Elsewhere in the linear notes Parks states: ‘This ain’t your Jimmy Buffet Banana Republic. It’s Fellini with Bikinis.’ He’s not wrong.
Well, there’s one obvious reason why you’re not listening – it’s an absolute bugger to track down. From what I can tell the album is released every five or six years, with a tiny production run, and very limited distribution. You’ll probably have to get it from America but be reassured: even with a running time of just over 30 minutes it is still worth the extra coppers. After all, you’re getting 23 panmen produced by Van Dyke Parks. According to the great man the band are ‘the greatest group I’ve ever had the privilege to produce’. Elsewhere in the linear notes Parks states: ‘This ain’t your Jimmy Buffet Banana Republic. It’s Fellini with Bikinis.’ He’s not wrong.
Simply put, this is just about the most joyous album you could hope to own. It starts off like an absolute rocket with Apeman. Sung in the style of an English lord the protagonist tells of how, in this modern age, with all the pollution and threats of nuclear war, he would like to take off all his clothes and live like an ape-man in the jungle.
There’s a bewildering mix amongst the 12 tracks – covers of pop classics such as Cecilia and I Want You Back, traditional staples such as If I had the Wings (Like a Dove) and versions of classical compositions (Saint Saens’ Aquarium gets a good work out). Chuck into the mix a cover of Van Dyke Parks’ Come To the Sunshine and Mighty Sparrow’s Erasmus B. Black (say slowly to see how a simple misunderstanding at a christening ceremony ended with someone being attacked with a rocking chair) and you’ve got one hell of an album.
Really, what’s not to like when you’ve got a brilliant steel band going at full tilt, replete with communal singing and funky drumming, as well as a brilliant producer and great songs? In short, nothing.