Songs In The Key Of Z is a very unique compilation of "Outsider Music". Each track, although maybe lacking in tunefulness and musicianship, has an abundance of earnestness and passion. Outsider Music has caused quite a stir in England, where Channel Four has been airing a series of mini documentaries about outsider music and all of the artists featured on the TV show are also on the two albums. Also, the Wesley Willis song Rock 'n' Roll McDonalds was used in the smash hit film, Super Size Me. This fantastic release combines Volumes 1 & 2 onto a 2 CD collection for the first time and features (amongst many others) the uninhibited coyote howls of The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, the star which is Daniel Johnston, a romantic duo between Tiny Tim and his wife Sue, Joe Meek's ultra rare wobbly Telstar vocal demo, The Shaggs aboriginal backwoods track and Captain Beefheart's Vampire Suite. The release of this CD ties in with the 300 page Songs In The Key Of Z book, authored by Irwin Chusid and also published by and available through Cherry Red.
This is not an easy collection to listen to, unless you have a strong stomach and a sick sense of humor. Most of the musical performances range from merely amateurish to downright painful, but they all have two redeeming qualities. First, they all come across with a sense of earnestness, and second, they all are so quirky and bizarre that it becomes interesting. All the selections are wonderfully bizarre and ridiculous. Do save this one for the end of your cocktail party, however - when you want people to LEAVE! There are some instant favorites. Eilert Pilarm needs to be heard (and seen) to be believed! Evidently no one has ever told him, and I hope no one ever does!
The first CD opens with a bang with the infamous Shaggs, a girl-group which was forcibly assembled by a tyranical father. Another artist first championed by Irwin Chusid is the mysterious Jandek, who made tons of records of highly dissonant, eerie music in total anonymity for years. The Jandek mistique prompted a documentary, which greatly increased his exposure, eventually convincing him to "come out" and do sporadic live performances. The second CD is not as consistent, but still contains some gems.
Daniel Johnston would go on to have some success in the indie rock circles. Despite his quirks he is certainly a legitimate artistic talent. Tiny Tim did have a brief period of celebrity.
One inclusion is, IMO, marginally appropriate at best, namely Captain Beefheart. He certainly was quirky and avant-guardish, and his creativity had an intuitive "out of the box" quality which these other artist share (who's to say that they are not artists!), but there is absolutely nothing marginal about Captain Beefheart, whom I consider a greatly under-appreciated creative talent. Having a live version of "Making Love to a Vampire with a Monkey on my Knee" is great, though.
One other selection begs a question. Why would you include a Tiny Tim song in which he does NOT do his falsetto yodel?
In short, those with a an absurdist taste for the bizarre will certainly want this and the accompanying book, as well some other related items:
Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music Please see my review of the book too.
Jandek on Corwood
Golden Throats: The Great Celebrity Sing Off
Also of similar interest:
Gravikords, Whirlies, and Pyrophones (Experimental Musical Instruments) - see my review.
The song poems were at least an improvement as they used proper musicians.
But who needs this stuff?
Outsider Music means many different things to many different people and I see it as music which began in the classical field when Schoenberg invented 12 tone music and Anton Webern wrote pieces which used a different instrument for every note.Or Charles Ives created music which was not only wonderfully dissonant but in some cases had 2 orchestras playing at once with totally different melodies
The greatest example of Outsider Music to my mind is Penderecki's Theme for the Victims of Hiroshima
This isn't Outsider Music its just people going along with Andy Warhol's idea that everybody is a star for 5 minutes.
Mainly its pretty ratty stuff and would not be my choice
I have pages on Flickr for Outsider Music but its what I consider it to be not this mainly embarrasment