This holiday season the Muppets are back in the aptly titled movie, The Muppets. I am a second generation Muppet fan, I grew up on the Muppet Babies and my first cinematic exposure to Jim Henson’s genius was A Muppet Christmas Carol. So, for me, the classic era of the Muppets was discovered after the fact, meaning that most of this music I love but don’t have that same childhood bond with it that most fans possess. I like to feel this gives me a more objective look on this album.
Like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Disney has released an album collection of classic songs, covered by hots bands of today. This actually happened twice for Nightmare and was splendid both times. The Muppets seemed like a natural next step for this trend with a new movie coming out and a stable of classic songs to choose from.
The collection isn’t as strong as the Nightmare release, but it does have some excellent versions of some of my personal favorite songs. This concept excels when you have a perfect blend of franchise and band, Marylyn Manson and Jack Skeleton are perfect together, unfortunately The Green Album doesn’t offer enough of that kind of perfect mix.
Unfortunately the producers of the album must have decided the Nightmare album worked so well because you can equate that franchise to emo kids and their favorite music. That line of thinking obviously leads you to ask what type of people are nostalgic Muppet fans, and somewhere along the way the answer was decided to be hipsters. A semi-logical leap, but one that doesn’t breed the best musical re-interpretations.
That is not to say there are not some impeccable combinations on this album. Weezer and Hayley Williams (of Paramore fame) do a version of Rainbow Connection that will bring tears to your eyes. The Fray also do a respectable job with the classic Mahna Mahna, although I don’t know how you could really mess that one up.
I think the album as a whole does suffer from the over all anticipation and expectation of the franchise and it’s quality music. I might have liked more of the covers if I didn’t have the muppet’s own unique stylings already in my head. Perhaps these concept albums are better to rekindle old and dormant franchises rather than as marketing tools for franchises on the cusp of re-entering relevancy.
Three Favorite Tracks:
Rainbow Connection by Weezer and Hayley Williams: When I said this can bring tears to your eyes, I meant it. Seriously, I am listening right now and getting a little misty. This song is perfect, the entire album was a genius idea just because of this song. Maybe I am dipping into massive hyperbole at this point, but I really love this song. It might also have something to do with the fact that there is a tone to this song that this cover just nails. The biggest problem with some of the tracks on this album is they often don’t match the tone of the original song, and to me that is an important facet of these songs. Particularly the more poignant ones.
Bein’ Green by Andrew Bird: I wasn’t expecting this type of interpretation of Bein’ Green, especially based on how the album progressed up to the point of this song. I must say I was VERY pleasantly surprised with this quite, simple and downright beautiful version of one of the most iconic Muppet songs. It has a lazy country style twang to it that is a very natural fit for this song. My favorite part though is the fiddle, it is played perfectly and just takes the great song to the top of awesome mountain.
Halfway Down The Stairs by Amy Lee: I mentioned the Nightmare Before Christmas album a lot in this review, it is a natural precursor to this album, and frankly a better collection of songs. But these two releases are connected in more ways than just concept. Both albums have amazing versions of songs sung by the talented Amy Lee. I don’t know what it is but her voice is just so penetrating and listen-to-able. I am reasonably certain she can sing me the recipe for potato pancakes and it would make my top tracks. If you were going to have one recurring artist for all of these albums, please let it be Amy Lee!
Least Favorite Track:
Wishing Song by Airborne Toxic Event: Lately it has been difficult to pick out a least favorite track, I have had a good run of reviews that didn’t present a clear cut worse track. That trend stops this week. There is just something so profoundly annoying about this song. I can’t understand the words of the courus, it sounds like six Mrs. Doubtfires singing from a hymnal. What is particularly disappointing about this song is that I think I liked Airborne Toxic Event, they recently had a hit song that played on the radio a bunch and I dug that song a lot. Now I am not so sure, I really didn’t like this song.
In all I love the concept, but I think the execution was a bit lazy. There are songs here that I know I will listen to and enjoy for years and years, but they are to few and far between, and there is only so much forgiveness I can bestow upon the album that gave me that version of the Wishing Song.
Final Score for The Muppets: The Green Album
3 out of 5