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"Muppets: The Green Album" reveals how truly evergreen the Muppet song catalog is

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"Muppets: The Green Album" reveals how truly evergreen the Muppet song catalog is

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We're still about 16 weeks out from the release of "The Muppets." But since that it's never too early to start building audience interest in the Studio's Thanksgiving 2011 release ... On August 23rd, Walt Disney Records will be releasing "Muppets: The Green Album."


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

An early review copy of this tribute album (which takes 12 classic Muppet songs and then hands them off to contemporary rockers & alternative artists for reimagining) showed up in the mail here this week. As an old-school Muppet fan who has loved Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson's original takes on these tunes for over three decades now, I have to admit that I approached this with much trepidation.

So imagine my surprise when "The Green Album" turned out to be a genuinely fun recording. Something that was put together by performers & engineers who clearly have just as much affection for this material as the die-hard Muppet fans do.

Mind you, not everything on "Muppets: The Green Album" works. Ok GO's take on "The Muppet Show Theme Song" is a bit too dark & twisted for my tastes. With this song's other-worldly intro & extended techno riff suggesting that Damian Kulash & Co. weren't quite confident that this theme song from the 1970s was strong enough to stand on its own. Whereas Weezer & Hayley Williams' version of "Rainbow Connection" is a heartfelt delight. It starts off sparsely with all sorts of swamp sound in the background but eventually builds into something that not only honors the original version of "Rainbow Connection" but also reveals the truly timelessness nature of this tune.


Weezer on set with the Muppets for their 2002 video of "Keep Fishin' "
from their "Maladroit" album.

Of course, the challenge with doing something like "The Green Album" is striking just the right balance. Not slavishly copying the original Muppet song (which - sadly - is just what The Fray did with "Mahna Mahna") but - at the same time - not doing an interpretation of the tune that's so far out there that it's then hard to recognize the original source material.

Happily, "Muppets: The Green Album" has far more hits than misses. With the Alkaline Trio's driving version of "Movin' Right Along" being a particular stand-out. As is My Morning Jacket's folky rendition of "One World" from "Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas."

As for the misses, I wish that the Airborne Toxic Event had done better by Gonzo with their over-produced take on "The Wishing Song."  Or at least followed Rachael Yamagata's example with "I'm Gonna Go Back There Someday," which found a new way to frame this tune that then didn't obscure or undermine its underlying sentiment.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Likewise Brandon Saller of Atreyu & Billy Martin's version of "Night Life" takes what was already a pretty marginal Muppet song and then - through an extended drum solo and an unnecessarily long bridge - turns this Doctor Teeth tune into the underscore for a beer commercial.

But all is forgiven once Andrew Bird launches into his sweetly understated take on Kermit the Frog's theme song, "Bein' Green." Not to mention Matt Nathanson's sly performance of that Muppet ode to problematic relationships, "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along."

"So where does 'Muppets: The Green Album' compare to other recent Walt Disney Records' concept albums like 2008's 'Nightmare Revisited' and 2010's 'Almost Alice,' " you ask. Well, given that "The Green Album' pulls its songs from a variety of sources (i.e. The Muppet Show, The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper as well as holiday specials like "Emmett Otter's Jug-Band Christmas"), it obviously can't have the same sort of musical cohesion that "Nightmare Revisited" did. Nor does this Dani Markman production have the genuinely out-there quality that that A & R vet brought to "Almost Alice."


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But what "Muppets: The Green Album" does do is reveal how truly evergreen that Muppet song catalog is. And that even though Jim Henson is long gone, Frank Oz hasn't really had anything to do with this beloved set of characters for nearly a decade now and Jerry Nelson is basically retired at this point, the tunes that this trio of talented gentlemen helped to introduce to the world still live on. More importantly, still obviously resonate with the various contemporary rockers & alternative artists who lent their talents to this new Walt Disney Records release.

Which is why - if you're a Muppet fan - it's once again " ... time to play the music." Only this time around, you'll want to use your iPod or iPhone to listen to "The Green Album" on. Rather than a turntable or 8 Track Player.

"Muppets: the Green Album" will be released to stores & be available for downloaded on August 23rd.

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  • While you're waiting for that album to come out check the various bittorrent sites for the originals and more.

  • I've heard OK Go talk about this for a long time now, and I've always been thrilled to hear them be attached to a Muppet tribute.  Just the way Damian Kulash reacted to seeing Kermit backstage let's me know he'll bring enough to the table to honor the song.

    Are they planning on releasing a single from this to give them more exposure?

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