Produced by Geoff Gibbons. Run time 42 minutes.
Chinese Laundry Blues 2. He Does Look a Swank Does Frank On His Tank 3. Noughts and Crosses 4. Swimmin With the Wimmin 5. Leaning on a Lampost 6. Fanlight Fanny 7. Auntie Maggie’s Remedy 8. Talking to the Moon About You 9. Hi Tiddley Hi Ti Island 10. When I’m Cleaning Windows 11. Why Don’t Women Like Me 12. Mr Wu’s a Window Cleaner Now 13. With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock.
As a George Formby fan, I would highly recommend the new Ralph Shaw release, “By George!” (A Collection Of Songs Popularized By The Great George Formby) The main reason that this CD appeals to me is that Ralph’s approach is 100% faithful to the cheeky, fun spirit of Formby, without being slave to imitation, vocally or arrangement-wise.
The excellent production is warm & clean, and features a core group of tasteful, sympathetic accompanists. The song selection includes all the favourites, along with a few lesser known Formby songs (such as “Noughts and Crosses,” and another beautiful ballad, “Talking to the Moon About You,” with its sweet, stepping melody. Hearing Ralph sing it, you’ll wonder why this song didn’t become a standard.) I had not heard, “He Does Look a Swank Does Frank On His Tank,” before hearing it here – now I can’t get it out of my head. The energy is turned up on “Hi Tiddley Hi Ti Island,” which is given full party treatment & wouldn’t sound out of place in a slightly blue pantomime version of `Robinson Crusoe.’
Ralph’s plays a 1927 Gibson banjo-ukulele on the album and his playing is absolutely solid & confident (not surprising, considering that he is also an accomplished ukulele teacher, with an excellent series of DVD instruction courses.) Ralph’s solo on “Leaning On a Lampost,” is worth the price of admission alone.
If you’re looking for something where the fun jumps out of your speakers, buy “By George” by Ralph Shaw. Tom Saunders (reviewed on Amazon)
Listened to the CD yesterday. Great job! Production, singing and playing are all fine. The best part is that [Shaw] enunciates the lyrics in a way that I can really enjoy the cleverness of the songs. A very worthwhile effort and I think if folks are looking for a good introduction to Formby songs, this is it! Jim Beloff (Fleamarket Music)
In 2004 the Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum voted to induct British uker George Formby during its Expo in the Poconos. If you were lucky enough to beat your way through the wind and rain to make it to the Grand Concert on the Saturday night then you would have had the lucky treat to hear Shaw for the first time do his “Formby” act. Knowing Shaw’s talents with both a melody and a banjo-uke we had asked him if he wouldn’t mind doing a purely Formby set to honor the new inductee and Shaw keenly obliged. Thankfully for those of you who didn’t make it, Jim Beloff encouraged Shaw to make this CD. Even those of you who did make it to that initial show need to get the CD, however, as Shaw has rounded out his great playing and singing with some great backing musicians whose contributions make this even more listenable.
No offence to George, but Shaw honestly has a nicer singing voice with a bit of a croon at times. That having been said, he still gets across the humor of these often naughty ditties. He also provides us with plenty of uke (banjo-style) front and center; although none of Formby’s flashier solos, good solid playing throughout. The soprano sax Mike Norman contributes helps a number of these melodies to really swing and Doug Schmidt’s accordion and Mike Norman’s piano contribute a nice sense of mood, especially in the more ballad-type tunes. With Geoff Gibbons on guitar and keyboard, Rob Becker on Bass and Ken Hatch on trumpet, Shaw fills out the sound aspect of this CD well. He also offers a good selection of material. The emphasis is clearly on the better melodies Formby chose and we see several of the songs scribed for him by Harry Gifford and Fred Cliffe, as well as a few by Jack Cottrell.
Shaw offers 13 songs in an effective mix that includes several of Formby’s better-known tunes like “Chinese Laundry Blues,” “Leaning on a Lamppost,” “When I’m Cleaning Windows,” and “With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock.” He also treats us to several lesser known songs including “He Does Look a Swank Does Frank on his Tank,” “Fanlight Fanny,” “Aunt Maggie’s Remedy,” and “Swimmin with the Wimmin.” We also hear the sweeter side of George with the more lilting melodies of “Noughts and Crosses,” and “Taking to the Moon About You.” Shaw delivers his lyrics well, with a touch of the Lancashire, which is a nice twist since he’s a Yorkshire lad himself. Indeed, though now based in Canada, Shaw hales from Barnsley, which was as he points out on his liner notes the site of Formby’s first appearance on stage with a uke back in 1923. Shaw also has no trouble with the tongue twisters like “hi Tiddley Hi Ti Island,” and “Why Don’t Women Like Me.” All in all, a CD worth listening to, and one that injects welcome new life into many of those great old tunes. Reviewed by Susan Abbotson for ‘Uke Said It’ Magazine