George Bartle aka Ukulele George aka Renaissance Uke Man studied as a classical singer and trombonist at the Royal College of Music in London and is a regular musician and musical director at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Pedigree indeed! Masterful of instrument and gifted with a strong Baroque tenor voice with perfect intonation and diction, George has a string of performing guises. Armed with bawdy leanings and an affection for witty banter and audience participation, as Renaissance Uke Man he dons his ruff to perform a collection of cheeky songs plucked from an Elizabethan alehouse and plonked onto the nearest stage or into an adjacent CD burner. The latest release from Renaissance Uke Man is “Well Beyond The Bounds Of Good Taste”… succinctly put sir!
Warning: The historically accurate lyrics are not suitable for those of a puritan disposition
Through a mixture of an 8-string tenor uke, a Rob Collins soprano, a Renaissance guitar (an instrument with more in common with a ukulele than modern guitar) and that spectacular tenor voice the CD presents eight humorous and saucy tunes that make your arm wistfully and involuntarily swing, toasting the tavern with a frothing tankard of Sir Francis Bacon’s Barmy Barley Pop.
With such titles as Jolly Brown Turd and carrying a parental advisory sticker brandishing the legend “Cheeky & Bawdy Content”, well you can surmise for yourselves the general level of lyrical content. If that’s not for you then by all means check out George in one of his less audacious persona, but I urge you to dig a little further as the sheer talent, masterful voice and crisp recordings are simply a delight and perhaps only those who find themselves at the extreme end of the prudish scale should tread carefully.
Each ditty has it owns charms but there are two stand out tracks for me. The first is No Balls At All, a minstrel tale of a song with a true sing-a-long chorus and the second is The Crayfish, again backed with a chorus designed to exercise the audience’s vocal chords. The Crayfish is also lyrically my favourite piece using the comic trick of letting the listener finish the more obscene punchline in their head whilst the performer innocently carries on. Frankie Howard would be proud I’m sure…
Well the crayfish escaped, I thought he had the luck
But all this was his fault, that nasty little fish
The songs are irresistibly catchy and it’s plain to see why Renaissance Uke Man is such a hit on the live circuit. “Well Beyond The Bounds Of Good Taste” captures the merry spirit of these jingles perfectly and offers us a light hearted lark perhaps to remind us we don’t always have to take music too seriously. That said, the raw talent of this man oozes from this recording and I find myself keen to delve beyond that cheeky and ominous grin in search of the more sober Renaissance musician.
I shall make it my mission to go and see Renaissance Uke Man live in his appearance at this year’s Grand Northern Ukulele Festival where I am sure his madcap madrigals* will bring the house down.
* I am aware gentle reader that madrigals are vocal compositions without musical accompaniment but I’m a sucker for superfluous alliteration with a smattering of artistic license 🙂