CD review: Earl Okin - Musical Genius And Sex Symbol

Anyone who’s seen Earl Okin on the comedy circuit knows that he’s a true, eccentric original.

Dressed from bowler hat to spats in dapper Fifties style, he combines an outdated sophistication with a creepy, sleazy manner to produce what he misguidedly believes to be something of a sex-symbol image. That, of course, is the joke.

Now, a mere 45 years after he first took to the stage in a BBC talent contest, this louche singer-songwriter-comic has released his debut album, with the typically immodest title of Musical Genius And Sex Symbol, to showcase his talents.

Prime among these is his ability to covert modern rock tracks into smooth and soulful bossa-nova classics. Teenage Dirtbag, Blur’s Song 2 and Coldplay’s Yellow all get the acoustic easy-listening treatment here. It might seem like an unlikely collection, but the choice turns out to be inspired, resulting in almost unrecognisably different versions that stand up on their own merits.

Then there are his own compositions, dry paeans to women both beautiful and not, delivered in his seductively seedy lisp.

Many of these take full advantage of his unique talent – the mouth trumpet. For Okin has the uncanny ability to accurately reproduce a small brass section using nothing more elaborate than his God-given vocal cords. The effect, though, is somewhat lost on the CD, unless you know what’s going on.

These aren’t the only time a visual joke makes it onto the disc, the audience at the Downstairs At The King’s Head club in North London laughing inexplicably at some unseen gag that should have been edited out.

It might have been better a better album had some of his patter also suffered the same fate. Live, the gentle whimsy is part of the jazz-club allure, despite the absence of any joke written in the past 20 years. On CD, its languid pace seems slower still. You’ll endure his meanderings about the music industry and how he came to discover the delights of bossa nova on the first listening, but this is a disc that could wear out the skip button on subsequent plays.


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Steve Bennett
May, 2004

Published: 26 Jul 2006

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