Friday, January 18, 2013
TRACK LISTING: Yakety Sax (Intro), Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In the West), Bianca, Gypsy Dance, New York Rap, Star Names, Just Wanna Be In Your Band, Down On the Farm, Unlucky Luke, Pepys' Diary, Older Women, Cafe Ole, Graffiti, Lifeguards, Go Round Again, Yakety Sax
IMPRESSIONS: This is a cd that came out shortly after Benny Hill's death. I remember picking it up at the local Strawberries and being totally stunned to see it; the last thing I expected to see was a new Benny Hill album (especially so soon after his death). Earlier in 1992, Benny went to Abbey Road Studios and recorded brand new versions of many of his old songs (including his early 70's hit single "Ernie" whose original recording I prefer) and, for a man who would shortly suffer a heart attack, kidney failure and death, Benny's voice sounds as strong as it ever did. Benny's long-time producer Dennis Kirkland, in the liner notes written on one month after Hill's death, reveals that Benny was still full of life and fun at the time of recording: "When we were recording this album at the Beatles' original studios in London's Abbey Road our Musical Director shouted out 'Let's take it from Letter B." The drummer shouted back, "From where?" and, quick as a flash, Benny sang "Letter B, letter B, letter B..." to the tune of "Let It Be". I think the Fab 4 would've liked that." Granted, the old songs we're used to hearing time and time again on countless repeats of "THE BENNY HILL SHOW" but Benny does manage to sneak in a topical reference as in his revised first verse of "Bianca" which runs "Now Bianca McBrown weighs 300 pounds/ she got eyes like risoles in the snow/she comes from St. Kit's/got a big pair of . . . mitts/she could lay Mike Tyson out with one blow...". Yet, amongst the familiar sounds newly-recorded Benny included a couple new songs ("Star Names", "New York Rap") and it was certainly nice to hear probably the last new material Benny would give us. The wonderful "Star Names" has lyrics utilizing puns on famous female celebrities' names (and I, for one, was thrilled to hear Benny reference favourite Kate Bush) and the surprising "New York Rap" actually uses a contemporary hip hop backing track on it. Benny was always a lover of music and it seems till the very end he was listening to new forms of music. It saddens me to think what Hill's life must've been like at this point in time when the ogre of rampant political correctness had seen him summarily dismissed from Thames television (which frankly owed it's entire success and survival to Benny Hill) and the banishment of his programmes from television. Ever hopeful, Benny must've thought that recording an album (after so many decades) would allow him to reach his fans who were now cut off from his television work. As such, "THE BEST OF" is something of a friendly greeting as well as an unintentional farewell to Benny Hill fans. This is made particularly poignant by the final song on the album (aside from his theme song "Yakety Sax" performed sans Benny by Ronnie Aldrich and his musicians). The last song Benny included was a re-record of one of the most touching lyrics he ever wrote: "Go Round Again". The song appeared decades ago on "THE BENNY HILL SHOW" and in the new recording here follows the same cod-Bob Dylan impression by Benny as the singer recounts his entire life until his own death. The final verse goes like this as the singer is breathing his last: "Please let me go 'round again, Lord/please let me go 'round again/I can't believe that I'll never see your sky or your trees again/the girls and the wine/and the living was fine/and I shouldn't complain but then/you give damn short rides on this fairground of yours, Lord/Oh please let me go 'round again".
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Bianca, Gypsy Dance, New York Rap, Star Names, Down On the Farm, Unlucky Luke, Pepys' Diary, Older Woman, Cafe Ole, Graffiti, Lifeguards, Go Round Again, Yakety Sax
FACT SHEET: THE BEST OF is Benny Hill's final album; I know of two others. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, St John's Wood, London and mixed at New York City's 39th Street Music. The album features Benny Hill's long-time musical director Ronnie Aldrich. The Beatles tribute cover photo was by Barry Breckon.