22 January 2014

The Simpsons - The Simpsons Sing The Blues

This was the second ever album I got on CD, the first being a two-disc compilation called "Smash Hits: 1990" which I should get rid of, but there is some decent early 90's techno and indie amongst the teen-pop. And it also has Betty Boo and Timmy Mallett. Hey, who said that our record collections started off cool?  but I digress.

This album was released in 1990 as a novelty to cash in on the early popularity of the TV show of the same name, along with a whole host of other crap such as t-shirts, toys, video games (The arcade game was awesome, the home computer/console versions was, quite frankly, shit) and possibly a ton of other shit as well but I cannot remember. See, at the start of and throughout the 90's, The Simpsons was one of the funniest shows on TV. Initially aimed at kids through the rebellious character of Bart, it eventually found a niche with adults who could relate to the 'Everyman'-stylings of Homer, thus meaning the focus shifted to him. Aided with an ever expanding list of supporting characters, be became massive hit. The the 2000's hit and the show turned to shit very quickly due to having went as far as it could. Also, changing it to "wacky for the sake of it" and introducing shit characters like Crazy Cat Lady and The Rich Texan didn't help. The movie sucked as well.

This album, however, is pretty much a novelty product of it's time. Although a lot of attention was put into it in order to release something competent, it was never going to appeal to anyone other than fans of the show. It's very dated now, as one can imagine. As odd as this sounds, it's even more dated because it was when Homer's voice had more of a 'Walter Matthau rasp' to it as opposed to the dopey holler it became. Musically, it's a mixed bag as we've got the kiddie-rap of "Do The Bartman", "Deep, Deep Trouble" (Which has DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince on it) and "Look At All Those Idiots" (Which is a rap-duet of sorts featuring C. Montgomery Burns and his lickspittle Waylon Smithers. Shit, I just gave the characters their full names, didn't I?). As far as rap goes, it's the kind of kiddie-friendly rap which was popular at the time. We're not talking Ice Cube here.

Other highlights include a delve into Blues with "Moaning Lisa Blues" (the first verse was actually used in an episode called "Moaning Lisa") which has guitar by former Eagles axe-slinger Joe Walsh and harmonica by John Sebastian who was in 60's band The Lovin' Spoonful. It's quite a good song as it has a blues vibe, as the title would suggest. Vocals are by Yeardley Smith who voices Lisa and does a good job in sounding like an 8 year old girl singing a blues song. She also sings on a cover of a Billie Holliday song called "God Bless The Child", it's one of the best songs on there. The best one IMO is a duet between Homer and Marge on the cover of a Randy Newman song called "I Love To See You Smile" (The original was featured in the Steve Martin comedy-drama 'Parenthood'). A nice ballad, it was some decent piano work by Dr John who is a noted American singer/songwriter and pianist who has certainly been busy over the years. A special mention should go to the song "Born Under A Bad Sign". Sang by Homer, it includes a guitar solo by B.B King. Slight lyrical adjustments notwithstanding (It's a "big back of pork rinds" instead of a "dirty woman" which will carry the singer to his grave...), it - along with "I Love To See You Smile" - is one of the only songs on here which isn't totally throwaway. "Springfield Soul Stew" is alright but inessential.

There are two worst songs on the album. The first is a cover (I forgot to mention the album is heavy on covers) of the Chuck Berry standard "School Days", a duet between Bart Simpson and Buster Poindexter (AKA David Johansen from the New York Dolls) - it's quite throwaway, even more throwaway than the rest of this album, and the last song, a duet between Bart and Lisa called "Sibling Rivalry" which is forgettable to the extreme.

Well, there you go. I'd not bother buying this album unless you're a hardcore Simpsons fanatic. It serves as a reminder from when the show didn't suck, but that's it.

Top Track: Born Under A Bad Sign.

Chris J.

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