For more than a year, some of my friends and I have been sharing music. We’re supposed to review/rate what gets shared with us, and share those reviews with the group, but that doesn’t always happen.
This week was Spencer’s twins’ 4th birthday, so he challenged us to share a children’s album, starting with his own suggestion:
Dog on Fleas – Cranberry Sauce Flotilla (2003)
Musically, this is a great album. It feels like jazzy folk. Kind of like The Ditty Bops. Although there is some straight up jazz in there, too, that’s pretty reminiscent of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Add to that the occasional vocal line that sounds remarkably like Steven Page from Barenaked Ladies. Maybe I’m predisposed to think I hear him because when I was going to share a children’s album, I thought of BNL.
But what gives this away as a children’s album is the lyrics. Song’s about multiplication tables? Check. Songs with nonsense lyrics, which are eventually explained as talking in code? Check. Songs about agricultural economics? Check.
One of my favorite songs on the album was Happy, which didn’t feel as kid-oriented despite the actual children singing on it. Another was Sleep under Stars. Of course the mento groove helped, but I felt like the words were something any band might write, not just one going for children’s music.
There are some songs which I swear are traditional folk (or at least scout camp) songs, like Ain’t Gonna Rain No More and Cindy, Cindy.
All in all, I’m not sure I can get over feeling like this is totally a children’s album. It’s not bad, and some of it was really good, but I’d rather do what my parents often did (although I totally don’t remember what we listened to when I was 5 years old or younger) and just listen to my music, introducing my kids to the good stuff. 3/5.
Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A. (1984)
Tim didn’t accept the challenge. He went with another, more obvious theme.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the Boss. His music has just never really resonated with me. And still mostly doesn’t. It all just feels like generic American rock. Maybe people who produce stock background music for a TV/movie scene in a bar or something are trying to replicate Springsteen, but even if they’re not doing it consciously, they’re achieving it.
There were a few songs I really enjoyed. My favorite from the album is I’m Going Down, but I can’t point to anything specific as to why. It’s has pretty simple progression, riff and melody, but it just works. Dancing in the Dark is another really good one, which I like partly because it’s comparatively very different from the other tracks. Maybe it’s the synths, but I feel like it should be a David Bowie song. The quieter I’m on Fire is pretty good, too. Maybe in part because it also sounds a bit different than the rest of the album. Darlington County was another generic rock tune, but better than most. The only thing I can put in words as to why it stood out was the “sha-la-la”s in the chorus.
Plus I had never realized Born in the U.S.A. sounds like an anti-Viet Nam War song, albeit about five years too late.
It’s not a bad album, most of it just doesn’t really do anything for me. I wouldn’t skip past any of it, but I wouldn’t seek it out again (except for those four or so highlights) either. 3/5
Space Ghost’s Musical Bar-B-Que (1997)
From the liner notes:
“It’s the late 1960s. Space Ghost is a superhero. He’s on television. He’s got his own series, a head full of dreams, and a suitcase full of white leotards.
The show’s a hit. He only works Saturdays.
Then it all changes. One minute he’s holding down a table with Batman and Green Lantern at The Troubadour, the next he’s on the corner of Hollywood and Vine staring dumbly at a copy of Variety. His show is canned.
The ’70s are long. Days spent waiting by the phone for calls from Superfriends that never come. Weeks on the auto show circuit. Shotgun marriage and a bitter divorce. Superman gets a movie deal. Space Ghost gets evicted.
The ’80s are the ’70s with 40 extra pounds. Producers pull out of his exercise video. Maybe his star will never shine again.
But he’s okay with that.
Then comes 1992. A new Cartoon Network. Suddenly, He’s barking into a cell phone and closing deals on a StairMaster. So what if George Clooney is playing Batman?”
Space Ghost got a new late night talk show in 1994 (with collaboration from former enemies Zorak, Brak and others), which ran until 2008.
“And he has something no other cartoon superhero has ever had: a burning desire to sing.
This is his time. These are his songs.”
Here’s what my friends thought:
“Wow this one is campy. I think it would be more appreciable if you watched a lot of cartoon planet or whatever show they were on. I’ve seen a few bits of it while visiting my grandma, but not much. Honestly this was pretty hard for me to finish. There were a few moments I chuckled a little, but for the most part I was just shaking my head. For whatever reason I liked Brak’s songs best, they had the best balance of rediculousness. Space Ghost’s songs were too close to being serious sounding and Zorak’s, while I liked the idea of his grating voice on ballads, never seemed to do it for me. This actually reminds me a lot of a Captain Beefheart of Zappa recording, but its much less musically impressive. It kinda sounds like the voice actors got locked in a studio after hours with a bottle of something and this album was the result.” 2.7/5 – Spencer
“Wow. This album was unexpected and out of left field. I watched quite a bit of Space Ghost Coast to Coast with my friends in High School (and a bit at the tail end in College). That show was so messed up, but hilarious at the same time. And interestingly enough, it was only funny after midnight. This album is so not a good album. But it is fun, and even funny at times. This is not something I would seek out, but for nostalgia I would totally pay $1 at a garage sale for it.” 2/5 – Tim
If you’d like to share your own thoughts on Space Ghost or whatever else, feel free to do so in the comments below.