Vinyl Cafe Storiesby Stuart McLean
Recorded at various concerts given by McLean throughout Canada in 1997 and 1998, this two-CD, two-hour-plus collection gathers nine of his one-man storytelling performances of tales from his CBC The Vinyl Cafe radio program. All of them feature the Toronto family at the heart of The Vinyl Cafe: Dave, his wife Morley, their daughter Stephanie, and their son Sam. They're lovable, if typically fractious, in their good-natured struggle to get along and navigate life's minor problems, though perhaps more prone to comic misadventures than your average next-door neighbors. The launching point for each of these tales is ordinary: a Christmas party, the family cat, playing hooky from work, a deranged bum, a trip to Holland during the uneasy first year of a marriage, the awkwardness of buying the first jock strap for your son. The tales themselves, however, aren't ordinary. They're pretty funny, as things often go awry, as when a mix up of the bowls at the Christmas party results in the kids getting drunk, or an attempt to toilet train the cat ends up with someone nearly jumping to their death. They're also funny, though, because they're told with a wry, well-paced humor and a compassionate insight that offers not just jokes, but also an appreciation of the compromises and sacrifices that make life as a family survivable.
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As usual, very good stories.