That Ivor Cutler isn’t considered one of the greatest comics of all time, in the same league as Billy Connolly, Peter Cook et al, is really nothing short of ridiculous. He was of course never meant for the mainstream, but even so… A unique thinker, poet and composer, his oddball output scanned several decades; he appeared countless times on John Peel sessions, and he still raises chuckles today, with his surreal whimsy and very Scottish blend of banality and brutality.
This twenty four track charity double album, which features a host of Scots indie and folk bands, including Raymond Macdonald, Stuart Braithwaite, Lau, Karine Polwart, Emma Pollock and Jo Mango (as well as special guests, Cutler’s ex-partner and poet Phyllis King, and friend Robert Wyatt) is a touching, sweet tribute to the man. The first half features tracks taken from his lesser known album, the debut from 1959 titled ‘Ivor Cutler Of Y’ Hup’; the second, cult favourites from that extensive career.
As with Cutler himself, there are a good few genres explored, although it would have been interesting if the calypso and klezmer stuff was also tackled. Of course, Cutler’s dour and idiosyncratic voice can never be adequately replicated, nor should it be, but there are still loads of gems here.
The cream are A Cowpuncher And A Bird (possibly the closest here to Cutler’s timbre) the joyful post- pub singalong of I Got No Common Sense, a jazz-inflected Green Rain, and the ska knees-up of Good Morning, How Are You,Shut Up featuring Pictish Trail. Who Tore Your Trousers James is hilarious as it’s played with a straight bat, while sounding sinister as fuck. Meanwhile, Yellow Fly remains as pretty, melancholic and poignant as ever. Shoplifters is a deeply trippy episode, and Tracyanne Campbell’s gorgeous Women Of The World, a mantra to a matriarchy-based utopia that’s euphoric, rather than didactic.
Cutler himself would probably have cringed right down to his plus-fours and bicycle clips, were he still around, but his being out of sync with the modern world was all part of his charm. His songs, however, remain as timeless and strange as ever.
Proceeds from the album go to Philadelphia Association, a mental health charity.