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Record Review: Thomas Edison – Mary Had a Little Lamb (reissue)

February 4, 2011

2.4/10

1927 re-issue of Edison’s 1877 debut fails to impress

While gritty quality and scratchy textures may be en vogue amongst certain musical genres today, Edison’s lo-fi-for-the-sake-of-it track simply evokes the desperation of an artist trying to jump on the bandwagon and missing, tumbling fecklessly in the dirt and arroyo weeds as the wagon clatters on to the next frontier town. To extend the image further, Edison is then attacked by a rabid coyote as he makes his way across the baked earth, grappling for life as he screams into the arid skies, his hollow voice echoing endlessly between the surrounding mesas. Back in the town, the band dismounts from the wagon to shoot craps and drink whiskey in the local bar, unaware of Edison’s fate no more than a kilometre away in the desert.

While Edison’s a cappella rendering of this well-known nursery rhyme certainly captures the vitality and anger of a young inventor trying to make his mark on the world, the lack of instrumentation really lets him down, exposing his rambling and brittle vocal histrionics. The world is filled with like-for-like covers of this kind, and one can’t help but feel that the somewhat juvenile theme of Edison’s work can be no more than cynical pandering to the youth market, a segment recently given new life by the success of  Justin Bieber, whose own releases, sadly, stand head and shoulders above this track. This 1927 re-issue is also preceded by a somewhat unnecessary bonus skit in which Edison introduces his work as a “piece of practical poetry”, whatever that really even means.

Ultimately, it is Edison’s status as a crazy, dead man that strips this track of all relevance. Bring Auto-Tune back to life, all is forgiven.

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