by Dan Goldwasser
Way back in 1993, Rhino Records released the first CD for the highly popular cartoon show, Animaniacs. With 17 songs from the first season of Animaniacs, this CD (appropriately titled "Animaniacs") runs almost 30 minutes long. Lyricist Randy Rogel needs to be commended for his cleverness and ingenuity. From "Yakko's World" - in which all of the countries in the world are sung to the tune of "The Mexican Hat Dance" to "Wakko's America" - in which the names of the States and their Capitals are sung to the tune of "Turkey in the Straw", this CD is a testament to the wit and clever humor of Animaniacs. Also included are a number of original songs, none of which require having seen the episode in which they appear - assuming you are familiar with the cast of Animaniacs to begin with. With the lyrics as smart as they are, it's wonderful that they included all the words written down in the liner notes. Good luck memorizing "Yakko's World"!
What better way to follow up on an Animaniacs CD than with a second volume of songs from the show? So in 1994, Rhino released the follow up album, Yakko's World.
The second Animaniacs CD, "Yakko's World", contains some songs from the first CD - but the theme of this CD is the world around us. We get classic songs like "A Quake! A Quake" (set to the tune of Schumann's "The Happy Farmer"), "Lake Titicaca", "U.N. Me", and "The Panama Canal". I found myself laughing out loud when "Several Drops of Rain" played - this witty tune finds Dot singing about how the rain travels through the ecosystem to become our drinking water - with Wakko and Yakko interjecting crude reality checks about the world. Once again, the writing by Randy Rogel is smart and informative - while keeping a rather sharp sense of humor. This CD contains 13 songs - 3 of which were available on the first Animaniacs CD.
The third and currently final CD in the Animaniacs CD releases is titled "Animaniacs: Variety Pack". Containing 16 songs and running approximately 26 minutes, we finally have the release of the themes from "Pinky & The Brain" and the "Slappy Squirrel Theme". In addition to those, we are provided with (yet again) incredibly clever lyrics by Randy Rogel for "All The Words In The English Language" - which I'm sure you can imagine was quite a task. Thankfully, it is split up over three tracks, and we never actually hear theentire dictionary - but it seems to come close! With a wonderful take-off on Barney the Dinosaur, "The Anvil Song" made my day - thanks to composer and lyricist Peter Hastings for that one. All in all, owning all three CDs will definitely provide a near-completeAnimaniacs experience.
Space Ghost is a bizarre show. Space Ghost is exactly as he sounds - a Space Ghost. He has some friends, Zorak (a giant Mantis), and Brak, who I can't even begin to describe. They all have a love-hate relationship, and find new and inventive ways to humiliate each other. It is that brand of humor which is provided to us in the 1997 release of "Space Ghost's Musical Bar-B-Que". Containing 25 songs ranging from the thought provoking ("Don't Send In The Clowns") to the absurd ("I Love Beans"), we are also exposed to dialogue from the show in between the songs - including the occasional "Nugget of Joy from Zorak", and the ever necessary random thought. Completely off-kilter, and unconventional, this CD probably has a limited audience - those that watch the show. If you don't watch it, you probably wouldn't buy it (and I wouldn't recommend it unless you watch it). But if you do watch the show, and are keen on their offbeat brand of humor, then this CD will allow you to relive some of the more unique musical moments of the show.
The latest Space Ghost CD, "Space Ghost's Surf & Turf" contains 22 new songs, once again ranging from the thought provoking to the absurd. Such nuggets include "It's Not Easy Being Evil", "Fight The Power Bands", and "Front Door / Backside". Like the previous release, you will find that this CD is for you only if you're a fan of the show - in which case you probably have the first CD, and would definitely get this new one.
Recently, in conjunction with the Cartoon Network, Rhino Records released a CD for the offbeat original cartoon,Dexter's Laboratory. The focus of this CD is the episode "The Musical Time Machine". But that's not how the CD begins. We are first presented with the Main Title, which has a quirky Elfman-esque quality to it. Then we have "Lab-Retto", which is a clever opera in which we find out how Dexter came to be. I thought it would be difficult to follow without having seen the show, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was the 10 minute piece enjoyable and quite funny, but also I now had a very good idea as to what the show was about. The next track is the subject of the CD: "The Musical Time Machine". The premise is simple. Dexter creates a time machine, and his annoying sister Dee Dee escapes to the past. Dexter needs to find her before she changes the future - but she keeps encountering influential figures in the history of music (Mozart, cavemen, etc.) and skewing their directions. There are also two bonus tracks, "Golden Diskette", and "Breathe In The Good Sunshine" which features singer Paul Williams. Overall, it's a nice CD if you're a fan of the show. I had never seen the show before, but I found it to be an enjoyable experience - in fact, I then began watching the show, solely because of my experience with the CD.
Rhino Records also released the first ever-official compilation album for NickToons, in conjunction with Nickelodeon. With 41 themes and songs from most (if not all) of the current animated programs on Nickelodeon, if you or your children watch Nickelodeon, then this CD is a must for any home collection. Themes and songs are included from suck shows as "Rugrats", "Kablam!", "Ren & Stimpy", "AAAHH!!! Real Monsters", "Angry Beavers", "Hey Arnold!", "Rocko's Modern Life", and others. Especially of note is the inclusion of Nickelodeon's station songs throughout the CD - making it as if you were watching the network for a few hours. While I don't watch Nickelodeon, having outgrown it years ago, for those parents with kids that still watch these shows, this CD is a nice way of them to relive the shows when they aren't aired.
Drew Carey used to be a stand-up comedian making the rounds to different colleges. In fact, that is where I first saw him - at Carnegie Mellon University. His routine was so down to earth, and yet so funny, that I could tell he would go places. Like many comedians, he was given a network television show. Unlike most of those with that opportunity, however, his show thrived, and became a hit. For their second season, they filmed a long opening sequence for the main titles to the tune "Cleveland Rocks!" as performed by The Presidents of The United States of America. Earlier this year, a CD entitled "Cleveland Rocks!: Music from The Drew Carey Show" was released where many songs that have appeared on the show - both real songs and original songs - are presented for your listening pleasure.
The first track on the CD is, appropriately, the expanded version of "Cleveland Rocks!". We then get a large amount of songs that have appeared on the show. From "Five O'Clock World" to "A Man and a Woman", original recordings populate the CD release. In addition to that, many original songs that have appeared on the show are presented for the very first time. Funny bits such as Carey's rendition of "God Bless America", "A Taste of Honey", Mimi's "Christmas Parodies", and the ever memorable "40 Cubic Feet" (a wonderful knock-off on "42nd Street") are available to listen (and laugh) to. The original main-title theme, "Moon Over Parma" is presented in its short and long versions. A bonus track, the original recording of Ian Hunter's "Cleveland Rocks!" is also presented. If you're a fan of the show, this is definitely one album worth picking up.
Sony 550 Music released an album of tunes from the hit show "Ally McBeal" earlier this year. Containing 14 songs by songwriter Vonda Shepard, this CD is definitely worth getting not if you are a fan of the show - but if you are a fan of Ms. Shepard's music. People have differing opinions about Ms. Shepard's place in the show. I personally think she adds a new level to it, because every time she sings, the song relates to Ally's current predicament. The great theme song, "Searchin' My Soul" is presented, of course, as are many songs that have appeared over this first season. A few original songs are peppered in on top of a few re-recordings. Some titles include "Ask The Lonely", "Walk Away Rene", "Tell Him", "It's In His Kiss", and "You Belong To Me". As I was listening to the CD, I found myself more and more reminded of things within the show that I enjoyed. Whether it was a specific episode, a scene, or just a feeling, it convinced me that "Ally McBeal" wouldn't be the show it is today without Vonda and her music.