Thursday, December 27, 2012

Astonishing Moments In Musical Production Decisions: Saturday Morning Cartoons' Greatest Hits

The Good: Some fun, memorable tracks
The Bad: Repetitive sound, Nothing deep in lyrics or music
The Basics: With songs that range from the obscure to the lame with little that is of any quality or actual nostalgic value, Saturday Morning Cartoons' Greatest Hits is not worth your time.

So I've been seeking out new (to me) musical artists a lot lately. One of the artists I have been interested in hearing works from is Liz Phair. I'm told I'll like her. So when my first search for Phair came up with Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits as the first title in a search for Liz Phair, I was both disturbed and intrigued.

Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits is just what it might sound like. It is a collection of theme songs and other music from cartoons that used to air on Saturday morning. There are nineteen tracks, each by a different musical artist who was willing to sell his or her soul to be a part of this shameless commercial venture. That's not to say that Liz Phair's greatest ambition was probably not to sing "The Tra La La La Song (One Banana, Tow Banana)" from "The Banana Splits Adventure Hour," but this is just a waste of time and money and I'm somewhat insulted to be writing about it. You ought to feel somewhat insulted that you're wasting a portion of your life on this earth reading this review.

Here's the thing, I can understand that there might be a niche market that is looking to be filled with music from Saturday morning cartoons. Sure, they can bring back wonderful childhood memories of watching television. But the thing about the concept of the album is incongruent with the execution of it. I can understand wanting a stupid nostalgic moment (though I can't see one listening to this over and over again without going insane), but this album does not capture that. Instead, it is more accurately "A Tribute To Saturday Morning Cartoons." These are not the original recordings, they sound different, they are not going to bring back that "Wow, that triggers that" type reaction.

The tracks range from the gospel-lyricked "Open Up Your Heart and Let The Sun Shine In" to simple, blatant commercial tracks advertising the show like "Spider-Man" or "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?" So, the resulting album has no cohesion in terms of theme or quality. So much depends on the quality of the original.

What does unify the album is the sound. Listening to Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits it occurs to the listener what simple creatures children are. The techniques used to lure them in to watching the shows through musical cues are almost identical. It's a lot of fast-strumming guitars, a lot of heavy drums. So, the Violent Femmes's cover of "Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Means I Love You)" has very little musical distinction from the Ramones performing "Spider-Man." This gives the album an instantly repetitive feel to it.

So, who might find anything of merit in Saturday Morning Cartoons' Greatest Hits? I suppose if you're a completist for any of the artists who contributed to it, you might like to hear their take on a song from Saturday Morning Cartoons. The artists who have tracks on the album are: Liz Phair (with Material Issue), Sponge, Mary Lou Lord (with Semisonic), Matthew Sweet, Juliana Hatfield and Tanya Donelly, Collective Soul, Butthole Surfers, Helmet, Reverend Horton Heat, Frente!, Violent Femmes, Dig, face to face, Tripping Daisy, Toadies, Sublime, The Murmers and Wax. Equally, the disc might appeal to those who like the following Saturday morning cartoons: The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, Speed Racer, The Archie Show, Scooby-Doo, Josie And the Pussycats, The Bugaloos, Underdog, Gigantor, Spider-Man, Dastardly and Muttley In Their Flying Machines, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Popeye, Sigmund and the Seamonsters, The Groovie Goolies, Hong Kong Phooey, H.R. Pufnstuf, and The Ren and Stimpy Show.

If you're looking for something of musical quality or even enduring entertainment value, this will fall short. Drastically.

On a side note, the saddest thing about this musical endeavor might be that while this album was produced and released there were legitimate artists denied a place in the marketplace for works of value. Sigh.

The best track is Frente!'s "Open Up Your Heart and Let The Sun Shine In" which has some actual musical value, the weakest of the otherwise weak tracks is "Gigantor" by Helmet, which is just obscure. For something conceptually similar with greater entertainment value, check out Songs In The Key of Springfield, reviewed here.

For other esoteric compilation albums, please check out my reviews of:
Where Have All the Flowers Gone: The Music Of Pete Seeger
The Castaway Strings Play The Music Of Elvis Presley
Millennium '80's New Wave Party


Check out how this album stacks up against others by visiting my Music Review Index Page where the albums are ranked from best to worst!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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