Tom Lehrer was never a popular favourite in his native country: in the States, Lehrer was--and is--a cult artist, appealing to Ivy Leaguers and Wallace Shawn-era New York readers. Maybe it's due to the fact that Lehrer has a sense of humour--he's ironic, intelligent, literary and knowing--and not a sense of humor: this is not music for the masses that have made Adam Sandler a star. Lehrer's métier is to use classic song styles (waltzes, tangoes, traditional folk tunes) and twist them to his needs; he sings them (relatively) straight, but with vaudeville timing, taking pot shots at the left, right and centre.
The three-disc set The Remains of Tom Lehrer collects every album that Lehrer's ever released: the studio albums Songs by Tom Lehrer and More of Tom Lehrer, the live recordings Tom Lehrer Revisited and An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer, and That Was The Year That Was; they're joined by studio sessions with Richard Hayman, Joe Raposo and Rob Fisher. Amazing, then, that there are only 59 different songs here--31 appear here twice (in both studio and live versions), with a further four songs making three appearances (those reprised in the Hayman sessions). The real surprise is the inclusion of six previously unreleased songs--some old, some new; some witty but educational (recorded for a children's TV show), the others witty but cynical.