The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem and More (Rhino)

What is surprising is how they stand up alone as crafty pop songs.

There has always been something Vaudevillianly brilliant about The Muppets. They did slapstick, they sang and danced, they did bad comedy sketches. But the driving thing that made “The Muppet Show,” and subsequent film franchise motor, was the adeptness of the Henson camp to use a variety of musical styles to pace the show. Rhino Records has helped commemorate the Silver anniversary of The Muppet Show by releasing this collection of music from the series and films.

The Muppet Show was known for the amazing brilliance of the Muppet actors and puppeteers. Musically, the shows were always able to stir things up, whether it was a salsa number, disco, or even a metal noise throwdown. However, real musicians created it all. This CD celebrates their vision and artistry, as well.

The disc opens with a clean, perfect version of The Muppet Show, the theme song which opened every show (previously unavailable on CD). It is a peppy opening musical piece with great orchestration, and one of the most recognized show openings ever. “Mahna Mahna” is an often-copied lounge classic used in countless Henson productions. The definitive version is here in all of its Japanese pop-sounding glory.

The Right was always represented by Sam the Eagle. His countless attempts at moralization were a benchmark of the show. This CD features one of his foiled attempts to get his favorite artists, the tasteful Wayne & Wanda, their dues. “Trees” is a brief, funny ditty. The main highlights, though, are “Bein’ Green,” the Kermit staple later covered by Frank Sinatra. It is sad, woeful, and really tugs at your soul. Somehow, Henson captured something magical here.

The Muppet Movie gave us “Rainbow Connection” and “Movin’ Right Along,” both regarded as pop culture kitsch these days. Both were also instrumental in making the Muppets legitimate musical artistes. The other Muppet films are represented, as well. “Hey a Movie” is a fun time; so is “Together Again.” “I’m Going to go Back There Someday” is Gonzo’s shining moment.

The brilliance of the uber metal/loud rock troop, Dr. Teeth & Electric Mayhem, are featured on two tracks here, “Tenderly”

It is hard to take the Muppet creators as serious musicians. However, they spent a great deal of time honing this craft. Hearing these tracks without the benefit of visually seeing the Muppets perform them is interesting. What is surprising is how they stand up alone as crafty pop songs. Obviously, there is a grasp of various genres and styles. People know what they want. You can hear them striving for perfection.

For those who enjoy the Muppets, this is great fun. For those with only a mild interest, this is a chance to look beyond the puppets and wackiness and enjoy the music for the fun it is meant to be.

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