The Best Of The Wirtz: 15 Years On The Road With A 77" Pianist

Rev. Billy C. Wirtz

Hightone Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's been three years since I was last exposed to the twisted world of Rev. Billy C. Wirtz... and after listening to his career-spanning compilation The Best Of The Wirtz: 15 Years On The Road With A 77" Pianist... well, let's just say that if all "preachers" were like Wirtz, I'd be in church a helluva lot more often.

Combining a selection of cuts from his numerous album releases over the years with live snippets from concerts, radio interviews and moments from his days in professional wrestling, this disc is the kind of release that will make you max out your credit card as you order all his CDs just to see what the hell you've been missing all these years. I guarantee you will find yourself laughing uncontrollably at times throughout this disc... or Wirtz will personally come and put you into a sleeper hold. (Offer valid until Wirtz hears that I made it on his behalf.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Whether it's lamenting the passage of time and its effects on one's body ("What I Used To Do All Night"), Elvis worship ("The Visitor", "WWED" - the latter standing for "What Would Elvis Do"), or just giving the finger to political correctness ("Grandma's Behind The Wheel," "Baby Got Dot," "Wirtz Of Wisdom"), Wirtz proves to be both a talented musician and a grade-A satirist who refuses to protect anything from his potential sarcastic wrath. He even pokes fun at himself as he tries to use an electronic keyboard ("The Rev. Vs. The Computer"), turning his frustration in trying to program it into a lesson for the live audience in the many sounds the machine could make. (Memo to Wirtz: I actually do remember Shakey's Pizza Parlor.)

If there is one stumbling point on The Best Of The Wirtz, it's the side trip into the world of wrestling that Wirtz takes. I don't necessarily mind the "rasslin'" interview ("You Are Nothing"), but the two songs with the wrestling theme ("Sleeper Hold On Satan" and "Teenie Weenie Meanie") - well, they just don't bodyslam my funny bone the way the bulk of the material does. To Wirtz's credit, he groups these tracks together... meaning I can skip right over them on future listens.

If you think Wirtz to be nothing more than a clown, listen to "The Visitor," which has its light moments but turns out to be a surprisingly touching number. (If memory serves me right, this was on Wirtz's last studio album, Unchained Maladies.) I don't care if you don't like Elvis; chances are good that you will be moved by this song. In general, Wirtz's musical talents are hidden by his sense of humor, but he often does show he's a consummate musician.

Wirtz has built up a significant following over the years with his off-beat material, and The Best Of The Wirtz suggests that all of that praise is well-deserved. You might not find God in these songs, but you'll definitely experience some form of a spiritual awakening - and might re-discover your comedic soul. To that, all I can say is: Hallelujah.

Rating: A-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hightone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.