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Stan Freberg Presents The United States Of America, Vol. 2, The Middle Years
Stan Freberg
Stan Freberg Presents The United States Of America, Vol. 2, The Middle Years
Genres: Special Interest, Pop
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (32) - Disc #2

When Stan Freberg released The United States of America in 1961, it was one of the first comedy concept albums ... and perhaps the funniest musical comedy never performed onstage. With a cast that included Jesse White and ...  more »


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When Stan Freberg released The United States of America in 1961, it was one of the first comedy concept albums ... and perhaps the funniest musical comedy never performed onstage. With a cast that included Jesse White and June Foray (as well as a dead-on Orson Welles impression by voice-over master Paul Frees), Freberg presented a madcap version of history that began with Christopher Columbus's insistence that "It's a Round, Round World." His crew, however, was unconvinced: Crazy kind of scheme
It's a cockamamie dream
If we don't sight land we're gonna scream. Later, a cautious Ben Franklin would express suspicion of the declaration Thomas Jefferson brought by for him to sign: "You go to a few harmless meetings, sign a few harmless petitions, and forget all about it.... Ten years later you get called up before a committee. No thank you! I'm not going to spend the rest of my life writing in Europe!" For decades, fans were frustrated by the lack of sequels that would carry the story beyond the Revolutionary War. (After attempts to turn the material into a real Broadway musical were ruined by heavy-handed producer David Merrick, Freberg went on to a lucrative career in advertising.) Finally, in 1996, Freberg went into the studio with the surviving members of his original cast--as well as stars David Ogden Stiers, Sherman Hemsley, Tyne Daly, Lorenzo Music, and John Goodman--with a new batch of songs and skits that covered the period from the founding of the United States government in 1789 to the end of World War I. Volume 2 is not quite as strong as volume 1, but that's like saying that Babe Ruth didn't hit as many home runs as Hank Aaron. There's still plenty of great material in "The Middle Years," like Francis Scott Key's first draft of his most famous composition: "Rumplemeyer's horseshoes are the best you can use, what so proudly he's nailed onto all kinds of horses." Or Ulysses S. Grant demanding a drink so he can keep on... Pursuing the South
Over the hills
Fearless and brave, minus a shave
And crocked to the gills. The two-CD set includes the original liner notes from the 1961 release; a 1989 CD reissue of the first volume; and the notes by Freberg, Dr. Demento, and Ray Bradbury for the sequel. It also contains a complete lyric sheet. Although some of the jokes on the first CD may be too arcane for younger listeners, The United States of America can still be called, without overstatement, a work of genius. --Ron Hogan

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CD Reviews

Can I Give It TEN Stars?
Richard E. Upton | Austin, TX United States | 07/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I was six years old when my parents bought the original LP of Volume One, and I have listened to it regularly in the 39 years since. Not only has Volume One been committed to my memory for many years now, but it has become a part of my daily life. Phrases from that disc regularly creep into my conversations, often apropos of nothing. That album is simply one of the funniest, most wonderfully creative records ever made. Freberg's voice is just FUNNY, even when he's not trying. He always has been able to surround himself with the finest voices in the business, and many of them are here, including Paul Frees, Jesse White and June Foray. This warped history lesson also includes brilliant sound effects by Jimmy MacDonald, and extraordinary musical arrangements by Billy May. The original CD release on Capitol (which took WAY too long to happen) included some extra material that Freberg found in the Capitol vaults and re-inserted. That material is carried over here in this Rhino release, which is accompanied by the long-awaited Volume Two. Sad to say, Volume Two does not live up to its predecessor. Freberg, Foray and White are all back, but White was fresh from a stroke, and it's painful to hear him here, especially if you've just listened to his wonderfully energetic performance on Volume One. It's good to hear Freberg stalwart Peter Leeds back again too, along with new voices in the persons of Tyne Daly, John Goodman, David Ogden Stiers, Harry Shearer, Sherman Hemsley, Lorenzo Music, and Freberg's own children, among others. But the material is weaker here, and too much time is spent explaining things to the listener (especially on "Stephen Foster, Beloved Songwriter," which would otherwise be the funniest thing on here), as opposed to Freberg's assumption on Volume One that we already knew what we needed to know to find the humor. Still, the weaknesses in Volume Two are far, FAR outweighed by the strengths of Volume One. Volume One has, for years, been used in schoolroom history classes, with great success in keeping students interested and entertained. It's a brilliant piece of work by the man who may be the single most brilliant satirist ever, the wonderful Stan Freberg."
Five stars for Volume 1; one star for Volume 2
Virtualmonk | San Antonio, TX | 04/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Vol. 1, The Early Years" is without a doubt the best comedy recording I have ever heard. I personally discovered it back in the mid-80s, when I came across a copy of the album one Saturday at the radio station where I worked. It was listened to many a time "in cue" or after sign-off. I simply could not get enough of it. I also listened repeatedly to his "Original Cast" greatest hits album and the classic "Freeberg Underground" live recording he did in the mid-60s at the Hollywood Bowl.

Ever since then, I had hoped that a) Vol. 1 would someday come out on CD, and b) that he would eventually make good on his promise in the original album's liner notes to bring out a Vol. 2.

Well, both of my wishes came true. Vol. 1 is out on CD and as good if not better than I remember it. Plus, they added back in some parts that were cut so the original recording could fit on one LP. Vol. 2, on the other hand, is a *major* disappointment.

Vol. 2 simply tries too hard. It tries to tackle a huge amount of American history (from the late 1700s through the end of World War I) in 34 tracks on one CD (a virtually impossible task). It tries to satirize events during the Civil War (a hopeless task). And, its satire lacks the "let's not take ourselves too seriously" light-heartedness of Vol. 1, which is another way of saying it is trying to be Politically Correct.

It's a shame Vol. 2 wasn't written and produced soon after Vol. 1. I honestly believe Stan and Co. would have come up with another classic.

I too wish Rhino still offered Vol. 1 separately. From a marketing/business standpoint, I understand why they don't do it.

Still, if you don't have Vol. 1, it's worth the sacrifice to buy the two-volume set just to get it. Who knows? You may end up liking Vol. 2. If not, it makes a good (albeit expensive) coaster.

History never sounded like this before
Scott N. Burton | Bridgeport,CT USA | 02/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Stan Freberg is undoubtedly a master satirist-Volume 1 of his "United States Of America" was originally released in 1961 & became an immediate classic-Thirty-five years later in 1996,Freberg decided to put out his long awaited sequel:"The United States Of America,Volume 2"-Both volumes are equally hilarious & memorable-My favorite routines are "A Man Has To Be Careful Of What He Signs These Days" (Declaration Of Independence),"Take An Indian To Lunch This Week" (The first Thanksgiving),& "The Appomatox Bar & Grill"-Freberg is ably assisted by a fine supporting cast:The late Paul Frees & Jesse White on Volume 1 & David Ogden Stiers,Sherman Hemsley,& Tyne Daly on Volume 2-It's a known fact that most students are turned off by history-However,if teachers were to play this album in their classes,I think the students would change their minds in a heartbeat-If you're a major league Stan Freberg fan like myself,don't hesitate to purchase this outstanding 2-CD set."