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Tapestry Records, 1981.
Distributed by D.C. Heath.
Phonodisc. 1-12", 33 1/3rpm, stereo. $9.98.

All Ages.
Reviewed by Jim Delaney.

Volume 11 Number 1.
1983 January.

The idea of fixing in wax (or whatever) the dulcet, if idiotic, tones of Alan McFee confirms his estimate of his audience as inhabitants of "Vacuumland." It is one thing to listen to nutty old "Big Al" among his chickens and mice in a grungy studio, enjoying Mom Nifkin's jellied gin and tossing off ad libs about his selections, but quite another to give him a script, let him write us a letter (as if to confirm his existence), and then preserve some of the audience favourites for posterity. Eclectic Circus is not created by its audience, as much as by McFee, for his own amazement, and this grovelling for favour does him disservice, as well as destroying our illusions about his eccentricity. This record comes close to doing for "Big Al" what feature movies did for Monty Python: they did not increase the number of their fans.

I cannot fault the recordings of the selections found here—they range from "Un Bal" from "Symphonic Fantastique" (by Berlioz, although you won't find his name mentioned on the sleeve) to "There's a trick to Pickin' a Chicken" (a concession to McFee's "foul" friends). The only difference between this and a fairly eclectic sampler found in a remainder bin is some 85 seconds of "Big Al" framing the sections on one side and 50 seconds on the other.

For all the above reasons, as well as for the obvious headaches it will create for cataloguers, this album is not recommended. Sorry, "Big Al," you used to be inimitable—before you tried to prove to Vacuumland that you were real, and asked us to pay for it.

Dianne Clipsham, A. Y. Jackson S. S., Kanata, ON.
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