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Jean Shepherd Live! At Airlie

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Album Review

Excelsior! Jean Shepherd lives! This disc contains Shepherd's luminous lampooning and ageless storytelling on his second long-player (and first for Elektra Records), Jean Shepherd and Other Foibles (1959). He brings the same completely unique mix of understated beatnik madness and tongue-in-cheek political and social satire to this studio recording, which became a trademark of his two-plus decades on the air at WOR in New York City (aside: Shepherd actually and somewhat fittingly broadcast from the station's transmitter site in Carteret, NJ). Those not hailing from the Big Apple may have read one of his books or various contributions to Playboy in the early '60s. Shepherd was also the unseen adult voice of the central character Ralph Parker in the 1983 film A Christmas Story. The 11 tracks included on this disc reveal a true blend of unassuming rapier wit wrapped up in the guise and Walter Mitty-esque outlook inherent in every red-blooded American. His tales depict both the surrealistic nature of the modern a-go-go world as well as those life experiences which tether everyone to the very essence of humanity. Cuts such as "Judson-6" — dealing with the "debauch" anticipation of dialing a randomly discovered phone number just for kicks — as well as the ultimate send-off on "Fun Funeral" actually combine the two realities. The title "For Men Only" is a poke at the type and mass consumptions of non-pornographic periodicals skewed and marketed toward a testosterone-laden demographic. The centerpiece of this recording is undoubtedly the track "Balls." Here, Shepherd's viewpoints and contemplative musings deal with the great American pastime — Chicago White Sox fans, consider yourselves (both of you) duly warned. Fittingly, he concludes his ruminations with the ironically titled "Human Comedy." This biting one-man re-enactment of a typical parade down the Main Street of Anytown U.S.A. is laced with a razor sharp insight that became almost indelibly linked to the American absorption into the "cult of personality" — good, bad, and indifferent. In 2003 Collectors' Choice Music reissued Jean Shepherd and Other Foibles on CD with newly inked liner notes from Joseph F. Laredo as well as a brilliant reproduction of the original artwork and LP jacket ramblings from Shel Silverstein.


Genre: Spoken Word

Years Active: '60s

While Jean Shepherd is best remembered for co-writing the screenplay for A Christmas Story in 1983, he also served as a radio personality, wrote for the Village Voice and Car and Driver, and recorded eight spoken word albums. In 2005, he was posthumously inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Jean Parker Shepherd was born in Chicago, IL on July 26, 1921, and would later be primarily known by his nickname, Shep. He graduated from Hammond High School in 1939, and served in the U.S. Army Signal...
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Jean Shepherd Live! At Airlie, Jean Shepherd
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