Friday, September 2, 2011

Listening to seasonal music

Because I got nothing to read.
I like music, but when I'm riding in my car I like to listen to books on CD.  It is not that don't enjoy reading the printed page, but I just don't have to go to the toilet that often.  So I check out books from the library on CD and listen to them.  It really helps dealing with Hampton Roads traffic (the worst traffic in the USA, certainly) to think that I am not wasting my time but in fact getting another chapter read.  I had a novel that I was reading but the second disk (of 14) kept skipping so badly that I would have no idea what the Hel the story was about, so I stopped.  Then I put in World War Z by Max Brooks.  Okay, here's the deal on Max Brooks and zombies: I read the Zombie Survival Guide and it was amusing but not really great.  I like zombies and zombie movies, but ultimately the zombie train needs to stop for a bit.  It's getting old and I need either a fresh take on the genre or a break from it to again enjoy the classic zombie films.  I don't find Brooks that entertaining.  After listening to the introduction and part of the first chapter of World War Z I was so bored that I turned it off.

So when I got into the car this morning to drive to work I did not know what to do with the radio.  I had no desire to continue with World War Z and my other novel was scratched all to hell (I really hate the lack of responsibility of the populace with regard to library items; these items belong to all of us so treat them with care and respect) so I grabbed a CD case from my backseat and opened it to my Halloween music CDs.  It was thus that I drove to work around 9:30 AM of a slightly overcast morning with my window down to feel the cool breeze.  It was appropriate given last night's Pumpkin Delight event.
I have many CD's that I have "ahem" copied from the public library.  Because a single blank CD can hold a bit more than the standard commercially produced music CD, I tend to combine them onto mix CD's (which we all do, I know, except for you MP Ipod kids...sod ya), but if I can fit two whole CD's onto a single blank I will, which can lead to some strange CD's, I assure you.
I was in a whimsical mood this morning (hey, it's a 3 day weekend) so I selected a double CD (that's two commercial CD's on my one blank) for my morning drive: Billboard Presents Family Scarytime Classics and Halloween Howls (by Andrew Gold).

Coming in at 10 tracks and less than 30 minutes, Scarytime Classics is a collection of film and TV songs that are appropriate to the Halloween season and have a nice beat.  It has decent flow but not thematic flow.  It has a few odd choices in my opinion as they are from obscure sources and the Nightmare Before Christmas selection is the only "modern" choice.
1. Addams Family Main Theme- A classic of the Halloween CD genre, found on nearly every generic, or un-themed Halloween party CD.  A good version.
2. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes- A fun little tune, but an obscure movie that is not often seen these days outside of cult movie circles.
3. Theme from the Munsters- That other old standby of the Halloween CD collections.  Another good version.
4. The Headless Horseman-This swingin' Kay Starr cover of a tune sung by Bing Crosby in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is a really good addition to the mix.  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a great piece of American literature and film adaptations have spanned the quality scale from wretched to amazing, with the Disney cartoon classic being one of the best.  This swing version is a cool transition from the rockin' Munsters to the kitschy track 5.
5. The Blob-I love the film The Blob as it is fun, and cool, and stars Steve McQueen.  The tune is a rework of The Girl from Ipanema (as far as I know) and swinging, but if you don't know the film might not thrill you.
6. Dark Shadows Theme-The first supernatural soap opera is still lauded as one of the greatest examples of the genre, but the theme ends so abruptly (very common in television themes) so it feels odd on the CD.  It is creepy however.
7. Bewitched-Did you know the instrumental theme from the show Bewitched actually has words?  Well it does and this version features Peggy Lee singing sweet and softly.  Completely NOT what you expect from a traditional "scary" music CD, but dammit I like it.
8. Casper, The Friendly Ghost-Hey, it's Casper.  Clearly we are leaving the "scarytime" part of this CD and into the "family" portion.
9. This Is Halloween-The song from Nightmare Before Christmas that introduces us to Halloween and its cast of characters is a "new" classic.  The song is ABOUT Halloween in a way that no other song has ever been, possibly.  Another "Disney" track, so family oriented, but it brings out of the syrupy Casper track to...
10. Twilight Zone-Not the Golden Earring song (which I love) but the theme to the classic Rod Serling suspense anthology.  If you know the show then the theme is certainly creepy to you, but outside of that it is just a tune.

This is a children's CD, plain and simple.  I like some of the tracks, but it is a children's CD so it has limited adult appeal.  It is not a children's CD like Captain Bogg and Salty, which is Pirate Rock for All Ages, mates.  This is basically a kiddie CD, as the track listing will show.  By the way, the late Andrew Gold was a talented songwriter (not my taste in songwriting, but I recognize the talent all the same) and a decent performer.
1.It Must Be Halloween-Not a bad start, it has a few rough lyrics (not adult, just poor meter).
2. The Monster Mash-This cover of Bobby Pickett's novelty classic is a staple of Halloween CD's (along with Addams Family and the Munsters themes) and was probably my favorite song when I was 6 years old.
3. Spooky, Scary Skeletons-I like this tune.  I really, really like it.  It has a nice trilling xylophone sound in it and that's a great part of its charm (it evokes the 1929 Disney Silly Symphony "The Skeleton Dance" where skeletons play music on other skeletons' body parts), but it also has great vocals.
4. Trick or Treat-Meh (No Costume, No Candy by the Swingin' Neckbreakers is a much better trick or treating song, but not for kids)
5. The Addams Family-Not a great cover
6. Ghostbusters-Many songs can be covered by different artists, and covered well, but this is not a song that is given to such treatment and Andrew Gold is really not the man to take on the job.  In all cases of Ghostbusters go with Ray Parker Jr.  Andy just doesn't sound right saying "I ain't 'fraid of no ghosts". 
7. Gimmie a Smile (the Pumpkin Song)- Not so much.
8. Don't Scream (It's Only Halloween)- Not a bad track, really.  Much better after the rough spots of 6 and 7, and sort of a party tune.
9.Halloween Party-Meh (again)
10. The Creature From the Tub-Okay, try and follow this logic, see this CD starts by letting kids know it is Halloween, then trick or treating, then we talk about Jack O Lanterns and Halloween parties, so Andrew wants us to go take a bath, to get that grime off.  Okay.
11. Witches, Witches, Witches-Witches on their brooms.  It has harmony child vocals chanting "witches" over and over, but it is a good track.  Again, like Spooky, Scary Skeletons, this is a fun, interesting song and I like it.  Hey, we've trick or treated and gone to parties and cut up pumpkins and even had a bath, how does the night of Halloween end?  With witches doing their thing, of course.  I did say it was a children's CD.
12. In Our Haunted House-Not the ending I would have chosen, since I like track 11 quite a bit.

So that was my morning music ride-in.  I never really enjoy Halloween Howls fully, but I'm a collector.  The Sounds of the Season cable music channel always plays heavily from Andrew's "Howls" CD every year so I suppose that some of these tracks are burned into my subconscious.  I far prefer the Scarytime Classics in this case.  Ultimately Halloween is a holiday for children and adults and there are good music collections that are oriented toward the younger audience that adults can enjoy.  I can't fully recommend Halloween Howls unless you have younger children AND those children are not metal heads (as I was).

Enjoy your musical selections and keep your pumpkins lit.


  1. Look for a musical called "A Shoggoth On The Roof". It is an excellent parody of "Fiddler" with a Lovecraftian theme. Also the Very Scary Solstace albums are cool. Lovecraft and Halloween are like peanut butter and chocolate.

  2. I loved World War Z but that was when I read it. When someone lent me the audio CDs I too found I couldn't listen to them.

    There's so much available out there now, but musically, I often fall back on three spooky favourites; Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, Allan Parson's Tales of Mystery & Imagination, and a few years ago my husband got me Closed on Account of Rabies.

    That Lovecraft one sounds interesting...

  3. I have a few mix CDs I like to spin in the car that are psychobilly and horror punk mixes, which always puts me in the spooky mood.
    However, Spook Along With Zacherle is really good and I have a few music reviews coming up soon that will provide some great alternatives for the gang.