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Night Gallery/Teach the World to Laugh *
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  • A fixture of the U.K. musical comedy/novelty scene since the mid-'60s, the Barron Knights had just emerged from nearly a decade without a British hit when Night Gallery (1978) and Teach the World to Laugh (1979) appeared in the late '70s. "Live in Trouble" and "A Taste of Aggro" gave them Top Ten U.K. hits, the latter appearing on Night Gallery, which made number 15 in their native land. Both of these albums are stuffed with musical parodies that haven't translated well overseas, though the Barron Knights would continue to have small British chart entries for a few years, and perform (with changing lineups) for decades to come. Though adept at mimicking and re-creating contemporary (and sometimes not-so-contemporary) styles as backdrops for their satire, their droll humor is far milder than, say, the average track heard on Dr. Demento's radio show. Two albums (here presented on two separate CDs, though the running times indicate they could just about have fit onto one disc) at once is too much for all but the staunchest comedy collector. Give the Barron Knights this, though: the records were nothing if not diverse, taking on disco, John Denver ("Heaving on a Jet Plane," har har), reggae ("Boy Scouts Out Camping" is one of the better cuts), "MacArthur Park" (never mind that it had been a hit ten years previously), Supertramp ("The Topical Song"), classical ("Air on a G String"), even a cappella traditional British folk ("The Hand on the Ear Folk Song"). It's rather like a very long musical variety-comedy show that never gets too cutting or out there, but the packaging is conscientious, with historical liner notes featuring comments by bassist/guitarist Pete Langford. ~ Richie Unterberger
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