest kingpin in New York. Wilbur is stopped on the street by a plainclothesman, who asks him the whys and wheres of what he does and what he's got. Vanderbilt is into Japanese food, apparently! It's called "kilo"!!!
"Little Miss Lonely" is the pseudonym of an elderly widow who's put an ad in the Lonely Hearts Gazette, looking for "a beast, a real animal!". Bruiser LaRue has a quick cameo, whom she tells to "kiss off!", and ends up on the phone with Hudson's thoroughly inebriated drunk.
Cast for vote for Montague Dal Kemper in "Montague For Governor". He promises many things, such as closing topless bars, and bringing the prostitutes to their knees. There's a mystery guy behind him, heckling him at every sentence, and at the same time, revealing some very interesting truths about this guy!
"Forever Adams" is a 96-year-old pitching legend, who's still on the team at his advanced age. He gets it from ol' pop, who's also still out there as well!
A little "Who's On First?" comes into play with "Nobody's Business", where Hudson's famous drunk is tending bar, and telling Landry about Who, Somebody, Nobody, Really Sorry, and Never Sorry. You may be able to keep up with it and get it all after a few listens.
"Ajax Finance Company" closes the album, with Frank, the former president of the finance company trying to get a loan from the very institution he'd been fired from, after nearly 45 years on the job ("We'd-a been happy to give you a loan then, Frank!", says Landry, the new boss, sitting at Hudson's old desk). The ending of the routine has some rather abrupt editing to deliver a punch line, but it was obvious that poor ol' Frank didn't have a pot to piss in.
And, that was it for Bob Hudson and Ron Landry's reign at Dore Records. I've read somewhere that one of them walked out on the radio show one day, and that was that. I have no idea if they ever got together again, but it would have been wonderful if they had, and made some more recordings.
This was the sole album of Bob Hudson teaming up with Bobby "Boris" Pickett (of "Monster Mash" fame). Sounded like an interesting pairing, but to be honest, this album is astoundingly unfunny, although the audience seems to be in hysterics the whole time. Everything about this album looks and sounds very outdated, to the cover graphics layout, to the material, and overall presentation. The sound quality (on the original vinyl) is made even worse by re-channeling, or "fake stereo". This was re-released as a twofer CD with Landry & Biener's Comedy Album, which I got in September 2007, though I had the original vinyl back in October 2004.
The album veers between comedy routines and strange song parodies. The most interesting is "Sky High Market", a parody set to "Frere Jacques", with an average Joe asking the prices of groceries with a harried-sounding female store manager over the phone. The guys (especially Hudson) can't stop cracking up while it's going on. There are two parts to this, at the end of each album side.
"They're Going To Let Me Stay" is a bad ripoff of "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa!"; "Pass The Jack Daniels", a really bad country-western ballad on the gee-tar by Pickett, and a weird parody of Jimmy Dean's "Big Bad John", sung by none other than Bruiser LaRue himself. These were not really these guys' territory, and the remaining comedy bits are almost unlistenable, even though the audience seems to be having a good time.
More info on the album (and audio clips) can be seen here:www.hudsonandlandry.com/hplb.html
I got this one in October of 2004, not knowing if this one was going to be any good or not. Despite the cheap-looking cover graphics, this is a vast improvement over The Hollyweird Squares. I don't know who Dave Judson is, or how he came to team up with the Emperor, but he sort of sounds a little like Ron Landry, so it's almost like having H&L together again.
Bob Hudson wrote all of the material on this one, save for the opening title cut, based around the classic Abbott & Costello routine "Who's On First?". Next is a sports interview with none other than Bruiser LaRue, who's going to trade in his cleats to be a baseball star. Following that is "Take The Gum", where Judson is a guy on the subway being pestered by a well-meaning but annoying guy whose lot in life is chewing-gum. After that is a similar routine, "Hold The Mustard", about two guys at a ballgame, where one guy doesn't want mustard on his dog, and gets read the riot act by the other about the evils of not eating mustard. He changes his tune, though, when he finds out what's in mustard!
Side two opens with "The Pits", featuring Hudson's famous drunk, who's a few sails into the wind at the local watering hole, full of hilarious (to him, anyway) guessing games and tales of riding the bus while drunk (check it out at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v+vPL4SvG-YiI)"Wagons Ho!" is a tale of the old West, and of how the most famous town in Arizona got its name. "Death Penalty" is a TV interview show parody, where a senator who's ready to throw the switch on condemened criminals may just be in hot water himself. The final cut, "Sweet Street", is kind of a sequel to "The Chocolate Freak" by H&L, featuring the same jokey candy references, only this time, the suspect goes in front of the Fudge Judge at the end.
This was the only album released by Hudson & Judson, on the Cream label in 1978. After this, Hudson returned to radio, where he remained on various stations and citites up until his retirement in 1988.
Got this one in September 2007 as a twofer CD with The Hollyweird Squares preceding it. This was Ron Landry's last comedy release, with fellow comedy writer Tom Biener. It came out in 1989 on the Universal label, but I have never seen it anywhere, on either vinyl or cassette. Despite the cheesy packaging and fantastically unimaginative title, this is actually a very funny album, with some memorable bits to be found.
"Snits" kicks it off, with Landry as a news reporter interviewer questioning a scientist who's discovered a bizarre guacamole-green life-form that cannot be burned, frozen, killed or eaten. "Bus Stop" is a great bit, with two guys waiting for the bus, bemoaning the troubles they're going through at home. "Smoking" is the bit on the album that's well worth buying it for; seems there's a guy on a nonstop flight who won't put his cigarette out, while the steward is trying to get him to put it out, and suggests another activity that takes his mind off smoking and "keeps your hands busy". "Pledge Break" is a very funny parody of those interminably long breaks we have to tolerate while watching an evening program on the local PBS channel; the "History Of Rock & Roll" program they're trying to show in the meantime is hilarious. "Smitty's" concerns a guy poking into his old watering hole in the old neighborhood and catching up on what the old gang has been up to. "Donovan" is a late-night interview show, featuring a TV evangelist who's in the hot seat regarding the money that goes to his ministry, and of him being spied going to seedy motels in the wee hours. All he can say is, "The Lord works in mysterious ways!".
Some more info on it can be seen at:
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.