Vinyl-a-Day 20: The New Vaudeville Band - The World of the New Vaudeville Band (Decca, 1974)
Formed by Geoff Stephens, the British songwriter/producer who discovered Donovan and wrote “There’s a Kind of Hush.” One of his biggest successes was with a group called The New Vaudeville Band. It was originally formed as a session group to record what would be its biggest hit, 1966’s “Winchester Cathedral.” When the song became an international smash, and the session performers were not available to answer Ed Sullivan’s call for the group to appear in the flesh, Stephens put together the touring version of the group who were tasked with expanding the hit single into a hit album and building group’s brand with flamboyant covers of British music hall standards and new, retro-style songs penned by Stephens. More hits followed with “Peek-a-Boo” and “Finchley Central.” As the nostalgia fad petered out with the end of the 60s, the original group broke up. It was then revived in the early-70s by drummer Henri Harrison and endured as a touring and recording act on the UK cabaret circuit well into the 70s and 80s. As much as I love their 60s albums, have collected all of their non-album b-sides, and encourage you to seek all of that material out as its highly underrated and a lot of fun, today I am going to talk about their 1974 album, “The World of the New Vaudeville Band.” This was the group’s last major label release (Decca), and the albums thereafter would be all privately pressed and sold at live shows (and mainly consist of the group rearranging contemporary hits like “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Imagine” in a vaudeville style). What’s interesting here though is that rather just adhering to the nostalgia routine, they made a legitimately enjoyable attempt to fuse the megaphones and brass with the soft rock sounds of the 70s. This, combined with a solid line-up of originals penned by trombone/piano player Martin Roke, makes it a very unique experience. Just listen to “Dear Rita Hayworth.” Other enjoyable cuts are “Sunday Afternoon,” “Think of Me,” the jazzy “1973” - ah, hell, I like the whole thing. Some people have rock’n’roll and rhythm & blues in their soul, but if you’re looking to know what’s in mine, it’s exactly this kind of silliness - sorry (not sorry).