The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain are a band of stellar proportions formed inside our collective imaginations with the intent of turning slappers into princesses. Formed back then in 1985 as a bit of fun, it was 2003's 'The Secret Of Life' which brought UOOGB to our attention with versions of 'Miss Dynamitee' and 'La Freak' proving infectious, and 'Precious Little', their second studio recording, sees the Uke Orch lifting from the rock, pop, punk, metal and classical cannon and possibly stamping their foot as we tap ours - the greatest revisionist band are here with a humdinger album too, god dam. Proof if ever it was needed, that you can't keep a good Uke down.
With Sibelius's 'Finlandia' sitting next to Nirvana's 'Teen Spirit' let's delve in! Let's not pluck around here, 'Finlandia' scores and 'Teen Spirit' proves the Uke can muster the grunge with twangy bits and frenetic playing laying the song structure bare across its wee frame and a playful vocalist doing a hicks-ville turn as he wrestles with a Croc of a song - "...oh well whatever/ never mind...". With Muppet-like "Shaft" shouts from the rest of the band, 'Theme From Shaft' is an uber-cool take on the black private dicks soundtrack - "...they say this John Shaft is a bad mother-father cat..." is set to chuggin' riffs and plucks and the re-joiner - "What's the most important thing about a coal-mine besides the coal?" - " Shaft!" - "No, the Davey safety lamp".
'Bang Bang My Baby Shot Me Down' re-works Sonny Bono's oldie and re-visits childhood dalliances with plinky-plonky grace, whilst the Ukes chug through the staccato energies of Talking Heads 'Psycho Killer' with a class working full of zest, and oh so slightly nutty - "...say something once/ why say it again..." vocals dressed in dungarees. The (Mighty) Quo's 'Caroline' is stripped down to its underwear and sees the Uke endless in reach with a bottle-neck blues sound in grasp and a fine sing-along, juxtaposed to the old classic 'Tiptoe Through the Tulips' with a fine waltzing interpretation smelling fresh as a rose with tulip nuance and a songbird whistling refrain from Jonty.
Joni Mitchell's '(He Played Real Good) For Free' finds a tender delivery with a harp-like purity of tone with a touch of zither, and the playful vocal on the Gibb brothers 'How Can You Mend A Broken Heart' lifts the song to a level even the King would be proud of. UOOGB self-penned or quilled tracks 'Sneako' with its Boulevards Of Paris in Spring in mind, 'You'll Never Know' with its sun always shines song and mighty Uke frenticism, and 'Girl From Devizes' with its ragtime funtime and just a mite of old George (Formby) show a timelessness in expression and a sassiness in cadence which sit snug amongst the classic re-molds. For the most sublime moment may just be 'God Gave Rock And Roll To You' by Kiss with its humming and ahhing arias and overlapping group harmonies reminding that God (or something) gave twanging Uke power to everyone.
With instrumentals showing how accomplished the Orchestra are as performers, it's the songs which really bring UOOGB to life. With the balloon popping ability to prick pomposity of song and bring levity to the glum, 'Precious Little' fills in the wall cracks until they bring waves of mirth in a performance near you. Ukes Not Nukes!