Sunday, December 2, 2012


YEAR:  1983
TRACK LISTING:  Me and Choir,  A Day In the Life of Clarence Bunsen,  Letter From Jim,  Fiction,  The Living Flag,  The Tollefson Boy Goes To College,  Tomato Butt,  Chamber of Commerce,  Dog Days of August,  Mrs. Berge and the Schubert Carillon Piano,  Giant Decoys,  Darryl Tollerud's Long Day,  Hog Slaughter,  Thanksgiving,  The Royal Family,  Guys On Ice,  James Lundeen's Christmas,  The Christmas Story Re-Told,  New Year's From New York,  Storm Home
IMPRESSIONS:  Around 1984 I had a fantastic college professor for my Mass Media class - Dr. Denis Mercier - who, in order to demonstrate something which I can no longer remember, played for us in his lecture hall "The Tollefson Boy Goes To College" by Garrison Keillor.  At that point in my life I had never heard of Keillor or his radio programme "A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION" and was thus totally ignorant of his "News From Lake Wobegon" readings.  I was completely captivated.  Keillor's voice was spellbinding and his story was both warm and funny.  Naturally, at the end of class I asked Dr. Mercier where to get that album and he showed me the "butter box" of four cassette tapes which comprised the four volumes of "NEWS FROM LAKE WOBEGON" which make up this album.  The four volumes are divided thematically into "Spring", "Summer", "Fall" and "Winter".  I've since heard many, many Keillor monologues and many, many episodes of his radio show but none hold that special place in my heart as this collection and his "GOSPEL BIRDS" tape which I bought at the same time . . . I believe I got them at the Waldenbooks store on Route 70 (now long gone) back in those early to mid-80s.  There was something just so right about the packaging of that original cassette box which made it look like a Land-O-Lakes butter box.  I now, of course, have it on cd and it's just not the same.  The album starts off with one of Keillor's greatest ever monologues:  "Me and Choir" which is as near to a half hour long as makes no difference -- and is one of the greatest monologues I've ever heard.  There's the genuinely hilarious "Tomato Butt" which recalls a summertime youth and the expertly-observed "Thanksgiving" with all the faults and foibles -- as well as the heart of family.  Then the entire collection ends in winter with another of my all-time favourite stories:  "Storm Home".  Ever since hearing this story, I too have achingly longed for a "storm home" of my own.  These recordings are around 30 years old now and they've grown to become treasured classics to me; as comfortable and rewarding as a beloved old book.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Truthfully?  Every one of them.
FACT SHEET:  NEWS FROM LAKE WOBEGON is a 4 volume collection of monologues by Garrison Keillor taking from his weekly public radio show "A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION".  PHC has been running in its present format since 1974 (although it uses the name of a previous unrelated show which began in 1969).  PHC is a live radio variety show broadcast live usually from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota every Saturday afternoon from 5 to 7 pm.  The show takes its name from the Prairie Home Cemetery of Moorhead, Minnesota near Concordia College.  This album compiles Keillor's most well-known and beloved feature of A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION:  his "News From Lake Wobegon" monologues which describe events in his fictional hometown of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average".  Each monologue always begins with another Keillor catchphrase:  "Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon; my hometown...".        

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