Alice, a Musical Adventure is the new concept album from The Duke of Uke and His Novelty Orchestra. If you hadn’t guessed, the album is a musical telling of the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and the album is filled with as much character and life as the novel itself is. It’s beautiful, weird, quirky, and a wonderful way to spend roughly 45 minutes of your time. While the album could be played live in a straight-forward concert style, there’s no denying that this is a piece of theater as well. “We do plan on having a live show, over the winter most likely. It was originally written to be a play. We hope to work with high schools and small theaters to start out with” says bassist Sarah Cramer.
The album was conceptualized into a musical form by Dave King, ukulele player, vocalist, and voice of the Cheshire Cat on the record, and performed by King and the rest of the Duke of Uke ensemble - Sarah Cramer, Rebecca Burlingame, Lorene Anderson, as well as some other special guests.
Photo from The Duke of Uke's Facebook page.
The album is absolutely loaded with guest vocals, made up of C-U musicians performing various roles in the story. The characters are as follows:
- Kenna Mae Reiss - Alice
- Lorene Anderson - The Queen
- David King - The Cat
- Olivia Tasch - The Flowers
- Holly Monet - The Rabbit
- Dave Pride - Caterpillar
- Eric Seizmore - Mad Hatter
Photo from The Duke of Uke's Facebook page.
Cramer and Burlingame have also been hosting livestreams on the group’s Facebook page, inviting performers on the record to chat - or in this case, have tea - and discuss the album and the behind the scenes, as well as listen to some tracks from the record. In fact, they’ll be hosting another live stream on October 2nd at 2 p.m. CT with Gerry “the Gov” Brown, who mixed the album.
Going back to the album itself, it’s seriously a lot of fun, with the opening track “Ladies and Gents,” welcoming the audience to the story. It feels a lot like the opening track to The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper, filled with playful music and lyrics, upbeat ukulele, tuba, and more. The band also utilizes the melodic line from “Entry of the Gladiators'' to bring to mind a circus and a performance. It’s a nice little fourth wall break to get the listener hooked in.
I also love “Time Flies,” sung by Holley Monet. I love how laid back the track is, juxtaposing the literal idea of time flying by. There are times on this record where it sounds so psychedelic, as if you are indeed floating down a rabbit hole into this new world. The pre-chorus on “Tumbling Down” sung by Kenna Mae Reiss, is of course a prime example, shifting into half-time and slowing us down and providing a very trippy feel.
I could honestly name all of these tracks as favorites, but some of the standouts are the more funky songs, such as “Take a Sip,” which features King delivering what he describes as “a seduction song.” The song itself does indeed seduce you, with some funky ukulele and bass, as well as a wonderful horn section. It’s groovy and loads of fun. The same goes for “Queen’s Rules” which is sung by Lorene Anderson. Her vocal has a bit of grit to it, which of course makes sense for the evil queen herself. It’s hard not to bop your head to this song, which also features some unexpected synthesizers that fit very well.
Album cover provided by Sarah Cramer.
The album’s sound design also does a great job of immersing the listener into the world of Alice, especially on songs like “Caterpillar” where Dave Pride plays the titular caterpillar. The song features processed vocals, the sounds of frogs croaking, and more to immerse us, but immersive sound effects are layered throughout the whole album. Listen to this album with headphones to get the full effect. This again is the work of Gerry Brown, Grammy-winning mixing engineer.
Don't let the idea of an Alice In Wonderland themed album convince you that this record is for children. Alice, a Musical Adventure has something for everybody, with some complicated musical ideas, immersive sound design, and exciting performances from everyone involved. The album will be released on October 2nd for streaming. Physical copies will be available as well. The group also has loads of merch, which you can check out here. While you are waiting for the album to drop, you can check out The Duke of Uke’s Bandcamp to listen to the two singles from the album, “Welcome to the Garden,” and “Queen’s Rules.” You won’t regret it.