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George Formby: England's Famed Clown Prince of Song

George Formby

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Album Review

George Formby was an entertainer in the great British music hall tradition who was much loved for his jaunty and engagingly silly songs, many of which were dotted with mild double entendre humor (such as "The Window Cleaner" and "My Plus-Fours"). Entertainers of Formby's era (he was at his most famous in the 1930s and '40s) were almost never asked to reinvent themselves — they knew what their audiences wanted of them, and they were happy to deliver it time and time again, which is certainly borne out by this box set, which features no fewer than 120 Formby recordings cut between 1926 and 1939. Formby rarely if ever strays from form on England's Famed Clown Prince of Song — except for a very few spoken comedy routines and medleys of popular tunes of the day, pretty much everything here features Formby's cheeky Scouse accent, his enthusiastic ukulele playing, and his playful songs, whose wink-wink nudge-nudge humor is buffered by the open-faced innocence of his personality. (Those East Indians, Asians, and French folk in the audience might be a shade less forgiving of Formby's ethnic humor, though it was hardly considered out of line in its day.) Which is to say this set offers more George Formby than anyone other than a deeply devoted fan would ever need; any one disc will give you a healthy sampling of his music and wit, while the whole of this collection amounts to an overdose. But Formby completists will certainly admire its depth and devotion to detail, and the transfers and mastering by Ted Kendall (from his own impressive collection of Formby 78s) sounds surprisingly strong, though the earliest tunes on disc one border on the incomprehensible between George's thick accent and the primitive recordings. If you're looking for a George Formby sampler, Castle's two-disc The Ultimate Collection will amply satisfy your needs, but if you want the Formby story writ large, England's Famed Clown Prince of Song will give you plenty to chew on. (And be advised JSP has another Formby box set in the works.)

Biography

Born: 26 May 1904 in Lancashire, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s

Musical comedian George Formby was among Britain's most popular stars during the first half of the 20th century, with a legacy encompassing over 200 records and more than 20 hit films. Born George Hoy Booth on May 26, 1904 in Lancashire, England, he was the son of George Formby, Sr., himself a popular Edwardian music hall comedian. The younger Formby first worked as an apprentice jockey, but his father's sudden death in 1921 prompted him to pursue his own career as a performer; he initially worked...
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George Formby: England's Famed Clown Prince of Song, George Formby
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