Neil Innes

Band members                              Related acts

- Neil Innes -- vocals, guitar


  supporting musicians: (1977)

- Brian Bowles -- vocals

- Billy Bremmer -- guitar

- Timmy Donald -- drums, percussion

- William Fahey -- flute, sax

- John Halsey -- drums, percussion

- Brian Hodgson -- bass

- Alan James -- bass

- Sue Jones-Davies -- vocals

- Richard Lee -- bass

- John Megginson -- keyboards

- Keith Nelson -- banjo

- Roger Rettig -- guitar

- Julian Smedley -- vocals, violin


  supporting musicians: (1979)

- Richard Bruton -- guitar

- Sharon Campbell -- backing vocals

- Randy Colville -- sax

- Mitch Dalton -- guitar

- Martin Drower -- trumpet

- Kenny Dukayne -- backing vocals

- Stuart Elliot -- drums

- Digby Fairweather -- trumpet

- Keith Gemmelll - sax 

- Ollie Halsall (RIP) -- guitar (not listed in credits)

- John Halsey -- drums (not listed in credits)

- Brian Holloway -- guitar

- Annie Kavanagh -- backing vocals

- Yvonne Keeley -- backing vocals

- Pat Kyle -- sax

- Brian Lemon -- keyboards

- Billy Livsey -- keyboards

- Howard Lowther -- trumpet

- Bruce Lynch -- bass

- Paul Martinez -- bass (not listed in credits)

- John Munford -- trombone

- Paul Nieman -- trombone

- Bill Skeat -- sax

- Dave Spence -- trumpet

- Pete Strange -- trombone

- Gary Travers -- backing vocals

- Paul Travis -- backing vocals

- Peter Van Hooke -- drums

- Harvey Weston -- bass

- Tommy Whittle -- sax




- The Alberts

- The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

- Grimms

- Eric Idle and Neil Innes

The Ruttles

- The World





Genre: comedy

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Taking Off

Company: Arista

Catalog: SPARTY 1004

Country/State: Danbury, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+

Comments: UK pressing; cut lower right corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6326

Price: $30.00


My generation grew up loving Monty Python's Flying Circus, but somehow we missed the boat with respect to Neil Innes and The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.  Which makes it kind of funny that a lot of Americans associate Neil Innes with The Pythons, though he was never a formal member of the group - yes he wrote material for them and even appeared on their television show, but he was never formally part of the group ...  Well he was a member of The Rutles ...


Innes' second solo album was an interesting, if inconsistent offering.  As with his Bonzos catalog, 1977's "Taking Off" underscored his knack for crafting catchy pop melodies and occasionally clever lyrics.  Innes was almost chameleon like in his ability to adapt to changing musical genres which this time out included bluegrass ('Crystal Balls'),  singer/songwriter angst ('God Is Love'), barb band boogie ('Catch Phrase') and conventional pop ('La Vie En Rose').  That said, the collection sounded surprisingly straightforward with the overabundance of sensitive singer/songwriter material leaving you to wonder if Innes was perhaps trying to channel Harry Chapin or James Taylor ....   The apparently serious edge was quite disconcerting at times ('Dreams Shine Through').  Also, like The Bonzos and The Pythons, Innes' English sense of humor occasionally got lost in translation ...   


"Taking Off" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Crystal Balls  (Neil Innes) - 2:57 rating: ** stars

'Crystal Balls' showcased Innes chameleon-like character, offering up some mildly funny lyrics over a stereotypical bluegrass arrangement.  Yeah, it was all here - banjo, pedal steel guitar ...   though he end results didn't do much for me.  YouTube has a clip to the promotional video: 

2.) Catch Phrase  (Neil Innes) - 2:48   rating: **** stars

Innes always had a knack for creating catchy melodies and the bouncy and radio-friendly 'Catch Phrase' served to highlight that talent.  The song's humor was certainly there, but it wasn't the kind of blatant, in-your-face funny that made a 17 year snicker (you could just picture legions of young men scratching their heads trying to grasp the subtleties of a inventing a catch-phrase).  That soft and non-threatening humor struck a chord with me as did the fact his vocal bore more than a passing resemblance to John Lennon.   YouTube has a clip of Innes performing the tune on the BBC's The Old Grey Whistle Test.  The late Ollie Halsall on lead guitar: 

3.) God Is Love  (Neil Innes) - 3:42  rating: ** stars

Opening up with a stark electric keyboard, 'God Is Love' morphed from a mid-tempo ballad, to a more up-tempo number, complete with a Gospel segment.   To my ears it was one of those songs that sort of snuck up on you and it was hard to tell if Innes was being sincere, or simply taking a cheap shot at the whole topic of organized religion.   Wonder if Innes' longstanding friendship with George Harrison had anything to do with the song ...   Yes, there was a promotional video for this one: 

4.) Randy Raquel  (Neil Innes) - 3:23  rating: ** stars

Musically 'Randy Raquel' was a pretty, keyboard-propelled ballad with a lyric seemingly dedicated to a male sex toy ...  Hard to imagine how Innes managed to keep such a straight forward and somber voice on this one.   Here's a link to another BBC The Old Grey Whistle Test performance: 

5.) Shangri-La  (Neil Innes) - 3:51    rating: *** stars

'Shangri-La' had a pleasant, mildly English musical hall feel - imagine a mid-1960s Paul McCartney-penned Beatles song along the lines of Elenanor Riigby.  And like that tune, this one had some profoundly disturbing social commentary mixed in the lyrics.  In case you missed Innes' comments, the accompanying video was a pretty blatant slap at Margaret Thatcher era England.   Interestingly, when Innes re-recorded the song for The Rutles, the song was given a much more psychedelic - Sgt Pepper flavor. 


(side 2)
1.) Drama of a Saturday Night  (Neil Innes) - 4:59   rating: ** stars

Starting off with an engaging, slightly jazzy/bossa nova feel, 'Drama of a Saturday Night' actually had the feel of an early 10 C.C. song.  Another one where it hard to tell it Innes was playing it straight, or not. 

2.) Dreams Shine Through  (Neil Innes) - 3:50   rating: ** stars

A heavily orchestrated ballad, 'Dreams Shine Through' sounded like Innes had overdosed on a combination of Eleanor Rigby and Harry Chapin songs.   Geez, this one was about as funny as the evening news. 

3.) Busy Day  (Neil Innes) - 3:26   rating: ** stars

Coupling a pop melody with a lyric rife with the sexual frustration and disappointment of a housewife (I'm guessing here),  gave 'Busy Day' an almost schizophrenic feel.     

4.) Three Piece Suite  (Neil Innes) - 3:35   rating: **** stars

One of the album's most outright commercial numbers, 'Three Piece Suite' really did sound like a 10 C.C. song; or at least like Eric Stewart trying to sound like Paul McCartney.  Innes managed to nail Stewart's unique aching vocals, while the song managed to replicate 10 C.C.'s always eclectic mix of pop and experimental moves.  Probably should have docked it a star for being such a blatant ripoff.

5.) La Vie En Rose  (Neil Innes) - 3:15   rating: **** stars

Even better was the closer 'La Vie En Rose'.  No, there wasn't anything remotely funny about this one, rather it again underscored Innes talents as a great pop songwriter.  Fantastic hook ... 


So if you bought this one expecting to hear some Python-esque insanity this one was probably going to come off as a mild disappointment.  It has a couple of gems, but won't set the 15 year old in your soul into spasms of laughter.  





Genre: comedy

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  The Innes Book of Records

Company: Polydor

Catalog: 2683 556
Year: 1979

Country/State: Danbury, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: UK pressing; includes lyric insert

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 207

Price: $25.00


By the late 1970s Neil Innes had hit the big time, riding Ruttle-mania to the stratosphere; Saturday Night Live appearances, hanging out with former Beatles; and he'd even managed to score a BBC television series  - The Neil Innes Book of Records.  Over the program's three year run (1979-81),  Innes and crew wrote and recorded scores of songs (reportedly close to 100 - sometimes recording up to twelve songs in a day).  Ten tracks were recorded after the end of the first season and released on 1979's "The Innes Book of Records".  Another twenty compositions drawn from the second and third season of the show appeared on 1982's double album set "Off the Record".   I've only seen snippets of the television show and have to admit the concept has never been particularly clear to me - variety show?  Basis for Innes' comedy sketches?.  Anyhow, anyone curious should check out the following website:


Stretching back to The Bonzo Dog Band, personally I've always found Innes comedy a hit, or miss proposition.  He's certainly capable of being bust-a-gut funny, but the combination of his English view of life and his dry; biting, and occasional mean spirited wit hasn't always made me laugh.  And when it comes to his post-Bonzo albums I've had similar issues.  I got the Rutles concept and it was funny, but sometimes its hard to tell if Innes was trying to be funny, or simply taking a shot at trying to be a true pop star.  That concern aside, 1979's "The Innes Book of Records" was occasionally funny; but for the most part was surprisingly understated and subtle (check out the chanteur 'Love Is Getting Deeper'), seemingly focusing on musicianship.  Like The Rutles, the album underscored what a talented musician Innes was; seemingly capable of operating in virtually any musical idiom known to mankind.  Americana ('Kenny and Liza'), big-band lounge act ('Spontaneous'), Brazilian jazz ('Etcetera'), new-wave ('Amoeba Boogie'), reggae ('Human Race'), it was all here.  Anyhow, if this was Innes stab at rock stardom, then he turned in am impressive shot (though it did little commercially).  I'm not sure how long they'll be active, but I've embedded links to YouTube clips of the accompanying videos.


"Book of Records" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Here We Go Again   (Neil Innes) - 3:20

I was at a friend's house the first time I heard this album.  The friend played 'Here We Go Again' and asked me if I knew who the singer was.  My guess was Neil Finn and Crowded House ...   so much for my keen insight into music.   In my defense, I'll tell you that the song had the same catchy, but slightly weird structure and melody that Finn and company love.   The chorus provided a nifty hook and the slightly discordant keyboard pattern drilled into you head and wouldn't leave you alone.  YouTube has the accompanying video at:  rating: **** stars

2.) Montana Cafe   (Neil Innes) - 3:31

If you were a big fan of The Beatles lysergic period, then you should recognize and enjoy the acid tinged flavor of 'Montana Cafe'.  Wonder if he actually ever visited Montana ...   Great tune regardless.  Here's the accompanying video:  rating: **** stars

3.) All In the Name of Love   (Neil Innes) - 3:43

Built on a slinky guitar riff, 'All In the Name of Love' found Innes seemingly trotting out his best Mark Knopfler imitation.  One of the album's most commercial tracks, this one should have been a massive hit.   rating: **** stars

4.) Kenny and Liza   (Neil Innes) - 3:48

I'm guessing 'Kenny and Liza' was Innes stab at then popular blue-collar rock (think along the lines of Bon Jovi, or Springsteen).   Nice enough, but not particularly funny.   Interestingly the original version of the song had a totally different sound and vibe - very ornate with an Eleanor Rigby flavor.  The YouTube clip captures the original arrangement.   rating: ** stars

5.) Amoeba Boogie   (Neil Innes) - 4:27

Well it opened up with syn-drums and some of the cheesiest synthesizer programming you've heard since the last time you played that Buggles album ...   That said, 'Amoeba Boogie' was a cute, new wave-meets-disco effort.  Geez, a disco track for microbiologists and people who spurned disco.  Hum, quite a concept.  Actually, it also sounded like a 10 C.C. track.    rating: *** stars


(side 2)
1.) Theme (instrumental)   (Neil Innes) - 2:51

The album's lone instrumental, 'Theme' sounded like something out a Charlie Chaplin flick - very old-timey and not particularly memorable.  rating: ** stars

2.) Human Race   (Neil Innes) - 4:30

Human Race' sounded like Eric Stewart and 10 C.C. doing a reggae tune.  Lyrically and musically this wasn't pushing in boundaries, but it was pleasant and had a nice lead guitar solo - Ollie Halsall ?  (not sure what the scarecrow symbolized  rating: *** stars

3.) Spontaneous   (Neil Innes) - 3:41

Built on a big band arrangement, 'Spontaneous' sounded like Neil Innes trying to do his best Bill Murray lounge singer impersonation.   Nice horn charts.  rating: ** stars

4.) Love Is Getting Deeper   (Neil Innes) - 3:34

Judging by the French accent, I'm guessing 'Love Is Getting Deeper' was intended to nail Charles Aznevour.  A great example of Innes at his best - sweet and funny.   rating: **** stars

5.) Etcetera   (Neil Innes) - 3:49

If you're a certain age (say mid-'50s to mid '60s), there's a good chance that the tropical jazzy moves of 'Etcetera' will strike a chord.  I can certainly remember my parents listening to this kind of stuff on their hifi system.  Very Astrid Gilberto and Brazilian jazzy vibe ...  Anyhow, the breezy, easy-going melody stood in stark contrast to the storybook lyric.   rating: **** stars


Not something you'll want to hear every week, but low key fun.