The resurrection of English whimsy making its way from a stage back to the record, with Rick Wakeman lending a hand… or two.
1972’s “Let’s Make Up And Be Friendly” was the last classic album by the original BONZO DOG BAND, and it was then that Vivian Stanshall introduced Sir Henry Rawlinson. Later on, the eccentric gentleman became a protagonist of a successful BBC series, an LP, a movie and, finally, a stage show. Directed and pulled off by actor, singer and comedian Michael Livesley, the spectacle proved to be a raving success, with the cast joined on more than one occasion by Sir’s co-creator Neil Innes and another possessor of a mighty sense of humor, Rick Wakeman.
Both of them take part in the play’s soundtrack, although, for all the luminaries’ contribution, it’s Livesley who’s amazingly imposing and utterly hilarious in the lead role, while there’s no escaping the Rawlinson household and their guests. Many of those have musical numbers – delivered by BRAINWASHING HOUSE, the ensemble’s violinist being Viv’s fave fiddler, Susie Honeyman from THE MEKONS – and it’s really difficult to eschew the sticky allure of “Nice ‘N’ Tidy” and a few more vaudeville-like tunes. Still, it would be a mistake to get in there for the aforementioned keyboardist’s cameos, as Rick is tinkling on a barrelhouse piano in “Wheelbarrow” and chiming in “Fool & Bladder” squarely in the context of it all rather than implementing his style to the ditties, and if “Interlewd” sounds as medieval as Wakeman’s fans would want it, he’s not on this track…
Which doesn’t diminish the brilliance of overall performance that, requiring the relishing of British accent – and all things British for that matter – begs for repeated listening to catch the multi-layered detail of it. A classic given a new shine – a good laugh!