During the early '70s, few comedians were as influential, controversial, or funny as George Carlin
. Picking up where Lenny Bruce
left off, Carlin
became the counterculture comedian, vigorously pushing the limits of good taste while making pointed political and social commentaries. He did this in concert, but also did it on wax -- for the label Little David. Prior to signing with Little David, he cut an album in 1967, but that was before his transformation to radical joke-maker. With 1971's FM & AM
, he debuted his new routine, and the results were as scintillating and hysterical on vinyl as they were in concert. Over the next six years, he cut five other records for the label, including the classic Class Clown
, which contained the first recording of his notorious "Seven Dirty Words" routine. As the decade progressed, he became a bigger star, turning out nearly a record a year. Carlin
's last album for Little David, 1977's On the Road
, suggested that he was entering a bit of a slump, due to both hard work and various addictions. He took a full four years off from recording, re-emerging in 1981 with A Place for My Stuff!
, his first album for Atlantic. That was a very good record, but the core of Carlin
's legacy was in his six albums for Little David. All those albums, plus a disc of non-LP highlights, are reissued on the seven-disc box set The Little David Years: 1971-1977
. While it's possible to hear some decline on the last two (maybe three) LPs, this is all prime Carlin
. He never lost it -- indeed, some routines, like "Baseball vs. Football," were even improved over the years -- but it's still great to hear the original versions of these seminal bits. Amazingly, some of this still sounds controversial, even dangerous (although it is true that "Seven Dirty Words" has lost some of its bite over the years). It's a big, expensive, exhaustive box set, but for the serious Carlin
fan or comedy listener, it's an essential purchase.