July 10, 1996
Mary Stuart, Scribble (Overture Records 1996) - Here's a real sleeper. An unknown talent recording on a little label out of Novi, Michigan, Mary Stuart delivers the goods on her debut release. Like Natalie Merchant, Sarah McLachlan, and Tori Amos, Mary Stuart shifts between rock, pop, and dreamy ballads without missing a beat. And that's something you don't find often.
Despite her waif-like appearance, Mary Stuart is a seasoned performer (and proud mother of a three-year-old). Mary hails from the east side of Detroit, but moved to such locales as Miami, Los Angeles, and New York City after high school. When she returned to Michigan, she joined a local glam-metal group known as Oriental Spas.
After leaving the group in 1994, she began working on Scribble with producer Tim Patalan, who had just finished his work on Sponge's (now-gold) debut record. As a singer/songwriter, Stuart feels no restrictions as to what she writes about or what type of music flows from her pen. With rock, psychedelic, swing, and folk influences, Scribble is an eclectic but pleasing collection of songs.
On the album's ten tracks, Stuart contributes vocals and keyboards, and Tim Patalan provides guitar, bass, and cello. In addition, three members of Sponge help Mary; Vinnie Dombrowski (isn't that a great midwestern Pollack name?) plays drums, while Joey Mazzolo and Mike Cross help on the guitar parts.
The inside cover of the album features a line drawing of a bearded man who resembles Ernest Hemingway, circa The Old Man and the Sea (a horrible, grossly overrated story - and I say that as a person who has ready every single published novel or short story ever written by Hemingway). This symbolism summarizes Stuart's sentiments: she's woman enough to be a lover, but man enough to belt 'em back with the boys.
On such songs as "Freedom Train" and "Piccadily Square," Stuart displays her clear vocals and wanderlust. However, cuts like "Private Purgatory" and the uptempo "Forget Me Not" display Stuart's sentiments as a woman and a lover.
In addition to the nine original tracks on this album (which also include the bouncy, reggae-tinged "The Weaver"), Stuart also recorded a delicious cover of the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday." In fact, it was "Ruby Tuesday" that first caught my ear. After I listened to this track 12 or 15 times in a row, I moved on to the rest of the album.
Like Katie Trickett (who released a sweet debut album last year on little-known Lawson Records from Los Angeles), Mary Stuart is a charming performer with a big talent. Keep ahead of the curve. Always. Make friends with Mary Stuart.
Buy This Box or We'll Shoot This Dog: The Best of the National Lampoon Radio Show (Rhino Records 1996) - Although the National Lampoon Radio Hour only aired from 1973 through 1975, its impact on the world of comedy was huge. And on this three-disc set (containing 139 tracks), Rhino has gathered some of the best bits from this historic series.
And I mean historic in more ways than one. Besides being one of the last comedy series on radio (airing at one time on more than 600 stations weekly), its rich roster of talent included Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Christopher Guest, and Harold Ramis. In other words, Nat Lamp featured most of the original cast of Saturday Night Live, as well as many talents from Second City T.V.
Obviously, some of these sketches are a bit dated, in the same way that some of the Saturday Night Live shows from 1976 are dated. But this doesn't detract from the validity of this material. (Likewise, I just read the 25th anniversary issue of "National Lampoon" magazine, which continues many hilarious bits from the past).
I remember enjoying the National Lampoon Radio Hour back when I was in junior high; maybe that's why I turned out like I am. With skits like "Frank Rizzo: The Philadelphia Police League for Retarded Children," "Tommy Toilet" and "The Evil Santa," the National Lampoon Radio Hour reached its target audience like a heat-seeking missile.
Says Bob Tischler, who worked on the show, "The Radio Hour was more than a show, it was a place for some of the brightest people in comedy and music in New York City to try stuff out. If we thought it was funny or interesting or just weird, we'd put it on."
"The National Lampoon Radio Hour lasted a little more than a year," Tischler adds. "Besides the fact that the show never made money for anybody, we all had other things to do. Many of us went on to do Saturday Night Live, some of us did SCTV, some of us did records, some of us made movies, and (pause), some of us are dead. Honk! Honk! Why, it's Wobbles the Goose."
To be honest, I was a little disappointed by the set. Of course, the production work is excellent (as with any collection from Rhino). But the material didn't seem to have the edge that I remembered from 20 years ago.
For example, National Lampoon founder Matty Simmons recalls, "entire programs were excised by stationed because they were beyond the boundaries of 1970s propriety. I remember being informed that 'The Death Penalty', a show written by Belushi and Brian Doyle-Murray, had been kicked off the air by more than 400 stations."
"When I bitched to Belushi, he grinned proudly. 'You know,' he informed me, '400 stations, that's the record.'"
And it's that kind of edge that I didn't find that on Buy This Box. Not that there's anything wrong with it. Maybe it's just that I'm older and more jaded. More's the pity for me.
-- Randy Krbechek
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