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Limelight, June 2007

His working class slapstick tunes and banjo rhythms backed by orchestra were a Lancashire elixir for the Great Depression.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2007

You might not be expecting among my classical music reviews to find George Formby, but many, many years ago with the second-hand wind-up gramophone my parents bought me I found one of his discs, and I fell in love with his silly songs. Born in 1904 to a father who was a music-hall comedian, his diminutive size at first took him into the world of racehorses, but weight problems eventually ruled out the life as a jockey. Encouraged by his mother he then followed in his father's footsteps, though it was not until marriage to a wife who shaped his career that success in the theatre was realised. He was far from good looking and rather ungainly, but his music found him acting in twenty films fashioned around his singing and ukulele playing, his recorded legacy including over two hundred discs. He became the UK's most highly paid comedian reportedly earning in the late 1930's what today must equate to 20 million pounds per year. His wealth and growing ill-health persuaded him to retire in his late forties, and he died at the early age of 57. Maybe those not born in the north of England will not catch all of the words in these funny and often naughty songs, but you will gather enough to appreciate the role it would have had in the films from which many of these tracks are taken. In between his singing we hear his agility on the instrument he called a ukulele, though in fact it owed more to its banjo origins. If you are just coming to the funny man, just play a few tracks at a time, as the formula that made him famous was much the same from song to song. The sound from the originals - covering the period from 1932 to 1946 - is good and the transfers are immaculate.

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