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Innes, Neil - Taking Off

Innes, Neil - Taking Off

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Genre: comedy
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  Taking Off
Company: Arista
Catalog: SPARTY 1004
Year: 1977
Country/State: Danbury, UK
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+
Comments: UK pressing; cut lower right corner
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6326
Price: $30.00

My generation grew up loving Monty Python's Flying Circus, but somehow we missed the boat with respect to Neil Innes and The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Which makes it kind of funny that a lot of Americans associate Neil Innes with The Pythons, though he was never a formal member of the group - yes he wrote material for them and even appeared on their television show, but he was never formally part of the group ... Well he was a member of The Rutles ...

Innes' second solo album was an interesting, if inconsistent offering. As with his Bonzos catalog, 1977's "Taking Off" underscored his knack for crafting catchy pop melodies and occasionally clever lyrics. Innes was almost chameleon like in his ability to adapt to changing musical genres which this time out included bluegrass ('Crystal Balls'), singer/songwriter angst ('God Is Love'), and conventional pop ('La Vie En Rose'). That said, the collection sounded surprisingly straightforward with the overabundance of sensitive singer/songwriter material leaving you to wonder if Innes was perhaps trying to channel Harry Chapin or James Taylor .... The apparently serious edge was quite disconcerting at times ('Dreams Shine Through'). Also, like The Bonzos and The Pythons, Innes' English sense of humor occasionally got lost in translation ('') ...

- 'Crystal Balls' showcased Innes chameleon-like character, offering up some mildly funny lyrics over a stereotypical bluegrass arrangement. Yeah, it was all here - banjo, pedal steel guitar ... though he end results didn't do much for me. rating: ** stars
- Innes always had a knack for creating catchy melodies and the bouncy and radio-friendly 'Catch Phrase' served to highlight that talent. The song's humor was certainly there, but it wasn't the kind of blatant, in-your-face funny that made a 17 year snicker (you could just picture legions of young men scratching their heads trying to grasp the subtleties of a inventing a catch-phrase). That soft and non-threatening humor struck a chord with me as did the fact his vocal bore more than a passing resemblance to John Lennon. rating: **** stars
- Opening up with a stark electric keyboard, 'God Is Love' morphed from a mid-tempo ballad, to a more up-tempo number, complete with a Gospel segment. To my ears it was one of those songs that sort of snuck up on you and it was hard to tell if Innes was being sincere, or simply taking a cheap shot at the whole topic of organized religion. Wonder if Innes' longstanding friendship with George Harrison had anything to do with the song ... rating: ** stars
.Musically 'Randy Raquel' was a pretty, keyboard-propelled ballad with a lyric seemingly dedicated to a male sex toy ... Hard to imagine how Innes managed to keep such a straight forward and somber voice on this one. rating: ** stars
- 'Shangri-La' had a pleasant, mildly English musical hall feel - imagine a mid-1960s Paul McCartney-penned Beatles song. Interestingly, when Innes re-recorded the song for The Rutles, the song was given a much more psychedelic - Sgt Pepper flavor. rating: *** stars
- Starting off with an engaging, slightly jazzy/bossa nova feel, 'Drama of a Saturday Night' actually had the feel of an early 10 C.C. song. Another one where it hard to tell it Innes was playing it straight, or not. rating: ** stars
- A heavily orchestrated ballad, 'Dreams Shine Through' sounded like Innes had overdosed on a combination of Eleanor Rigby and Harry Chapin songs. Geez, this one was about as funny as the evening news. rating: ** stars
- Coupling a pop melody with a lyric rife with the sexual frustration and disappointment of a housewife (I'm guessing here), gave 'Busy Day' an almost schizophrenic feel. rating: ** stars
- One of the album's most outright commercial numbers, 'Three Piece Suite' really did sound like a 10 C.C. song; or at least like Eric Stewart trying to sound like Paul McCartney. Innes managed to nail Stewart's unique aching vocals, while the song managed to replicate 10 C.C.'s always eclectic mix of pop and experimental moves. rating: **** stars
- Even better was the closer 'La Vie En Rose'. No, there wasn't anything remotely funny about this one, rather it again underscored Innes talents as a great pop songwriter. Fantastic hook ... rating: **** stars

So if you bought this one expecting to hear some Python-esque insanity this one was probably going to come off as a mild disappointment. It has a couple of gems, but won't set the 15 year old in your soul into spasms of laughter.

"Taking Off" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Crystal Balls (Neil Innes) - 2:57
2.) Catch Phrase (Neil Innes) - 2:48
3.) God Is Love (Neil Innes) - 3:42
4.) Randy Raquel (Neil Innes) - 3:23
5.) Shangri-La (Neil Innes) - 3:51

(side 2)
1.) Drama of a Saturday Night (Neil Innes) - 4:59
2.) Dreams Shine Through (Neil Innes) - 3:50
3.) Busy Day (Neil Innes) - 3:26
4.) Three Piece Suite (Neil Innes) - 3:35
5.) La Vie En Rose (Neil Innes) - 3:15
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