This is the thirteenth of the “50 Albums to Christmas 2019” series.
The birth of the CD to replace cassettes was in general a good thing. CDs didn’t get eaten up while being played by the machine playing them. Or snap at inopportune moments. Or fade through overuse. But CDs were expensive and also a fixed length. Designed to fit 72 minutes of music without swapping sides because the head of Sony loved Mozart’s Symphony #1 which is 72 minutes long, that’s all you got unless the powers that be decided your effort was worthy of a double album. No genre suffered more from this newly fixed length than comedy with full show recordings previously split across two C60s now edited aggressively to fit a single CD; jump cuts, asides, non-sequiturs, heckle management and random musings cut to cram everything into 71:59.
Case in point - The Definite Article, in which one of the masters of abstract comedy at his very best regales the listeners with James Mason and Sean Connery on reminiscences about language labs, exchange trips and late night telly interpersed with ruminations and rhetoricals concerning ducks in aeroplanes, disgruntled sheep at the barbers and the significance of being 82. This being recorded on the last show before Christmas 1993, the material is so finely tuned and so second nature that you’re laughing out loud before the gig has really started. Which is all the more annoying when the cassettes have near forty more minutes of rib-ticklers on them. Brilliance but sadly limited brilliance without the tapes. Better dig out the walkman.