At His Very Best
A legendary workaholic when it came to planning recording projects, Spike Jones might have completely imploded had he been able to predict a future in repackaging and reissuing his own material. Since 2002 alone there have been more than a dozen new sets, mostly falling into a greatest-hits classification. The Rex set titled At His Very Best originated in 2003, and was then repackaged and reissued in 2006. During that same period, keeping up with this particular, Jones involved a series of well organized volumes on the Naxos label, a "worst of," an "essentials," a "proper introduction" and of course throughout it all the greatest-hits sets continuing to breed like rabbits. In terms of entertaining music it is all like going to the beach on a nice day. Some sets have more frills than others in terms of accompanying material such as liner notes and photography; the Rex set is a winner for reasons of musical choice mostly. With nearly 50 tracks it is certainly generous programming, what is even better is the balance between the familiar and the rare. The "Charleston" sets things in motion, a dizzying competition between fad and bad,
not the first or last time the Jones outfit annihilates a popular hit, a point any of the greatest-hits sets make with near universal inclusion of acknowledged career highlights: "Holiday for Strings," "William Tell Overture," "Chloe," "Liebestraum," and of course "Riders in the Sky," which the Rex set lets out of the stable early. From there things get quite interesting, "Ya Wanna Buy a Bunny?" taking the listener down a rabbit-hole where even Bugs Bunny would cry out for law and order. The band makes chop suey out of a polka, delivers a fairly straightforward rendition of a vintage, virtuoso trombone feature, and mines for embarrassing body noise gold with hilarious "Wild Bill Hiccup." A western theme reoccurs for the final four tracks, insanity gunning down decorum "Behind Those Swinging Doors" as the "The Covered Wagon Rolled Right Along." Using chunks, but not the entirety, of albums originally devoted to certain musical issues is a great way of maintaining variety, not that this is so much of an issue in the case of Jones. "A Serenade to a Jerk" and "I Dream of Brownie with the Light Blue Jeans" are further delights of this collection, obviously programmed by a Jones fan.