Albums

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Humour - Released December 9, 2017 | Curtain Call Hits

$12.99

Humour - Released February 3, 2009 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Bill Cosby cracked the Top Ten album chart with 1966's Wonderfulness, his fourth long-player in less than two years. This was indeed a sizable feat for a comedian during the height of the mid-'60s British Invasion, but not surprising in the case of Cosby. His exposure on the talk and variety television circuit of the mid-'60s had increased thanks to his co-starring role in the NBC-TV network program I Spy. Once again, he is caught in the act of being one of his era's funniest standups, and one who never resorted to debasing his craft by filling his repertoire with cheap sex, drugs, or race-related jokes to garner a laugh. Instead, he remains faithful to his proven successful equation of easily relatable narratives -- in front of a typical nightclub audience at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe. The 15-minute-long epic "Tonsils" is among the artist's most beloved raps, and takes the listener through a wide-eyed child's perspective of the entire procedure from sore throat to the battle-like "us or them" mind games that Cosby and his fellow kiddie comrades play on each other. Particularly memorable is the ice cream chant that Cosby leads his hospital cohabitants in and how by the end of the ordeal their priorities had radically changed. Equally as charming in its innocence is "The Playground" -- where he discusses the theory that the "grown-ups" of his time were trying to "bump us off" by clearing perfectly good fields and vacant lots in order to build potentially dangerous "monkey bars." To wit, he muses, "We lost 124 kids in one day." To the same whimsical effect, "Go Carts" recounts with genuine fondness a youthful ingenuity that inspired him and his pals to "borrow" all of the neighborhood baby coach wheels for use in the "Go Cart Championship of America" and the 900 cop cars that await the "winner" of the race. "Chicken Heart" is another of Cosby's more involved works, featuring some unforgettable incidents when -- against his parents' orders -- he tunes in an episode of Lights Out. The concluding "Niagara Falls" marks an interesting diversion, as the artist actually spoofs a man whom he warmly refers to as "his boss" -- old-school showbiz legend Sheldon Leonard, who was also the producer of the aforementioned I Spy. The story of Leonard's swimming in frigid Lake Niagara on his honeymoon predates the Seinfeld concept of "shrinkage"; however, the premise remains the same. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Humour - Released December 15, 2009 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

$12.99

Humour - Released April 17, 1998 | 143 - Warner Bros.

As the comedian's star continued to ascend, Bill Cosby's third long-player, 1965's Why Is There Air?, became his first to crack the Top 20. Family-friendly humor -- along with increased exposure on the mid-'60s TV talk and variety show circuit -- gave Cosby an edge that many of his contemporaries weren't privy to. Captured live at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, this 40-minute outing is packed with more classic ripping yarns that draw upon Cosby as a child and young adult. The stories become all the more riveting and relatable in great part due to his off-the-cuff and conversational delivery, which ultimately draws the listener in. For practically anyone growing up stateside in the '50s, '60s, or early '70s, Cosby's reminiscences of "Kindergarten" will assuredly conjure memories of being fed a "snack" of an "old, dried-up, brown, nasty-tastin', gag-ya, stick-in-the-throat graham cracker" with milk "that has been sitting on the radiator for about 80 years" to wash it down. Indeed, as Cosby concludes, "there's nothin' in the world better for a bunch of five-year-old kids than good ol' lukewarm, curdling milk." The artist also defines "idiot mittens" and provides insights regarding children who suffer from their first bouts of separation anxiety. "Personal Hygiene" and "Shop" give his audience a peek into Cosby's junior high school antics, including the comedian's experiences of the eternal vagaries, not to mention the awkward nature, of gym class and the relatable despondency of "...anything I every tried to make always turned out to be an ashtray." Cosby addresses his current state of affairs on "Baby" -- which finds our hero discussing the joys and paranoia of expectant fatherhood -- and one of his all-time classic routines, describing his observations when "Driving in San Francisco." Continuing with tales of his pre-showbiz days , both "$75 Car" and "Hofstra" deal with college life. The former includes the great philosophical debate of "Why is there air?" -- the answer of course being, to inflate volleyballs and basketballs. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Humour - Released June 30, 1975 | Warner Bros.

By sidestepping racial humor and the "sick" comedy of Lenny Bruce, Bill Cosby was able to reach a wide audience through keen and endearing portraits of his Philadelphia childhood. And even though he mostly bypassed civil rights issues in the '60s, Cosby, in many ways, was still able to de-stigmatize black culture by presenting his story without the more clichéd and tragic descriptions of ghetto life: He was a kid just like any other, with idiosyncratic family members, neighborhood friends, favorite TV characters, and a love of sports. And while on this, his Grammy-winning second album from 1964, Cosby certainly doesn't shrink from detailing his impoverished childhood, he often turns things around by imagining the flapping sound of a pair of worn-out shoes to be part of his own one-man band ("Sneakers") or by deftly shifting from mentioning he shared a bed with his brother to telling stories of their Christmas Eve high jinx ("Christmas Time"). He continues with this affecting blend of reality and fantasy by hilariously casting his alcoholic father as a lumbering, storybook giant. More often than not, though, Cosby uses humor to chronicle his pure imagination: He ranges from dressing down the Lone Ranger and incompetent doctors to telling surreal tales about his pet rhinoceros and the Wolf Man's awkward family life. And thanks to an incredible array of sound effects and imitations, Cosby transforms his live routine into a series of cartoon shorts (the lively, fast-paced dialogue and unique character sketches would eventually make their way into the comedian's popular animated series, Fat Albert). For those interested in Bill Cosby's early days as a standup comic, this album makes for a perfect introduction. ~ Stephen Cook
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Humour - Released June 10, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

It's a testament to the strength of Bill Cosby's early albums for Warner Bros. that one best-of album wasn't enough to cover all the high points -- thus, this second compilation. While it's true that the material here isn't quite as good as that on the first best-of, it's all still right near the top of the pile, from reminiscences about raising his first two daughters to his earlier days in school -- whether smoking in the bathroom or hassling the shop teacher. The longest piece here is also the best: "Hofstra" details Cosby's involvement with one of the worst football teams ever, and with a very memorable game. ~ Sean Carruthers
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Humour - Released January 17, 2006 | Rhino

$10.49

Humour - Released March 1, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

As far as Cosby compilations go, the thing Cosby and the Kids does very right is present the tracks unedited, important since the comedian's languid reflections on his childhood are best left untouched. Yep, this is Cosby talking about his childhood for an adult audience, not Cosby talking to children, as the crayon-scrawled cover might suggest. First released when his television show was on top, Cosby and the Kids was originally coupled with the not reissued Cosby Classics in a two-cassette set. Cosby Classics' track listing is too close to his Best Of collection to warrant a reissue, but the fact that Cosby and the Kids is the lone compilation of his ten-minutes-and-over cuts makes it worthy, besides hilarious. Too bad Rhino put no effort into their 2005 reissue. There are no liner notes and there's still that "Cosby sweater" the man is wearing on the cover, still disguising these '60s recordings as '80s recordings. Shabby packaging till the day it dies, but with five prime routines no matter how you dress them. Do yourself a favor and grab the original albums, where the sequencing is much smoother. If your wallet doesn't allow it, Best Of and Cosby and the Kids give you a good representation of the man's early work. ~ David Jeffries
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Humour - Released March 1, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

The three Noah sketches included here were the highlight of Cosby's first album, Right!, and the closing "Fat Albert (Buck, Buck)" is a good example of Cosby's talent for stretching out and elaborating on stories based on his childhood in Philadelphia, in very funny fashion. With their spot-on recollections of what it's like to get a slush-ball down the back or to go to a monster movie (but to be too scared to watch), "Revenge" and "Old Weird Harold (9th Street Bridge)" also fit into the cycle of Cosby's tales of growing up. Cosby's gift lies in his ability to make you howl with laughter now at the things that could make life pure misery as a kid. It's amazing how often he succeeds in zeroing in on events you thought only you had to endure. The Best of Bill Cosby gives a fair idea of the comedian's '60s work, but a few of his Warner Bros album are completely overlooked. If this collection rings your chimes, check out Wonderfulness, which is loaded with such killer pieces as "Tonsils," "Go Carts," and "Chicken Heart," and To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With, a record worth it for the title cut alone.
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Humour - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

After the commercial and creative disappointment of 1964's Allan in Wonderland, Allan Sherman rallied by releasing a new version of his biggest hit, "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah," as a single, and followed it three months later with For Swingin' Livers Only, which was sharper, broader, and funnier than the LP that preceded it. After suppressing his fondness for Jewish humor on My Son, the Nut and Allan in Wonderland, Sherman cautiously brought it back to his repertoire on numbers like "Kiss of Meyer," "Shine on, Harvey Bloom," "J.C. Cohen," and "Bye Bye Blumberg," while "Your Mother's Here to Stay" and "Grow, Mrs. Goldfarb" found him milking the always reliable institution of marriage for some solid laughs. While "Pop Hates the Beatles" sounds a bit petulant today, Sherman sounds happy to have a current phenomenon he can readily poke fun at (something in short supply the last time he went into the studio), and "The Twelve Gifts of Christmas" is a hilarious rant against the absurdities of consumer culture (and it proved to be one of his most enduring numbers, regularly revived each year for the holiday season). For Swingin' Livers Only was also Sherman's last album with arranger Lou Busch, who was easily his most sympathetic accompanist, and his witty and muscular backdrops fit these songs like a glove. For Swingin' Livers Only isn't a masterpiece on a par with Allan Sherman's first three albums, but it did show he wasn't out of the game just yet. ~ Mark Deming
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Humour - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

In 1967, after his recording career had gone into a tailspin, Allan Sherman was looking to make some changes, which is obvious from one look at the cover of his final (commercially released) album, Togetherness. Sherman had gotten rid of his glasses in favor of contact lenses and dropped a good share of his trademark bulk (though he would gain it back in time), and the cover of the album finds him taking part in a cryptic parody of Warner Bros. Records' star of the moment, Petula Clark (who Sherman had already lampooned on his single "Crazy Downtown"). Togetherness also broke with tradition for Sherman by being recorded without an audience, and with Peter Matz (later to become Carol Burnett's musical director) handling the arrangements for the first time. Togetherness featured some interesting experiments -- the conceptual humor of "Plan Ahead" and the title cut was decidedly out of the ordinary for Sherman, and the production on "Strange Things in My Soup" and "Westchester Hadassah" found him attempting to replicate the sound as well as the melody of current pop hits for the first time. But despite its ambition and Sherman's slightly desperate good cheer throughout the album, Togetherness is quite simply Allan Sherman's worst album -- most of the gags fall flat, "Turn Back the Clock" and "My Aunt Minnie" are devoid of Sherman's usual bite, and while the Ronald Reagan parody of "There's No Governor Like Our New Governor" was prescient, it seems somehow half-hearted, like much of the rest of the disc. Warner Bros. dropped Sherman, once one of their biggest stars, from their roster after Togetherness failed to chart, and listening to the record, it's hard not to agree with their judgment. ~ Mark Deming
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Humour - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Allan Sherman's first album, My Son, the Folk Singer, was an unexpected smash hit upon its release in the fall of 1962, and Sherman wasted no time crafting a follow-up, with My Son, the Celebrity rushed into stores less than three months later. While it follows the pattern of Sherman's first album quite closely -- a handful of familiar tunes featuring broadly comic new lyrics, sung by Sherman in his endearing foghorn of a voice before an appreciative in-studio audience -- he had enough worthy material on hand that his second album is on a par with the debut, and Lou Bush's orchestrations are as clever and tightly rendered as before. While Sherman was hilariously obsessed with his own Jewishness on My Son, the Folk Singer, My Son, the Celebrity found him dipping his toes into less ethnically specific material, such as "Mexican Hat Dance," "Bronx Bird Watcher," and "The Let's All Call Up A.T.&T. and Protest to the President March," though he was still capable of wringing laughter from the American Jewish experience, most notably on "Harvey and Sheila," the story of an archetypical Semitic romance sung to the tune of no less than "Hava Hagila." Sherman is also a more confident performer on this set, and not without reason -- My Son, the Celebrity was an equally witty follow-up to one of the most popular comedy albums of the 1960s, and made clear he was no flash in the pan. ~ Mark Deming
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Humour - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Allan Sherman's career had lost much of its momentum by the time My Name Is Allan was released in the fall of 1965, and the album was hardly strong enough to revive his sagging fortunes. While Sherman's previous long-player, For Swingin' Livers Only, found him still sounding game, this time out most of the songs sounded like they would never have made the cut on his first three sets -- "The Laarge Daark Aardvark Song" may be the worst tune he recorded for commercial release (significantly recorded without the presence of a live audience), and "The Painless Dentist Song," "That Old Back Scratcher," and the homage to name-dropping, "Call Me," don't fare much better. On the upside, Sherman has fun with the shifting mores of the country in the mid-'60s on "Peyton Place U.S.A." and "It's a Most Unusual Play," both of which anticipated the themes from his later book The Rape of the A.P.E., and though they've dated more than a bit they display a bite missing from most of the set. Sherman's fascination with the English language gets another workout on "Chim Chim Cheree," and on "The Drinking Man's Diet" he revels in two of his great obsessions, booze and losing weight (both of which would ironically lead to his premature death). Sherman parted ways with longtime musical collaborator Lou Busch after For Swingin' Livers Only, and though Ralph Carmichael's arrangements are polished and professional, they lack the élan of Busch's work and sound like soundtrack music for some unproduced television special. There are scattered laughs to be had on My Name Is Allan (and the cover is a very funny parody of Barbra Streisand's similarly titled album of the same year), but it's a pale shadow of Sherman's glory days of only two years before. ~ Mark Deming
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Humour - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Allan Sherman's first three albums were so consistently strong that many folks wondered when or if the funnyman would ever run out of steam, and while 1964's Allan in Wonderland was hardly an artistic disaster, it certainly indicated that he'd finally peaked (while Sherman's first three albums were all million-sellers, Allan in Wonderland struggled to peak at 25 on the Billboard charts). The greatest flaw on Allan in Wonderland is that his material simply isn't as strong as that on his previous albums; "Lotsa Luck," "Green Stamps," and "Night and Day (With Punctuation Marks)" sound like throwaways, with the in-studio audience mustering up precious few laughs for these numbers. And while "You Need an Analyst" and "The Drop-Outs March" are amusing social satire, they haven't worn the test of time especially well, with the latter just a touch mean-spirited. The album does rally to a solid conclusion with the eight-minute "Good Advice," easily the album's most upbeat number and the one that displays a joie de vivre absent from much of the rest of the session. It's worth noting that Allan in Wonderland was Sherman's first album recorded and released after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and Sherman was hardly the only comic who found it hard to crack jokes in the wake of this national tragedy (it was recorded on January 20, 1964, less than two months later); while his career didn't suffer the fate of Vaughn Meader, it never regained the momentum it enjoyed in 1962 and 1963, and Allan in Wonderland isn't the disaster it's often purported to be, but it did mark the beginning of the end of Sherman's salad days. ~ Mark Deming
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Humour - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Released in 1966, Allan Sherman -- Live!!! (Hoping You Are the Same) turned out to be the comedian and musical satirist's penultimate project during a five-year (1962-1967) run on Warner Bros. Records. We find our hero on-stage at the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, NV, in the spring of 1966. The platter is configured to represent a typical Sherman nightclub set, kicking off with a medley that contains a brief updated verse of his classic "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! (A Letter from Camp)" done "Nevada style" -- even going so far as to mention casino owner John Ascuaga by name. He then introduces "A Song Written by Elizabeth Taylor" -- a variation on "The Second Time Around" -- made famous by Bing Crosby from the movie High Time. The simple ditty adapts the lyrics as "Love is lovelier/The seventh time around," quickly quipping "It's just a short song. She doesn't have time to sit and write long songs." Sherman then goes on to parody the Great American Songbook entry "Makin' Whoopee" with the keen reflection "The modern family/Has time to burn/We all take lessons/We try to learn/The latest new things/We never do things/We just take lessons." Another equally insightful observation is "A Waste of Money," adapting Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass' upbeat rendition of "A Taste of Honey." The witty "How Van Nuys Got Its Name" -- replete with a Jewish wordplay punch line -- prefaces a spoof about a SoCal air quality phenom titled "Smog Gets in Your Eyes." The slightly acerbic "Sorry 'Bout That" is preceded by "Scotch and/or Water." In this brief bit of stage banter, Sherman slyly asks to "borrow some water," before noticing that it is "almost water," aka Scotch. "The Learner's Brassiere" and "Mononucleosis" -- the latter having debuted on the April 24, 1966, installment of The Ed Sullivan Show -- were inspired by his daughter. The kicker is the line "Mononucleosis, will make you very sick/So baby, get your Blue Cross card/And kiss me quick." Not that it was receiving very much airplay to begin with, but the song "Dodgin' the Draft" -- composed around the melody for "Ballin' the Jack" -- was quickly yanked by most radio stations. Oddly, its relevance in the 21st century may be even greater, especially in the pre-"don't ask/don't tell" lines "Walk around the floor kinda nice and loose/Tell 'em your fiancée's name is Bruce." "The Rebel" is a takeoff on the burgeoning beatnik and hippie scene, while Sherman returns to more familiar fare with "When I'm in the Mood for Love (You're in the Mood for Herring)" as he takes on the ballad "I'm in the Mood for Love." The sendup "Second Hand Nose" pokes fun at Barbra Streisand's schnozzle, and the tailor's nightmare "Sam You Made the Pants Too Long" stands on its own, even though it is based on "Lord, You Made the Night Too Long." He concludes with "Son of Peyton Place" -- which began as "Peyton Place, U.S.A." from Sherman's previous platter, 1965's My Name Is Allan. In 2005, My Son, the Box brought all six of Sherman's long out of print Warner Bros. albums into the digital domain for the first time -- including Allan Sherman -- Live!!! (Hoping You Are the Same). ~ Lindsay Planer