Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The New First Family, 1968: A Futuristic Fairy Tale

(Verve, 1966) This is rough and bad and unfunny and a terrible idea, and it's weird that it's on Verve. Vaughn Meader's "First Family" blockbuster album of skits featuring Kennedy impressions suddenly became very unfunny for obvious reasons in the Fall of 1963. A few years later they tried to make this concept palatable again by creating a inane non-political scenario, really more about impressions than satire, where Cary Grant (?) beats LBJ as a write in candidate. John Byner's LBJ impression is kinda is OK. Will Jordan does Cary Grant, but makes it clear that the joke is that he just says "Judy Judy Judy" all the time, and bizarrely, despite only being remembered for doing Ed Sullivan impersonations, he cedes that character on this album to Byner. But the worst is Dave Frye who somehow made a career of a Nixon impression that genuinely sucks. Worse yet, he does Sammy with no vocal mimicry, instead just mocking Sammy's hipster talk. Sammy is appointed to the Supreme Court (Thurgood Marshall was the first Black member of SCOTUS by '68, but was not appointed until a year after this album was recorded). "Sure, baby, sure..have you seen these robes these cats are wearing, the squarest,"  he awkwardly jives. The only good joke is one that lampoons Sammy's contractual decades long obligation to his childhood act, as an announcer says that Sammy's appearance on the Supreme Court is "courtesy of the Will Mastin Trio."  Frye also does Sinatra, who is of course, the Chief Justice. Frye butchers his impression of Bobby Kennedy, which sounds way more like Woody Allen, and of course, in the fantasy future of 1968 where this album takes place Bobby would have been killed and made the album obsolete, but this record was not remembered two days after release, so two years was out of the question. Not to say this is not worth getting because there is one brilliant take on Sammy...on the cover art by MAD genius Mort Drucker. Drucker (used to elevating hack jokes to Immortal Art level in his Dick DeBartolo-penned movie parodies) basically draws a Rat Pack pool party at the White House (there is less than two minutes of Rat Pack material on the LP). Sammy is the central figure and is drawn perfect.ly Sinatra, with Mia Farrow clinging tight, is on the diving board. And Dino is juggling booze bottles and balancing a tumbler on his nose. Satchmo, Brando, Groucho, Jack Benny and John Wayne also attend. Considering that Frazetta did an album cover for an LBJ comedy album (cut in interviews, not impressions) the Johnson era was actually a golden age for EC artists political satire LP cover art masterpieces.

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