1991: The Man From B.E.T.T.Y.

  1. Hello, BETTY
  2. Fun Girl
  3. Picnic Love Affair
  4. Martini Talk
  5. First Date
  6. Chain Reaction
  7. Bicycle
  8. Betticoat Junction
  9. Wolfwoman
  10. Echo
  11. Bar Talk Duets
  12. Window
  13. Broken
  14. NYU
  15. Aftershock
  16. Go Ahead and Split, Mr Amoeba Man
  17. Shrinkback
  18. DC Dog
  19. Snake Saga
  20. Ms Snake
  21. Mrs Goldberg’s Critique

If their harmonies on so many of these tracks (and on those of their later albums) weren’t just so awkwardly, noticeably off-pitch and not quite matching (usually standing out because the instrumental tracks don’t bend to match), I’d be raving about BETTY non-stop. Their song material ranges from hilarious to poignant (usually nearer hilarious with a spin of wry), the instrumentation is often completely absent and rarely fails to contribute to the impression when it’s present, and the performances are deliciously robust, smarmy, raunchy, tender, flighty, airy, or just perfect for the moment, all as the circumstance demands. If only their combined voices weren’t so often off-pitch!

There are many, many delightful treats on this CD. “Shrinkback” is probably the best of the harder-rocking numbers, and it’s rich with innuendo and vocal/harmonic treats; it also serves as a fine example of the three-voiced BETTY beast in action, as is “DC Dog” which follows it.

More intimate tracks such as the near-twin “Martini Talk” and “Bar Talk Duet” contrast interestingly with the similarly intimately presented “Window” and “Go Ahead and Split, Mr Amoeba Man.” And then there’s the delicious “Bicycle,” which bridges that gap exellently by draping a suggestively ambiguous narrative vocal over the main rhythmic theme of “Chain Reaction” before deftly segueing into their sniggeringly deft adaptation of the theme to “Petticoat Junction&.#148;

The first real track, “Fun Girl,” is a fascinating deconstruction of Funny Girl’s songs, pastiched into a snazzy yet angular concoction that Barbra fans must either love of hate (I don’t feel compelled to investigate that issue). “First Date” I loved when I first heard it, and then the love faded, but when I revisit it I find I’m tickled anew.

Where this album suffers is in heavily over-produced numbers such as “Broken” (which is actually a very nice song under all that machinery), “Wolfwoman,” “Echo,” and “Aftershock.” “Chain Reaction” manages to skirt the issue by being entertaining and amusing, while “Ms Snake” only works as the latter counterpart to the niftily arch and excellently acted “Snake Saga.”

I’ve never seen BETTY in live concert, but I know that cello is one of the instruments involved; when I listen for it I can hear it here and there on this album, usually in an electrified/distorted form, but just to recognize it as such is a treat…. Also, the layers of pop-culture references in their lyrics are necessarily elusive at times to one so off-the-PopCult-radar as me, but there’s plenty I *do* catch here nonetheless.