Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Simpsons – Sing the Blues

   It is hard to find somebody who doesn’t know The Simpsons. This satirical comedy is broadcasting since 1989 setting at that time many records. It has also its place in history of popular music. The creator of Simpsons’ galaxy Matt Groening is declared fan of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart (not only in private), and there are clear references connecting this series with Zappa’s works. Matt Groening made his work enough capacious for all musical connections from phenomenal Danny Elfman’s music in opening sequence of family presentation to albums with songs associated to the series. It is quite normal the history of longest running cartoon series is full of different publications, books, t-shirts, posters and of course records. Discography signed by The Simpsons lists seven albums – two studio albums, four soundtracks and one compilation.
   The Simpsons were also presented on five singles. First single was Do the Bartman (1990) peaking number one on many hit lists. This song written by Michael Jackson and Bryan Loren and due to legal issues Michael Jackson was not credited. Information on Jackson’s contribution was revealing by Matt Groening in 1998. This single was in stock outside US only. Michael Jackson was great fan of The Simpsons. He took part in one episode and wrote song Happy Birthday Lisa (this song was published on 1997 cd Songs in the Key of Springfield). Next single Deep, Deep Trouble (1991) had moderate success but still was selling well. Both were accompanied by music videos. These two and next God Bless the Child presented songs from album released in 1990 The Simpsons – Sing the Blues. This was the debut album by The Simpsons and only this one was released on vinyl.

The Simpsons – Sing the Blues (1990)

   The idea of this album was created by David Geffen, founder of Geffen Records. Songs written for Simpsons characters and sung by voice actors to traditional blues and pop tunes had been recorded in September 1990 and released simultaneously on album, single and music video in December the same year. Most characteristic and popular voice of Bart gave this character and voice of Nancy Cartwright featured position. He was the one who sung both of hit songs. It is hard to omit the presence of Homer (Dan Castellaneta) and Lisa (Yeardley Smith). Homer shows with guest starring B. B. King in Born under a Bad Sign. Many evergreens have are revealing in new cover like Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll as  (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell) and God Bless the Child in Lisa’s version – which was also promoted as a single but didn’t achieve any bigger success.
   The first album of The Simpsons occurred a real hit. Double platinum in US and gold in UK and high positions in charts all over the world show the impact of television powered popular culture. Success was so spectacular, other companies become to publish similar records with songs of this kind, but this was not only idea which made The Simpsons first cartoon performers in history of music. The way it was made, the moment the recording was released and unique mixture of naivety and sarcasm, humor and doubt, all this convince there is no coincidence. It is clear extension of great characters. In main part these songs lyrics are talking about things seen in the series.
   This record is a perfect example of light and shade in cooperation between artists and music business. No wonder The Simpsons sing the blues. And they do it with a great style though most of instrumental accompaniments are painfully schematic. Opening B-Side Lisa asks for live musicians in place of samples. And she receives some samples again, only this time better imitating sound of traditional band. Mechanically repeated sound patterns and plastic keyboards on some tracks can be tiring. Of course there are beautiful exceptions, like all the instrumental sounds in Born under a Bad Sign, where we have B. B. King guitar and The Tower Of Power horn section. The same section and harmonica solo by John Sebastian moves accompaniment in Moanin’ Lisa Blues. Other examples are Dr. John’s piano solo in Randy Newman’s I Love to See You Smile, guitar solos by Joe Walsh or saxophone solos by Tom Scott (tenor), Doug Norwine (baritone) and Kim Richmond (alto). Generally the things saving this album are well written songs, original voices of actors and nice collection of guest musicians’ performances. Not a must have but still sometimes nice to remind.

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