The full title of this recording is The Langley Schools Music Project: "Innocence and Despair", but this node title is how the album is referred to by everyone, including those that produced it.

By now, you have probably heard of this album, quickly becoming a word of mouth hit around the world. My local crappy paper, The Trenton Times, even reviewed it this week. The album was recorded on a 2-track between 1976 and 1977 at Wix-Brown Elementary School in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Featuring 60+ elementary school students singing popular songs of the 1960's and 1970's, the album contains interesting, ahem, renditions of songs by the Beach Boys, Paul McCartney, and David Bowie to name a few.

Arranged, directed, and recorded by Hans Fenger, a music teacher at the rural elementary school, the album feature children playing almost all of the instruments and even a couple haunting solos (Desperado creeps me the hell out). Fenger, a former Vancouver musician, played acoustic guitar and piano, but all other instruments, including bass guitar, xylophone, cymbal and metallophone are played by the kids.

Fenger originally made the recordings and pressed them to two 12" vinyl LPs for the students, staff, and parents. Irwin Chusid, author of Songs in the Key of Z and a record producer discovered the recordings recently and decided the rest of us needed to hear them. Chusid is big on so-called "outsider music" and says on his website that "outsider musicians are often termed 'bad' or 'inept' by listeners who judge them by the standards of mainstream popular music." (He's a big fan of Wesley Willis). Well, this album certainly fits the bill.

So without further ado, here's the track listing along with a little about each:

  1. Venus and Mars/Rock Show - (Paul McCartney and Wings)
    - Eh, its ok, but kind of a lame intro song.
  2. Good Vibrations - (The Beach Boys)

  3. - One of the better sounding tracks on the album, complete with jingle bells, xylophone. with several parts sung concurrently.
  4. God Only Knows - (The Beach Boys)

  5. - Showing us how they really have the Beach Boys down, this one is interesting again.
    panamaus says: Sometimes I will wake up in the morning to my clock radio's tinny jams, and my local college radio station will be playing this one. The first time I heard it I was spellbound. It makes me tear up a little every time I hear it, it's so raw and beautiful.

  6. Space Oddity - (David Bowie)

  7. - This one is a doozy. Starting with acoustic guitar, there is this strange keyboard noise running through it all. Not to mention the screetching guitar sliding down into the chorus. And dramatic volume changes. This is just sort of a creepy one. Bowie was actually asked about it and had this to say:
    The backing arrangement is astounding. Coupled with the earnest if lugubrious vocal performance you have a piece of art that I couldn't have conceived of, even with half of Colombia's finest export products in me.

  8. The Long and Winding Road - (The Beatles)

  9. - The first solo performance on the album, the boy on this one pretty much gets it down, maybe emotes a bit too much. The song is ok.
  10. Band On The Run - (Paul McCartney and Wings)

  11. - Ha. Ha Ha. Ha Ha Ha. HAH. Just funny. Good. But HA!
  12. I'm Into Something Good - (Earl-Jean/Herman's Hermits)

  13. - This may be as good as the original. Hand claps are great! And when the kids go "WHOO-OOOH-OOH!" thats just great
  14. In My Room - (The Beach Boys)

  15. - Yep. They can do the Beach Boys. Thats for sure.
  16. Saturday Night - (The Bay City Rollers)

  17. - The intro sounds like a pep-rally. They couldn't be WORSE than the Bay City Rollers. So I guess that makes this good.
  18. I Get Around - (The Beach Boys)

  19. - Got the Beach Boys down. except, well they can't seem to handle up-tempo Beach Boys.
  20. Mandy (Barry Manilow)

  21. - Ahh Mr. Manilow.. The kids love him. What can you say?
  22. Help Me, Rhonda - (The Beach Boys)

  23. - By now, they have fast Beach Boys songs down. Whoo!
  24. Desperado - (The Eagles)

  25. - This is my favorite track on the album. Wow. The little girl who sings this solo sounds like they grabbed her out of a opium-induced daze. That, or it's Jewel at 8 years. Wow. This alone makes the album worth owning. Between that and the simple piano accompaniment, this track runs shivers up the spine. Once again, creepy.
  26. You're So Good To Me - (The Beach Boys)

  27. - Beach Boys, 'nough said.
  28. Sweet Caroline - (Neil Diamond)

  29. - Some how, the lines "touching me, touching you" lose something when sung by eight-year-olds.
  30. To Know Him Is To Love Him - (Teddy Bears)

  31. - Isn't this what kids are supposed to sing at that age normally? Blah.
  32. Rhiannon - (Fleetwood Mac)

  33. - Probably the song most orchestrated instrumentaly, its kinda crappy when they hit the high note at the beginning of the chorus.
  34. You're Sixteen * - (Johnny Burnette/Ringo Starr)

  35. - Wow. This is a good one. This is who should sing this song. Woot!
  36. Little Deuce Coupe * - (The Beach Boys)

  37. - See all of the above.
  38. Wildfire (Michael Martin Murphy)

  39. - I hate this song to begin with, but I guess they didn't make it suck any more.
  40. Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day) - (Klaatu/The Carpenters)

  41. - This is ok. Richard Carpenter says "The effect of all those young voices singing 'Calling Occupants' is charming."

    * = Only on the special European release.

Here are two great quotes found on the website for the song:

Once you recover from the kitsch of their schoolyard rendition of the Carpenters' ode to extraterrestrial life, 'Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft,' you may well regard this CD as a testament to the value of creative teaching, and of music education in schools. — Sue Cummings, RollingStone.com

"Outside-music archivist {and Langley chronicler} Irwin Chusid {insists} that these strange and charming renditions of songs like 'Space Oddity,' 'I'm Into Something Good,' and 'Desperado' have artistic merit. Surprisingly, he's right. In its own surreally amateurish way, this stuff is both accomplished and addictive." Rating: B+ — Rob Brunner, Entertainment Weekly

All in all, this album is worth owning. I'm not sure why. But it's just, well, creepy good. And if you have heard this, /msg me your comments. I would love to add them here. If you want to get your hands on a track or two, let me know.

Igloowhite says "this cd is one of the best things I've heard in years. Actually visionary. The first time I heard it, it literally brought tears to my eyes. I was astonished, and then felt terribly sad. It was like a 5 minute trip to 10 years old. All the beach boys stuff is off-the-hook good. it's spiritually correct"

Legbagede says "ah yes! having lived in langley for a month, i'll tell you its still overrun with hippies of every possible persuasion - i can only imagine what it would've been like in the mid-70s :) "

that girl says "Children are rockstars : the Langley Schools Music Project is not of this world. It is of the world this was when you were 10 and it was summer and spent the days running around outside skinning your knees, and you knew what the world was about. There is something here that grabbed me by the ears and said 'look at me' and forced me to stare it straight in the eyes and promise that I understand. You must listen to this loud. You must listen to it screaming."


Links:
http://www.keyofz.com/keyofz/langley/
http://allmusic.com/

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