The title track from critically acclaimed Mythical Kings and Iguanas (1971) and its reprise “Going Home” bookend this album, just as they did the prior; presumably an unimaginative ploy to feign some nostalgia. The material itself is a lot less conventional though and isn’t usual singer-songwriter fare, but rather in the tradition of vaudeville and the candour of psychodrama; both posing as folk-revival, if you can dig that. Previn is surely an acquired taste, but it’s her dark humour that really shines on a lot of these selections. “Esther’s First Communion”, taken from her first album On My Way to Where (1970) has an unmistakable jaunting rhythm as well as references to Jesus and casual sex equating to something deliciously blatant. Her gender poetics are the main cards she plays and contribute many of the best songs: “When A Man Wants A Woman”, “Angels And Devils the Following Day” and “Starlet Starlet on the Silver Screen, Who Will Follow Norma Jean?”. Incidentally, Previn drops the F-bomb in the latter two and even manages to sympathetically rhyme it with ‘truck’. Elsewhere, she continues to jolt listeners; the stage musicality of “King Kong” which is a narrative from the ape’s point-of-view doesn’t quite fit contextually, but another two taken from Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign (1972) fare better; “Don’t Put Him Down” about male impotence is a grower (forgive me) as is “The Midget’s Lament” which pre-dates Randy Newman’s “Short People”. Her intensely personal mediations on mental health and relationships show up too: “The Lady With The Braid”, “Beware of Young Girls” and “Twenty-Mile Zone”, but mysteriously the wonderfully descriptive “With My Daddy in The Attic” is absent. And there are more among the missing; most notably there’s nothing from Dory Previn (1974) and We’re Children of Coincidence and Harpo Marx (1976). That withstanding, this somewhat hectic stab at a compilation is commendable for range, but one will find more coherency and even some better tracks, not to mention decent sequencing on any of her six studio offerings. At the least, this does highlight her much neglected oddity Mary C. Brown’.
In Search of Mythical Kings: The U.A. Years (1999) – Dory Previn