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The Firesign Record Reviews

from the revised (in 1983)
"New Rolling Stone Record Guide"

(supplied by Phil Buchbinder)

"*****" is the highest rating. The reviews do not appear in the most recent edition. Please note that "Roller Maidens From Outer Space" is attributed to the entire group, not just Philip Austin. Proctor & Bergman's albums are reviewed seperately, and are included at the end here. "How Time Flys" is not covered at all. The Firesign reviews were written by Greil Marcus (a former Rolling Stone editor who covered books & records for "California" and authored "Mystery Train: Images Of America In Rock 'n' Roll Music") and co-editor Dave Marsh (a former "Rolling Stone" editor, and the author of "Born To Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story," "The Book Of Rock Lists," "Elvis," & "Before I Get Old," a bio of the Who). The Proctor & Bergman reviews are by co-editor John Swenson, a founding editor of "Creem," author of books on Kiss, the Who, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Bill Haley, & Simon & Garfunkel, a former contributor to "The Village Voice," and a record reviewer for "Crawdaddy," "Circus," "Rolling Stone," and "High Times."


** Waiting For the Electrician Or Someone Like Him / Col. (1968)
***** How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All? / Col. (1969)
***** Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers / Col. (1970)

Peter Bergman, Philip Proctor, David Ossman, and Philip Austin first appeared in 1967 as a mutant hybrid of James Joyce, Monty Hall, Douglas MacAuthur and Flash Gordon. The were the first, and remain the only, comedy group whose primary medium was the stereo phonograph record itself; thus, their best albums stand up to literally hundreds of listenings. Multi-tracked, multileveled, multidimensional--one never gets to the bottom of them. Consistent themes recur from LP to LP: that changing TV channels is the fundamental aesthetic and political experience of modern times; that aliens long ago took over California; that the U. S. A. lost World War II (we were fighting fascism, remember).
"Electrician," their first outing, is only fair, but contains the incredible 'Beat the Reaper,' the first of several game-show parodies ('Hawaiian Sellout,' 'Give It Back'). "Two Places" features an excellent if limited Sam Spade satire, backed with the first full flowering of Firesign genius, a time trip involving a used-car salesman, W. C. Fields and the aforementioned author of "Ulysses," who is liberally quoted. "Dwarf," a complete work, scrambles a fascist future, high school madness, old movies, the Korean War, ethnic humor and uncontrolled paranoia to emerge as the ultimate answer record to "Catcher In the Rye;" it is also the greatest comedy album ever made.

*** I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus / Col. (1971)

An ambitious, overly rational work about a future run by machines and populated by clones. Spooky, but a little too obvious. And, as the Firesigns would later claim, not insane, and that hurts.

** Dear Friends / Col. (1972)

Transcriptions from the Firesign radio show. Sometimes funny, but very conventional.

* Not Insane or Anything You Want To / Col. (1972)

Further decline: witless, noisy, unfocused.

** The Tale Of the Giant Rat Of Sumatra / Col. (1974)

A halfassed comeback containing only one good joke in the course of a meandering, pointless Sherlock Holmes parody.

***** Everything You Know Is Wrong / Col. (1974)

The real comeback, in which daredevil Rebus Cannebus attempts to put out the sun in the center of the earth; slaves seize power; Erich von Daniken gets his; aliens get us; Nazis emerge from the South American jungles to eat moss; and the lights go out all over the world.

**** In the Next World, You're On Your Own / Col. (1975)

Based loosely on the popularity of Billy Jack Dog Food ("The kind Billy Jack eats") and Marlon Brando's refusal to accept an Academy Award; terrestrial destruction continues as media pigs eat flaming death; cop shows take over TV; aliens retreat into the central cortex; and the hero knocks over a floor display of P. J. Probe wine. A triumph.

***** Forward Into the Past / Col. (1976)

Two LPs of Firesign's best over the years, brilliantly selected and programmed. Horrifying, death-dealing, life-enhancing.

** Just Folks... A Firesign Chat / Butter. (1977)

In the ups and downs of Firesigniana, another down: mostly pallid, single-tracked parodies of Jimmy Carterland, though there is that commercial for "Confidenz in the System," a new wonder drug, and a few random lines are inexplicably hilarious.

** Roller Maidens From Outer Space / Epic (1979)
** Fighting Clowns / Rhino (1979)
** Carter/Reagan / Rhino (1980)

In later years various members of the original group (chiefly Proctor and Bergman) have investigated such mundane topics as the Carter-Reagan farce ("Fighting Clowns" as well as "Carter/Reagan"), a long step down from the more cosmic concerns of Firesign's best.


**** TV Or Not TV / Col. (NA)
** What This Country Needs / Col. (NA)
*** Give Us A Break / Mer. (NA)

The performing half of the Firesign Theatre melds its characteristic Joycean wit with some hilarious slapstick routines. Their first album ("TV") is the most successful of all the Firesign Theatre's side projects.

© 1997 (cristofer morley) All Rights Reserved