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Review by Brad Green:
Donít blame it on the rain; donít blame it on the boogie; blame it on Winchester Cathedral, which neglected to ring its bells as The New Vaudeville Bandís lead singerís baby left town. Jolly splendiferous scapegoat, me old chap; know exactly how you feel! Personally been writing ditties like that for years: gloriously cathartic it was rebuking the Flemington winning post, which refused to shift an inch to the left at the finish of the 1997 Melbourne Cup; and Iíve just finished venting my rhyming couplets fury at last nightís third bottle of Viscount Snodgrass Estate shiraz, which failed to spill its contents before I could set in motion this morningís cranium-cracking hangover; I could go onÖ but alas, being miffed at an unsympathetic world hasnít led me to such a delightfully quirky melody. Winchester Cathedral remains one of the great oddball hits; and from its droll lyric, to the twanged and muffled effect of singing the vocal through hands cupped like a megaphone, a paragon of English eccentricity.†

Listening to this soundtrack as Easter approaches, itís appropriate enough that much of it is a resurrection. And while thereís no doubting Tommy was one of the great concept albums, The Whoís often overrated legacy is put to the test against a number of 60s British Invasion numbers. They were a band that should not be denied for imagination and originality (still being displayed by Pete Townshend in his pretexts for certain vile Internet interests). But Magic Bus was probably snaffled for a song after The Beatlesí Magical Mystery Tour Ė and both it and the other Who selection represented here, My Generation, reflect that in the performance stakes Daltrey and Townshend were no match for the great hard rock vocalist/guitarist pairings. Well, we donít get Led Zep here to show them up, but we do get some superior, unsullied rock Ďní roll from Georgie Fame; and a track from 90s outfit Matter, called Hot Pasta, which burns up the fret-board in a display of rare, lead guitar virtuosity. So unusual nowadays, in fact, that it evokes a nostalgia much like a superlative spaghetti bolognaise can summon memories of the sauces your Italian school friendís mother used to make.†

The second half of the CD is devoted to Randy Edelmanís easy listening, orchestral score. Itís a bit of a melodic pastiche; and pays mock homage to everything British from Purcell to Elgar, plus a few surprises Ė thereís nothing quite like a kung fu chop to the pomp and circumstance is there?†

Oh yes, and I almost forgot, the main commercial impetus comes from an alt-rock version of the old Kinks hit All Day And All Of The Night. Newcomer, Jessica Harp manages the meagre vocal requirements without a hiccup, and itís a fine example of an old fashioned, forgettable pop banality reinvented as a forgettable pop banality a la mode.†

All in all, a slightly eclectic and most enjoyable soundtrack. If you beg to differ, just blame it on your web browser for not editing my copy to your taste.†

Published May 15, 2003

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TITLE: Shanghai Knights
ID: 336342
FMR /Hollywood Records
ARTISTS: Jessica Harp; The Who; The Zombies; Roger Miller; Narry Nilsson; Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames; The New Vaudeville Band; Matter
SCORE: Randy Edelman

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