The Big Broadcast of 1976 (Firezine Productions)

Reviewed by Rusty Pipes

David Ossman has always kept himself busy outside of his Firesign Theater projects, doing countless lectures and workshops on old radio and occasionally mounting serious productions like this one from 1976. Except this one's not serious! Just very, very funny. Seriously. The CD is full of original pieces that are all done in old radio style and wonderfully performed and recorded live with great quality for a broadcast that took place originally over KTYD in Santa Barbara, California.

The production was billed as a Bicentennial Salute to Everything That Once Made America Great, so there are quite a few ersatz patriotic quips involved here, something Firesign excelled at of course. The main piece is Hollywood Madhouse where Ossman and Austin are joined by Mark Ward and Richard Procter (no relation to Phil Proctor, they were a local Santa Barbara team of the time), plus Lesley Nicholson, Chris Lip Kin and Lisa Cloud. Ossman is in character as George Leroy Tirebiter for Madhouse, a radio comedy set in World War II where George is wrestling with playing Young Tom Edison (after all these years he's hardly young!), and a cast of lovable sidekicks keeps the story moving along. You'll have belly laughs when Ossman and Austin engage in some Abbott & Costello like repartee, and of course George's job provides an excuse for a radio play within a radio play.

But there's more, especially The Richard M. Nixon Story and Officer Midnight which were penned by Austin. The whole thing is brought to you by Daylight Savings and Loan and Glamarama Soap ("Your face will never forgive you!"). The original music breaks are still here too. Not much to write home about except that they give the production a homey, Prairie Home Companion kind of feel.

Of the two recent releases Firezine (the official Firesign Theater fan magazine) has made, this one's the gem. It's available only through the Official Firesign site, found at www.firezine.net.

© 2001 - Rusty Pipes