CD Review: Saturday Morning CartoonsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Greatest Hits
Around 1995, the then-new cable station, Cartoon Network, aired a late night television special called Ã¢â‚¬Å“Saturday Morning CartoonsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Greatest HitsÃ¢â‚¬Â. 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 havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Tra La La SongÃ¢â‚¬Â (from the Banana Splits) performed by Liz Phair with Material Issue.
This is the one Ã¢â‚¬Å“guilty pleasureÃ¢â‚¬Â song I have on the whole CD (I know, the fact that I listen to this CD should be a Ã¢â‚¬Å“guilty pleasureÃ¢â‚¬Â in itself, but whatever). ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s girly, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very girly, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 nÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ roll beat to an already dangerously catchy tune. I just canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 rockinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ out to a song with a chorus of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tra la la!Ã¢â‚¬Â
2: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Go Speed Racer Go!Ã¢â‚¬Â (from Speed Racer) performed by Sponge.
Now hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s where things get seriously badass. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a pretty sweet rock nÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ roll cover of the theme played at a fast pace with an awesome vocal performance. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m never cominÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ back, but then I ALWAYS manage to hit every freakinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ red light. Dammit. This song shouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t any red lights in your way.
3: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sugar, SugarÃ¢â‚¬Â (from the Archies) performed by Mary lou Lord with Semisonic.
Now hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s where things start to suck. I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like this song when I was a kid and I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like it now. I used to sit in the back seat of my MomÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rusted metal death-trap on wheels, forced to listen to bubblegum classics from Oldies 100. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ClassicsÃ¢â‚¬Â like Ã¢â‚¬Å“RockinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ RobinÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sugar, SugarÃ¢â‚¬Â. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t stand it. I suppose the cover isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t so bad if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re into lovey dovey female artists, but it just isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t my forte. I skip this one every time without regret.
4. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scooby Doo, Where are you?Ã¢â‚¬Â performed by Matthew Sweet.
Now, Matthew SweetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cover of Scooby Doo isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bad. In fact, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very good (though a little Ã¢â‚¬Å“softÃ¢â‚¬Â 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, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been done better. My favorite cover of the song was performed by Third Eye Blind for the (awesome) Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scooby Doo on Zombie IslandÃ¢â‚¬Â movie. While this cover is rather good, and has a nice guitar riff in the middle, it just doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t compete with other versions. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not bad, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just not the best.
5. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Josie and the PussycatsÃ¢â‚¬Â 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 hussiesÃ¢â‚¬Â¦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 donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t supplement their lacking talent in any way. The whole song is just annoying and one I skip every single time.
6. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The BugaloosÃ¢â‚¬Â performed by Collective Soul.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a bad cover, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s actually performed pretty decently. The song just doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t quite Ã¢â‚¬Å“rockÃ¢â‚¬Â, but they get an A for effort.
7. Ã¢â‚¬Å“UnderdogÃ¢â‚¬Â 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. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a song I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mind cranking up when driving with my windows down. Most people would probably mistake it for Ã¢â‚¬Å“realÃ¢â‚¬Â music.
8. Ã¢â‚¬Å“GigantorÃ¢â‚¬Â performed by Helmet.
Screw Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tetsujin 28Ã¢â‚¬Â. As far as IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m concerned, the big grey guy with the jetpack is named Ã¢â‚¬Å“GigantorÃ¢â‚¬Â. 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, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d start calling Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tetsujin 28Ã¢â‚¬Â by its American name again. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Iron Man 28Ã¢â‚¬Â. Pfft! How lame is that?
9. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Spider-ManÃ¢â‚¬Â performed by the Ramones.
If you need any excuse to buy this CD, then do yourself a favor and buy it for THIS track. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬Å“RamonesÃ¢â‚¬Â-sound to it, especially during the guitar solo, and the lyrics are sung with such energy youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll feel like grappling from skyscrapers, even if it goes against your better judgment. Regretfully, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one of the shortest tracks on the CD, clocking in at just over 2 minutes. Never-the-less, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s something every Ramones-fan, every Spider-Man-fan and every one else should hear.
10. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Jonny Quest/Stop that PigeonÃ¢â‚¬Â (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 Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Real Adventures of Jonny QuestÃ¢â‚¬Â series from the late 90Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s. Unfortunately, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s too short and the song segues into Ã¢â‚¬Å“Stop that PigeonÃ¢â‚¬Â after 2 minutes. I kinda wish theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d played the theme twice in a row or found some way to extend the song. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Stop that PigeonÃ¢â‚¬Â is good, it just wouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been better with its own track. A good track, just shouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been extended and cut in two.
11. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Open up your Heart and Let the Sunshine inÃ¢â‚¬Â (from the Flintstones) performed by Frente!
I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bring myself to like this song. It sounds like something Rod & Todd from the Simpsons would sing. Hell, I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even remember what episode of the Flintstones this song came from. Maybe they shouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve just stuck with the Flintstones theme, as itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬Å“Rap with you about JesusÃ¢â‚¬Â. Not cool.
12. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Mean I Love You)Ã¢â‚¬Â (from The Jetsons) performed by Violent Femmes.
Well, they kept the wacky instrumental beat in from the original version. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s actually pretty good, but a little too childish for me (and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m reviewing a CD called Ã¢â‚¬Å“Saturday Morning CartoonsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Greatest HitsÃ¢â‚¬Â for crying out loud). Still, while IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve never been a big fan of the song (I liked it well-enough as a kid, but it didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll probably dig this track.
13. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Fat Albert ThemeÃ¢â‚¬Â 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 vocalistÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s impersonation of Fat AlbertÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s trademarked Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hey hey hey!Ã¢â‚¬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. Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m Popeye the Sailor ManÃ¢â‚¬Â performed by face to face (they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t his theme song be equally hardcore? The guitar solo of the classic Ã¢â‚¬Å“sailorÃ¢â‚¬Â 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 wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t recommend it, though.
15. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Friends/Sigmund and the Sea MonstersÃ¢â‚¬Â (from Sigmund and the Sea Monsters) performed by Tripping Daisy.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll admit it; I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think I watched any Sid & Marty Kroft stuff when I was growing up. I most certainly didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t watch Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. I mean, I knew OF it. I knew of all the Sid & Marty stuffÃ¢â‚¬Â¦I just never watched em. So therefore, the nostalgia-factor doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really kick-in with this song, and without that element, the song is pretty annoying. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure someone who liked Sigmund would enjoy this cover, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s well performed and all that, but I just canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bring myself to dig it.
16. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Goolie Get-TogetherÃ¢â‚¬Â (from the Groovy Goolies) performed by Toadies.
When I was a kid I had never even HEARD of the Groovy Goolies. Hell, I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even know this show existed until I bought the album (I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬Å“audienceÃ¢â‚¬Â shouts out the lyrics: awesome. So I guess nostalgia doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really matter that much with these covers. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve never been a big fan of SublimeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Latin beats, and I just canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 nÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ 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, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll stick with the original version sung by Scatman Crothers. CanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t beat that, not even with a Hong Kong Phooey chop.
18. Ã¢â‚¬Å“H.R. PufnstufÃ¢â‚¬Â performed by the Murmurs.
Back to that Ã¢â‚¬Å“never watched Sid & Marty Kroft when I was a kidÃ¢â‚¬Â-thing. YetÃ¢â‚¬Â¦I kinda like this song. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so disgustingly up-beat and sugary you almost HAVE to love it. And the lyrics donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make any feakinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ 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 itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s kinda cool. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have that chorus (Ã¢â‚¬Å“CanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do a little cuz he canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do enough!Ã¢â‚¬Â) stuck in my head for the next decade or two.
19. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Happy, Happy, Joy, JoyÃ¢â‚¬Â (from Ren & Stimpy) performed by Wax.
Now hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a total oddity. In 1995, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m pretty sure Ren & Stimpy was still on the air. At the very least, it was brand new and didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really qualify as a Ã¢â‚¬Å“classicÃ¢â‚¬Â. 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?). ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 & StimpyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Adult Block Party from Spike TV. Almost.