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Tiny TimTiny Tim
Album: The Complete Singles Collection 1966-1970
Label: Now Sounds
Tracks: 22
Website: http://www.nowsounds.co.uk

Tiny Tim (born Herbert Khoury in Massachusetts in 1932) was the entertainer who came to prominence towards the end of the hippie era with his excessively oddball, ukulele-backed falsetto rendition of Tip-Toe Thru' The Tulips With Me, which became the butt of endless jokes and parodies. In fact, Tiny Tim was only the latest in a series of personas he adopted after expulsion from school, so he was used to that I guess, and to reinventing himself. He revelled in his cultivated falsetto, even though it invariably alienated audiences. Although he became something of an icon of pop culture, he was a self-confessed "freak" who relished that tag since it enabled friendly, affectionate and sympathetic interaction with both fellow-performers and audiences.

Tiny Tim has more often been misunderstood, however, and rarely taken for a serious entertainer. A reassessment is surely due, and so this new compilation is very welcome. It's unbelievable that to date there's never before been a legitimate "best-of" CD compilation of Tiny Tim on CD. And this Now Sounds release, brought to you with all the high production values of the Cherry Red group of labels (including a fulsome booklet), offers the finest possible chance to sample the guy's uniqueness in all its culturally transcendent glory. He may have been a freak, but he was certainly not just a comedy act on the sidelines and he had much more to offer, all fostered by his own unshakable self-belief and the faith of his producer Richard Perry. Here we can start to rehabilitate Tim's reputation somewhat and reassess him through this strictly chronological procession of singles released over the five-year span that both gave him his glory years and subsequently chronicled the wane of his artistic talent.

This disc contains both sides of every one of his 45s, in the original mono mixes, many of which have been out of circulation since their initial release. These include his rare pre-Reprise debut April Showers (backed by a shuddering take on In The Pines, here retitled Little Girl) and the whole collection luxuriates in the weirdest and most frighteningly broad gamut of styles and backings. The Tulips formula was repeated with the likes of On The Good Ship Lollipop and I'm A Little Raindrop, these providing maximum contrast with Tim's manic reworking of Great Balls Of Fire, his Sinatra-like torch song This Is All I Ask, and his arguably ill-chosen cover of the bizarrely xenophobic 1916 number Don't Bite The Hand That's Feeding You and its companion piece What Kind Of American Are You? (stretching satire and irony too far?), not to mention Tim's decline, signified by the horrendous slush of his final Reprise single Why? - but then again, its flip, Tim's own composition The Spaceship Song returned him to the right side of charming ukedom, so go fathom! Neighbourhood Children's another strange piece, which crosses paths with Macarthur Park and Astral Weeks but with quite sinister overtones, forming a kind of antidote to the cutesy kiddie-fodder of Mickey The Monkey (the pride of the zoo indeed!). The gems of the collection however, are probably the coupling of the archetypally freaky Hello, Hello and the extraordinary The Other Side, which evokes a doomwatch global warming scenario that culminates Zappa-like in an apocalyptic Sally-Army chorale. The latter is one of the tracks that were "single-fied" from Tim's debut LP God Bless Tiny Tim, another being his cover of the cheery Fill Your Heart (later to become a Hunky Dory entrant for David Bowie, of course).

So there's plenty to celebrate here, from the astounding quality of Tim's vocal ranges, the sound and feel of the Perry productions, to the first-time-on-CD rarities bookending the collection (the aforementioned debut 45 and a post-Reprise single for Scepter that dates from 1972). Worry not about issues of taste, just marvel at the outrageous yet often inspired, unashamedly freakish yet oddly endearing Mr. Khoury, a curio but a true individual.

David Kidman