Tiny Tim’s America gets some serious points for being one of the strangest records I’ve had the privilege of reviewing. From the opening psychedelic swirls, to the over-the-top song introductions, this collection is a kaleidoscope of early American music, accented by Tim’s unmistakable falsetto and jarring, unsettled vibrato vocal style. While listening, it’s important to keep in mind it’s not just an act; Tim was sincere in his art, a feeling that translates effortlessly into the grooves of this exhaustive collection.
The first thing to note is that Tim’s biggest hit, “Tiptoe Through The Tulips,” is not included in this collection. The tracks on this album all started as rehearsal recordings from 1974, completed in 2016 by Eddie Rabin (Tim’s cousin) and producer Richard Barone. On “So What’s the Use,” it’s hard to tell where Tim’s recording stops and the Rabin recording begins, a massive feat to pull off considering the age of the original tapes. I found that half the charm in listening was trying to pick apart what was in the original, with the new parts having the same saturation and EQ.
A song like “That Railroad Rag” is a little less freeform from most here, allowing the added instrumentation to play around a bit. “Are You Sincere” has an incredible organ and piano accompaniment, adding layers of depth to an otherwise simple track. Rabin deserves a lot of credit for this, taking the time to add a proper waltz time to Tim’s somewhat sporadic rhythms. “Under the Matzo Tree” is, in my mind, the most bizarre and unsettling track on the record. The added violin doesn’t really help, it just confuses the melody even more — it’s a batshit track on every level.
So, what to make of it all? Honestly, I still don’t know. Tiny Tim is an American icon for multiple reasons, the most important being he made it OK to be a weirdo and own it. His sincerity guided him to stardom—and was possibly his undoing—but through it all, he always stayed true to his initial vision; to show the world that being obsessed with something outside of the norm was not only fine, it was necessary to exist. God bless Tiny Tim.
True in Ship to Shore fashion, this release has all the bells and whistles. From the glossy sleeve, to the professional download card, everything has a real aura of class to it. Included is an extensive booklet filled with pictures from the project, as well as handwritten notes from Tim’s diary. The record is a creamy white color with streaks and splashes of pink and red. Ship to Shore have put together a very attractive release.
The sound quality is, as you would expect, a bit rough at times. The source material they were working with wasn’t the best so it’s more so a “do what you can” situation. What the listener should really try to pick up on is the effortless mix between modern instrumentation and the original tapes. In that regard, this release is a real gem. The vinyl itself was free of any clicks and pops.
A download card was included, printed on nice, glossy card stock. I really enjoy when companies include the album art on the card; it adds legitimacy to the release and shows they care.
“The Railroad Rag,” “Are You Sincere” and “So What’s The Use.”
“Tiny Tim’s America” is available on standard black or “red, white and blue” vinyl at Ship to Shore Phono Co.