The Thorn In Mrs. Rose's Side/Children Of Light
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A cult hero to many of new 'weird folk's' heavy hitters including Devendra Banhart, Biff Rose was an odd singer/songwriter who didn't fit into any comfortable niche when he emerged in the late 1960s. Often sounding like a Broadway songwriter with his jaunty piano and bouncy singalong melodies, the New Orleans pianist was like a vaudeville entertainer reincarnated as a spacy hippie. He added an arch, whimsical tone and sarcastic, ironic undercurrents to his songs that both reflected and mocked the counterculture, much like fellow musician and sometime collaborator, Van Dyke Parks. Highly revered by David Bowie, who covered the Biff Rose songs 'Fill Your Heart' (co-written by Paul Williams) on his Hunky Dory album and 'Buzz The Fuzz' in live performances. Rose also achieved some notoriety in the late 60's via network television appearances, particularly on Johnny Carson's show. Devendra Banhart probably states it best in his own inimitable way when he writes: 'Biff Rose writes and sings from the heart of the universe...he is the good earth gently stomped upwards, and while I don't mean he, his music is a hermaphrodite child from wisdonville.' We couldn't have said it better. Water Records. 2005.
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His songs are frequently funny, but they all have an underlying sadness about them. This melancholy/manic depressive quality is manifest on all his albums. Biff's piano playing is also unusual. It wouldn't be out of place at a carnival, a New Orleans speakeasy, or as silent film accompaniment. A reviewer once compared it to a Beatles song, calling it "clumpy 'Martha, My Dear' piano". He plays in fits and starts, sometimes continuously plunking one note, sometimes no notes at all, and other times executing runs and trills worthy of Jerry Lee Lewis. Some songs are solo piano, while others feature full orchestral string arrangements.
These two albums are his best, particularly "Children of Light". The follow-up "Biff Rose" (1970) is a good one, and I'm especially fond of his 1972 "live" record "Uncle Jesus/Aunty Christ". By the time he released "Roast Beef" (1978), the sadness overwhelmed the humor. Once sharp and satirical, his songwriting had devolved into nonsensical cosmic babble.
Still - back when he was good he was great. If you'd like to try something different, you may want to check this out.
When I went to college someone broke into my dorm room and stole my whole record collection. I was incensed that they took Biff....I mean really!
This album is not for everyone, but if you're a hopeless romantic (like me) or you enjoy a clever phrasing, a witty lyric, or just a good old corny oddball, (I do) then you should give it a try. You may very well find your next best friend.
From the somber Molly to the pricesless Buzz the Fuzz, this is a keeper for us oldsters!
Loaded with great entertainment.