Friday, November 15

Simpsons CD reprises best musical moments of series


Tuesday, April 1, 1997

MUSIC:

Album packages funny parodies, melodies with memorable quotes By
Kristin Fiore

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

Forget about the new Aerosmith and U2 releases. If you want a CD
that will whip your butt out of bed for that 9 a.m. class, "Songs
in the Key of Springfield" (Rhino) is the one to get.

Of course, this is a must-have for any Simpsons fan. It has not
only the most memorable and hilarious Simpsons songs like "The
Stonecutter’s Song" ("Who keeps Atlantis off the maps? Who keeps
the martians under wraps?) and "Who Needs the Kwik-e Mart," but
also great dialog from Bart, Homer, Apu, Grandpa and the 200
characters played by Phil Hartman. Alf Clausen, the composer (aside
from Danny Elfman’s main theme) and arranger, also includes great
liner notes that add a personal touch.

The compilation is enjoyable on many levels. Even those only
vaguely familiar with the show will enjoy the wit of the songs’
lyrics: (from "See my Vest," which Mr. Burns sings to the tune of
the "Beauty and the Beast" anthem, "Be Our Guest") "See my loafers?
Former gophers. It was that or skin my chauffers. But a greyhound
fur tuxedo would be best. So let’s prepare these dogs," (Angela
Lansbury-style maid chimes in) "Kill two for matching clogs!"

But those who know the episodes and characters thoroughly will
be brought back into the unforgettable scenes each song conjures
and understand how the song reveals the essence of a character.
"See My Vest," for example, was from the "Two Dozen and One
Greyhounds" episode, shown to parody Disney’s "101 Dalmatians" hype
machine. At the thought of having a dalmatian suit made of Santa’s
Little Helper’s puppies, the ordinarily staid Mr. Burns waxes
dramatic for Smithers, who undoubtedly enjoys seeing Mr. Burns
model his grizzly bear underwear.

Like "See My Vest," many songs also comment on the more
disturbing elements of humankind (try to imagine Lansbury skinning
puppies), but they capture our foibles ­ and those of the
characters ­ so effectively that you have to laugh.

At its deepest level, the compilation ­and The Simpsons
show itself ­ are at once attacks and celebrations of these
foibles, be they anti-immigrant sentiments, greed, idiocy or mob
mentality. Despite the Bart phenomenon a few years back, the
cartoon has never been aimed at children; its themes are too
complex and subtle, as are the songs that represent it.

What 10-year-old would understand the reference in "Springfield,
Springfield" to "New York, New York" from the 1949 film "On The
Town" (starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra) or Homer’s reference
in "It Was A Very Good Beer" to Frank Sinatra’s hit, "It Was A Very
Good Year"?

Still, other references are more recognizable, such as the
"Flaming Moe’s" tune that recalls Cheers theme or "Dr. Zaus," a
snippet from the Planet of the Apes play (starring Troy McClure, of
course) that uses the melody of Falco’s 1986 hit, "Amadeus."

But whether one gets the references or not, some of the songs
stand out through their musical strength alone. "Springfield,
Springfield" is surely funnier if you get the connections, but the
music, with its rhythm changes and its dive into a woozy saxophone
interlude, is enough to make it a favorite. It accompanies Bart and
Millhouse’s "squishie bender" and the subsequent LSD-like mind warp
that the unprecedented pure syrup squishie induces (Bart even joins
the Junior Campers).

Other memorable musical moments include Latin legend Tito
Puente’s themes for "Senor Burns" and his version of the end
credits. The Las Vegas version of Elfman’s bombastic theme song is
also worth its weight in gold, but if you don’t like that one, you
can try on the Australian, Hill Street Blues, JFK, Dragnet or
Addams Family versions.

Above all, the compilation reminds you why you love The Simpsons
­ those memorable lines that are traded in phone conversations
and put on internet signatures, like Grandpa’s notorious pick-up
line, "You know, you remind me of a poem I can’t remember and a
song that may never have existed and a place I’m not sure I’ve ever
been to … I feel all funny … I’m in love!! No, it’s a
stroke."

The compilation’s crowning achievement? Getting Tony Bennett to
sincerely sing of the glittering Capitol City, "It’s the kind of
place that makes a bum feel like a king. And it makes a king feel
like some nutty cuckoo super king!" If Bennett had teamed up with
The Simpsons’ suave writers for his last album, his "comeback" may
have lasted a bit longer. Doh!

Grade: A

The Simpsons CD packs enough satire to please avid fans of the
series.

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