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Brian Gari

 

Live At Uncle Lulu's 1978

 

 Brian Gari CD cover

 1978. It was a very good year. President Ford was in the White House. Sony introduced the Walkman. Harvey Milk was the first gay politician elected to public office in San Francisco, the Bee Gees' “Saturday Night Fever”soundtrack remained at #1 for 24 weeks in a row, Harriet Tubman was the first black woman on a U.S. postage stamp; “Annie Hall” won best picture in Hollywood, “Ain't Misbehavin'”won best musical on Broadway, Norman Rockwell died, “Evergreen” won song of the year at the Oscars, Liza Minnelli was named best actress in a musical for “The Act” at the Tony Awards -  and Brian Gari was appearing at a dusty little club in Manhattan named Uncle Lulu's. Gari was a child of 26 then and he has managed to preserve many club appearances over the years. Recently archiving his cassettes, he came upon a good copy of a performance at this relic of a club that was gone before most people knew it existed. The results are a fun, very entertaining, personalized CD filled with terrific songs by an intelligent, funny, struggling songwriter with his observations into the times he lived and loved in. The good old days.  

 From show business parents and with royalty in his veins as the grandson of the great Eddie Cantor and a pocketful full of dreams, he was a staple on the Manhattan comedy and club scene with his songs then and briefly landing on Broadway with his short-lived  “Late Nite Comic” in 1987 (re-recorded in 2007 with a starry cast.) 
 
Lifted and mastered from a cassette, this release is not without technical flaws. And, the buzz of a live audience doesn't exactly enhance some of the nuances. However, it all captures a simpler moment in time live – sans the vulgar choreography and mindless mannequins seen on today's videos backing him. Just a man sharing his life and observations in song. The often self-deprecating Gari self-contained here as he was in the many club appearances through the years.  He's no Billy Joel or Neil Sadaka (both of whom always had a flair for more commercial/lollipop jukebox appeal.) Gari is more profound. Yet, occasional, subdued echoes of a younger Randy Newman jump out. This is most evident on the poignant message of “Portfolio Girl,” a biting ballad about a struggling singer. The song muses about discarded pictures, resumes, sacrifices, rejection and dreams of hitting it big which ring as true today as they did 36 years ago with the lyrics, “ …  your dreams are the only place in which you star … life can be hard.” The lively opening cut about a guy handling rejection from a paramour is as benevolent as it is laugh out loud funny; “... aren't I the lucky one and don't I have all the fun? … I can have anyone I don't want!” Some clever stuff. In fact, the bulk of this little album (there are ten cuts) makes for terrific special material for any performer putting together a novelty club act. In song Brian Gari playfully berates himself frequently. One gets the impression he is filing his own life experiences in song. Perhaps. On “If Our Songs Still Make It,” Gari again recalls another lost love theme in an upbeat ditty with another reflective message; this time about two songwriters who had an affair; “ … if we could go back to '63 and you could be my baby again … the songs survived but we could not.” 
 Brian Gari's Live At Lulu's 1978 is sung in a strong, clear voice flawlessly accompanying himself with showman's flair and makes one wonder why he isn't on the boards more – where he belongs. The songs are an eclectic mix of the pensive and the funny. Above all, they are heartfelt and say a lot about a guy with some stories to tell (regardless of the decade!) It's all told with a heart he's not afraid to bare in an album worthy of attention.