Somehow, since his first appearances on Saturday Night Live in the early 1970's, Leon Redbone has come to personify the music played by vaudeville artists and gramophones. His gravelly baritone is as instantly recognizable as are his white fedora, black sunglasses and Groucho Marx mustache. Anytime is his 12th studio album and his first for Blue Thumb Records, which also plans to re-release five of his previous recordings this year.
"After my first few records, some had dubbed what I did as camp," says crooner Leon Redbone. Camp? The artist who sang the theme song to the TV show, Mr. Belvedere starring Bob Ueker? Camp? The singer who popularized the beer jingle "This Bud's for You"? Camp? The man riding the dinosaur singing "The Alphabet Song" on the kids show "Between the Lions"? "But fortunately," Redbone says wryly, "they haven't been heard from lately."
Classic certainly, satirical sometimes, but not campish, listening to a Leon Redbone album is a tour of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Anytime features songs by artists like Mitchell Parish, who co-wrote the Duke Ellington standard "Sophisticated Lady" and Arthur Freed, who penned "Singin' in the Rain". Songwriters like these wrote the great American songbook. Or how about Jelly Roll Morton, who claimed he invented jazz, itself?
Anytime doesn't offer any surprises, but there is plenty on this album for any Redbone fan to enjoy. His signature vocals are in rare form on the title cut. Guitarist Frank Vignola provides accompaniment on several of the tracks. He plays a Gibson guitar borrowed from Redbone that once belonged to 1920's jazz virtuoso Eddie Lang. The excellent swing clarinetist, Ken Peplowski joins in on the humorous "Your Feets Too Big" from TV's "Harry and the Henderson's". Redbone simply croons to perfection on the torch song "Blossoms on Broadway".
Leon Redbone has a real love affair with the often forgotten tunes he brings to his recording sessions. "I still maintain that most of the great sounds captured come from the 1920's and a little later.", he quips. I personally prefer to hear Leon live either in person or on record. However, Anytime is an enjoyable set of music whether you are a member of his cult following or just discovering Leon Redbone for the first time.