CD Review: Saturday Morning Cartoonsâ€™ Greatest Hits
Around 1995, the then-new cable station, Cartoon Network, aired a late night television special called â€œSaturday Morning Cartoonsâ€™ Greatest Hitsâ€. It featured many of then-popular artists performing covers to various classic (and not so classic) cartoon theme songs. The special was hosted by, er, Liz Phair, I think, (I havenâ€™t seen the thing in 11 years, gimme a break) and a dude in a Banana Splits costume. Each song had an accompanying music video featuring the band performing in front of clips of the cartoon in question. It was actually really cool and I even copied it onto a blank Beta Max cassette. Sadly, said cassette got trashed after our last Beta player broke-down (oh the humanity!). Well, much to my surprise earlier this year, the special actually had an accompanying CD, containing all the songs! The thing can be found on eBay relatively cheap (used copies going for under a buck, and factory sealed ones not exceeding $5). The music is a mixed bag, but the badass songs out-weigh the lame ones, and I would highly recommend it to any cartoon fan of any age.
1: â€œThe Tra La La Songâ€ (from the Banana Splits) performed by Liz Phair with Material Issue.
This is the one â€œguilty pleasureâ€ song I have on the whole CD (I know, the fact that I listen to this CD should be a â€œguilty pleasureâ€ in itself, but whatever). Itâ€™s girly, itâ€™s very girly, itâ€™s really really girly, but I like it anyway. I used to watch the Banana Splits during the era of Cartoon Network reruns, and I always enjoyed the theme song. This adds a soft rock nâ€™ roll beat to an already dangerously catchy tune. I just canâ€™t deny myself the pleasure. I love the song, but I always roll the windows up in my car when I listen to it. The last thing I want the gangstaz on the corner to see is a little white guy rockinâ€™ out to a song with a chorus of â€œTra la la!â€
2: â€œGo Speed Racer Go!â€ (from Speed Racer) performed by Sponge.
Now hereâ€™s where things get seriously badass. Itâ€™s a pretty sweet rock nâ€™ roll cover of the theme played at a fast pace with an awesome vocal performance. Thereâ€™s a guitar solo in the middle of the song which just kicks ass all over the place. Every time I hear this track I want to slam down on the pedal like Iâ€™m never cominâ€™ back, but then I ALWAYS manage to hit every freakinâ€™ red light. Dammit. This song shouldâ€™ve been used for the dub of Speed Racer X that got released in America by Nickelodeon a few years ago. Sadly, they got some pop princess to do a phenomenally awful cover of the theme. If you want to move FAST, this is the song to listen to. Just make sure there arenâ€™t any red lights in your way.
3: â€œSugar, Sugarâ€ (from the Archies) performed by Mary lou Lord with Semisonic.
Now hereâ€™s where things start to suck. I didnâ€™t like this song when I was a kid and I donâ€™t like it now. I used to sit in the back seat of my Momâ€™s rusted metal death-trap on wheels, forced to listen to bubblegum classics from Oldies 100. â€œClassicsâ€ like â€œRockinâ€™ Robinâ€ and â€œSugar, Sugarâ€. I canâ€™t stand it. I suppose the cover isnâ€™t so bad if youâ€™re into lovey dovey female artists, but it just isnâ€™t my forte. I skip this one every time without regret.
4. â€œScooby Doo, Where are you?â€ performed by Matthew Sweet.
Now, Matthew Sweetâ€™s cover of Scooby Doo isnâ€™t bad. In fact, itâ€™s very good (though a little â€œsoftâ€ for my tastes). The problem is that Scooby Doo has one of the most famous theme songs in American cartoon history. It has been covered numerous times by other bands and, well, itâ€™s been done better. My favorite cover of the song was performed by Third Eye Blind for the (awesome) â€œScooby Doo on Zombie Islandâ€ movie. While this cover is rather good, and has a nice guitar riff in the middle, it just doesnâ€™t compete with other versions. Itâ€™s not bad, itâ€™s just not the best.
5. â€œJosie and the Pussycatsâ€ performed by Liana Hatfield and Tanya Donelly.
I think I hate this song the most. The original song was good and catchy, but these two hussiesâ€¦my word, what kind of god would bless them with voice boxes? The sound of their voices just grates on my nerves and the synthesizer solos donâ€™t supplement their lacking talent in any way. The whole song is just annoying and one I skip every single time.
6. â€œThe Bugaloosâ€ performed by Collective Soul.
Itâ€™s not a bad cover, itâ€™s actually performed pretty decently. The song just doesnâ€™t do anything for me. I give Collective Soul credit for doing their best to make one of the girliest songs of my childhood actually rock. I mean, it doesnâ€™t quite â€œrockâ€, but they get an A for effort.
7. â€œUnderdogâ€ performed by the Butthole Surfers.
Now here, HERE is where things pick up, big time. A great beat performed in several layers of vocal chorus along with guitar instrumentals and what-not. The lyric vocals are performed with tremendous energy and the whole thing is ten times more badass and energetic than the actual Underdog cartoon ever was. You remember Underdog; ten frames of animation per episode (as opposed to Roger Ramjet, which had 5) and Underdog never really fighting anything. This song makes you think Underdog could actually kick ass. So it gets some serious credit for that. Hereâ€™s a song I donâ€™t mind cranking up when driving with my windows down. Most people would probably mistake it for â€œrealâ€ music.
8. â€œGigantorâ€ performed by Helmet.
Screw â€œTetsujin 28â€. As far as Iâ€™m concerned, the big grey guy with the jetpack is named â€œGigantorâ€. They take the already catchy and badass Gigantor theme song and fuse it with a serious industrial sound; and what fits a song about a giant robot better than Industrial? Nothing, thatâ€™s what. Thereâ€™s plenty of Metal guitar wailing at a pitch high enough to shatter glass. So you might have to fight the urge to crank this track up to 11. While most of the tracks contain brief guitar solos of the theme in the middle of the song to make it last longer, this track goes nuts with it. And rightfully so, as the guitar solo is awesome. One of my favorites on the CD and makes me truly wish weâ€™d start calling â€œTetsujin 28â€ by its American name again. â€œIron Man 28â€. Pfft! How lame is that?
9. â€œSpider-Manâ€ performed by the Ramones.
If you need any excuse to buy this CD, then do yourself a favor and buy it for THIS track. Itâ€™s worth the $1.98. Easily the best performance on the entire disk and one of my favorite Ramones songs (performed shortly before they started dropping like flies). It blows every cover of the theme completely out of the water. Sorry Aerosmith. It has a distinct â€œRamonesâ€-sound to it, especially during the guitar solo, and the lyrics are sung with such energy youâ€™ll feel like grappling from skyscrapers, even if it goes against your better judgment. Regretfully, itâ€™s one of the shortest tracks on the CD, clocking in at just over 2 minutes. Never-the-less, itâ€™s something every Ramones-fan, every Spider-Man-fan and every one else should hear.
10. â€œJonny Quest/Stop that Pigeonâ€ (from Dick Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines) performed by Reverend Horton Heat.
The classic Jonny Quest theme is, as you can guess, performed entirely on instrumentals (ya know, cuz there were no lyrics and everything) and is performed really well. In fact, I liked it better than the cover used for â€œthe Real Adventures of Jonny Questâ€ series from the late 90â€™s. Unfortunately, itâ€™s too short and the song segues into â€œStop that Pigeonâ€ after 2 minutes. I kinda wish theyâ€™d played the theme twice in a row or found some way to extend the song. â€œStop that Pigeonâ€ is good, it just wouldâ€™ve been better with its own track. A good track, just shouldâ€™ve been extended and cut in two.
11. â€œOpen up your Heart and Let the Sunshine inâ€ (from the Flintstones) performed by Frente!
I canâ€™t bring myself to like this song. It sounds like something Rod & Todd from the Simpsons would sing. Hell, I canâ€™t even remember what episode of the Flintstones this song came from. Maybe they shouldâ€™ve just stuck with the Flintstones theme, as itâ€™s instantly recognizable. I dunno, this song fits-in better with something some weirdo with a guitar in Sunday school would sing when they want to â€œRap with you about Jesusâ€. Not cool.
12. â€œEep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Mean I Love You)â€ (from The Jetsons) performed by Violent Femmes.
Well, they kept the wacky instrumental beat in from the original version. Itâ€™s actually pretty good, but a little too childish for me (and Iâ€™m reviewing a CD called â€œSaturday Morning Cartoonsâ€™ Greatest Hitsâ€ for crying out loud). Still, while Iâ€™ve never been a big fan of the song (I liked it well-enough as a kid, but it didnâ€™t compete with better Saturday Morning cartoon music), I will admit that it is a good cover of the song. So if you have fond memories of that particular episode of the Jetsons, youâ€™ll probably dig this track.
13. â€œFat Albert Themeâ€ performed by Dig.
I never saw the live-action Fat Albert movie from a few years back, so I dunno what kind of cover they did for the theme song, but regardless of what THAT version sounded like, this cover is great. Now, the vocalistâ€™s impersonation of Fat Albertâ€™s trademarked â€œHey hey hey!â€ is rather bad, as he sounds more like Bullwinkle than Bill Cosby. Still, the lyrics sound great and the background instrumentals are fantastic. Not my favorite track on the album, and I do skip it every now and then, but it is a good cover.
14. â€œIâ€™m Popeye the Sailor Manâ€ performed by face to face (they donâ€™t uppercase for some reason)
Alright, now this is one of the best tracks on the album, right up there with Speed Racer and Spider-Man. The vocalist sings Popeye as violently as possible, and you know what, that suits Popeye to a T. That guy solved ALL his problems with violence, why shouldnâ€™t his theme song be equally hardcore? The guitar solo of the classic â€œsailorâ€ music in the middle of the track is a kick, and this song kinda makes you want to find some guy that weighs 500 lbs in pure muscle and beat him up. I wouldnâ€™t recommend it, though.
15. â€œFriends/Sigmund and the Sea Monstersâ€ (from Sigmund and the Sea Monsters) performed by Tripping Daisy.
Iâ€™ll admit it; I donâ€™t think I watched any Sid & Marty Kroft stuff when I was growing up. I most certainly didnâ€™t watch Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. I mean, I knew OF it. I knew of all the Sid & Marty stuffâ€¦I just never watched em. So therefore, the nostalgia-factor doesnâ€™t really kick-in with this song, and without that element, the song is pretty annoying. Iâ€™m sure someone who liked Sigmund would enjoy this cover, itâ€™s well performed and all that, but I just canâ€™t bring myself to dig it.
16. â€œGoolie Get-Togetherâ€ (from the Groovy Goolies) performed by Toadies.
When I was a kid I had never even HEARD of the Groovy Goolies. Hell, I didnâ€™t even know this show existed until I bought the album (I donâ€™t remember this song from the TV Special, for some odd reason). But you know what? This song ROCKS! A great chorus, a sweet guitar beat, excellent and creative vocal works. And the ending, where an entire â€œaudienceâ€ shouts out the lyrics: awesome. So I guess nostalgia doesnâ€™t really matter that much with these covers. Iâ€™ve never seen an episode of the Groovy Goolies and I still dug the hell out of this theme song.
17. Hong Kong Phooey performed by Sublime.
The biggest disappointment of the album, I have to say. Iâ€™ve never been a big fan of Sublimeâ€™s Latin beats, and I just canâ€™t appreciate it with this cover. They slow the tempo down way too much; I would have preferred to have heard a fast-paced rock nâ€™ roll version. On the bright side, Sublime fans will probably love it and you can tell the band is having a lot of fun singing the song. Still, Iâ€™ll stick with the original version sung by Scatman Crothers. Canâ€™t beat that, not even with a Hong Kong Phooey chop.
18. â€œH.R. Pufnstufâ€ performed by the Murmurs.
Back to that â€œnever watched Sid & Marty Kroft when I was a kidâ€-thing. Yetâ€¦I kinda like this song. Itâ€™s so disgustingly up-beat and sugary you almost HAVE to love it. And the lyrics donâ€™t make any feakinâ€™ sense (like much of the show, I hear), which adds to the bizarre charm of the song. Not on my favorites list for the album, but itâ€™s kinda cool. Iâ€™ll have that chorus (â€œCanâ€™t do a little cuz he canâ€™t do enough!â€) stuck in my head for the next decade or two.
19. â€œHappy, Happy, Joy, Joyâ€ (from Ren & Stimpy) performed by Wax.
Now hereâ€™s a total oddity. In 1995, Iâ€™m pretty sure Ren & Stimpy was still on the air. At the very least, it was brand new and didnâ€™t really qualify as a â€œclassicâ€. Additionally, the original Nicktoons line-up (Doug, Rugrats and Ren & Stimpy) premiered on Sunday mornings, not Saturday Mornings. Ren & Stimpy were later moved to Saturday NIGHTS, though, and made a part of the initial Snick line-up (Clarissa Explains it All, Roundhouse, Ren & Stimpy, and Are you Afraid of the Dark?). Itâ€™s scary how much I remember about this kind of crap. Anyway, the cover of the song is actually really pretty cool. The band sings the song with just as much psychotically manic intensity as any episode of the cartoon and it fits like a glove. It almost wipes-away the ugly memories of Ren & Stimpyâ€™s Adult Block Party from Spike TV. Almost.