Thursday, 22 November 2012

Hugh Laurie: Let them talk

Several years ago, I had commented to one of my old schoolmates that I had a weak spot for the PG Wodehouse books. I have been reading Wodehouse since the 1980s and I found his titles irresistible. He was the creator of some of those wackiest characters like Bertie Wooster and his butler, Jeeves. "Have you watched the television series, Jeeves and Wooster, then?" he asked me.

That was the start of a remarkable journey for me, to track down the television series and all the episodes. I found that there were altogether four seasons of this British series (of course, you must leave it to the British to produce such a television show; the Americans have little class when it comes to comedy) which starred the comedy duo of Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry.

It was then I got really hooked on to the talent of the two actors. The turn of language was exactly what I was looking for in television comedy shows. The last time I had really, really, really ever enjoyed myself with a comedy series was when Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister were broadcast. Wanting more of such "British nonsense", I discovered the Blackadder series as well as A Bit of Fry and Laurie, all starring the comedic duo. Of course by then, I learnt that they had diversified into other television roles, such as Stephen Fry In America which was a documentary series and the choleric House MD which I think that I don't have to say anything about. It's so well-known.

Through House MD, Laurie had made an incredible mark for himself as an actor in America. But maybe less so as a musician though. However, music was one of his interests and he demonstrated in A Bit of Fry and Laurie and occasionally in Jeeves and Wooster that he was up to it as a very competent pianist and guitarist. But his singing voice is something else altogether. He is not a natural singer. Despite this, he has the guts to put out a debut album recently, called Let Them Talk, which is his tribute to the American blues genre of New Orleans.

Over the past two months I had been agonising whether to buy this album on compact disc or vinyl record. Finally about three weeks ago, I decided that I should go for the vinyl version. So I went into ebay and searched around. The vinyl version was rare but it was available. Eighteen days ago, I was notified that the parcel was on its way.

Eighteen days is an agonisingly long wait but this afternoon, the postman arrived with the parcel. I wasted no time opening it, removing the album and checking the condition of the double LPs, then put it through one complete round of wash to remove the dirt and grime (you wouldn't believe the dust inside the record sleeves) before letting my stylus gently caress the record grooves. (Note: My only gripe is that the record company should have produced a gate-fold record sleeve. They could have done a better job with the packaging and presentation. Is this art lost forever??)

There were two surprises with this album. The first was the weight of the records. Quite heavy, possibly 180g vinyl, but I can't confirm. The second surprise was the complete lack of surface noise from the records. No pops, no crackles. And just a silence between tracks. Wonderful. Below is the playlist. I know that on compact disc (there are more than one version), it is possible to buy a version with bonus tracks. But there were no bonus tracks on the records though, but that is how it is supposed to be. The original real McCoy in full fidelity. It was such a blissful hour for me.

Side One: St. James Infirmary, You Don't Know My Mind, Six Cold Feet
Side Two: Buddy Bolden's Blues, Battle of Jericho, After You've Gone, Swanee River
Side Three: The Whale Has Swallowed Me, John Henry (featuring Irma Thomas), Police Dog Blues, Tipitina
Side Four: Winin' Boy Blues, They're Red Hot, Baby, Please Make a Change (featuring Sir Tom Jones & Irma Thomas), Let Them Talk

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