Monday, April 18, 2011

Review of Saturday Morning Cartoons' Greatest Hits by Robert Stukowski

Looking for animation soundtracks can be a daunting task. The studios don't release soundtracks for their television animation, and trying to find stuff from years ago can be almost impossible. Thank God for the existence of inspired compilations. These compilations give us cartoon music fans the outlet we need. One such outlet is Saturday Morning: Cartoons Greatest Hits.

Released by MCA Records in 1995, Saturday Morning: Cartoons Greatest Hits offers nineteen (19) tracks of classic theme and insert songs from the Twentieth Century, performed by some of the Twentieth Century's best performing artists.

Listening to the CD while writing this review, it is quite clear why I am an animation music fan. The CD starts off strong and doesn't stop once it gets going. There are no sound bite tracks to get in the way of the music. The artists sound like they were enjoying performing their songs, which adds to the fun. The artists seem to be natural fits for their individual tracks as well. I feel like I could pop the CD in and drive around the country several time just listening to and singling along with the music and it would never get old.

Speaking of singing, the booklet includes the lyrics to all tracks. Each track is listed with a description of the original cartoon, as well as a quote from the artist that performed it. The booklet ends with a commentary essay from the compilation's producer, Ralph Shall.

Writing a review of a soundtrack compilation of inspired works shouldn't just be about the disc itself. Each individual track deserves to be mentioned on its own.

The first track on the disc is "The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)" from The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. Performed by Liz Phair and Material Issue, "One Banana, Two Banana" is a fantastic start to the show. I have never seen or heard of this puppet series, but Phair and the Issue's rendition of this song make me want to find out what I have been missing.

Sponge's rendition of the English Speed Racer theme, "Go Speed Racer Go," captures the spirit of the show. It's fast and relentless. Sponge's Vinnie claimed that "as Speed Racer gave to me, we gave back in the form of a musical monument," and it shows.

The third song is "Sugar Sugar" by Mary Lou Lord with Semisonic. The track from The Archie Show was a hit single on the music charts back in 1969, and, with Lord and Semisonic's rendition, I can see why.

No cartoon soundtrack compilation would be a cartoon soundtrack compilation without a Scooby Doo song or two, and Saturday Morning is no different. Matthew Sweet's "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?" is a fun take on this old classic. I wonder if this track was what gave Sweet all he needed to be chosen to do the theme song for the new Scooby Doo series, Scooby Doo Mystery Inc.

The other songs on the album include thtme songs from Josie and the Pussycats performed by Juliana Hatfield and Tanya Donelly, The Bulldogs by Collective Soul, Butthole Surfers' Underdog, Gigantor by Helmet, Spider-man by the Ramones, Fat Albert by Dig, Popeye by face to face, The Grovie Goolies by the Toadies, Sublime's Hong Kong Phooey, H. R. Pufnstuf by the Murmurs, and many others.

The final track, "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy" from Ren and Stimpy, performed by Wax, was a great choice. The song embodies the emotions one gets from listening to this disc.

It should be noted that several of these theme songs did not come from a cartoon, but from puppet shows. This is my only gripe with the disc. Puppet shows are great, but they aren't cartoons, and shouldn't be on a compilation calling itself cartoons' greatest hits.

With that said, Saturday Morning: Cartoons Greatest Hits is a great pick up for any animation fan. It is a great set of classic cartoon theme songs performed by some of the best voices in music. Even if you are no longer into cartoons, you should pick it up just for the music. The compilation still holds today, fifteen years after its original release, and I expect it will remain that way well into the future.

Robert Stukowski is the owner of Toon Radio, an internet radio station devoted to animation soundtracks.

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