Sunday, April 28, 2013

Music Review: The Muppet Christmas Carol Soundtrack

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Captures the movie in music with several fun songs
Cons: The two songs cut from the movie don't add anything here
The Bottom Line:
Original songs
To classic Christmas story
You will love to own

"'Tis the Season to be Jolly and Joyous" Because I Have the Muppet Christmas Carol Soundtrack

I came late to The Muppet Christmas Carol, not seeing it until several years after it had been released.  After several viewings, I decided I had to get the soundtrack because of two song in particular.  But by then, Disney had pulled it back into the vault.  A few years back, they rereleased it.  I didn't discover that fact until last year, but as soon as I did, I bought a copy.  And I am thrilled to listen to these songs whenever I want.

In case you aren't familiar with the movie, it follows the classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his encounters with four (in this case five) spirits on Christmas Eve very closely.  Scrooge is played by Michael Caine, and the rest of the main cast is played by Muppets.  But, being the Muppets, they add some songs along the way.  And that's the main part of this CD.

As I mentioned before, there were two main songs I bought this CD for.  The first is "One More Sleep 'Til Christmas," which is sung by Kermit (playing Bob Cratchit) on his way home from work.  It's an upbeat number as Kermit sings of the magic of Christmas.  As with most songs on the soundtrack, it's got a lush orchestra behind it.  But it's the warm wishes I can't get enough of.  The bridge is also sung by Kermit and Tiny Tim in the a cappella "Christmas Scat," which is under 30 seconds long.

The other song is very similar in theme.  "It Feels Like Christmas" is sung by the specially created Ghost of Christmas Present as he and Scrooge first start walking through town on Christmas morning.  He has a deep, rich voice and a hearty laugh we get at times.  This one really plays up the horns.  And the rest of the company joins in at various times.

Frankly, both of these songs work well outside the soundtrack.  They could easily be covered by anyone.  I'm surprised no one has yet, at least to my knowledge.

There are another couple songs I find fun, although they don't work as well outside of the movie.  The first is "Scrooge."  It's a group number that very accurate describes the main character at the beginning of the movie.  There are several great lines, although my favorite is the part where they consider whether a kind man is buried deep inside Scrooge.  While it feels like a mid tempo contemporary song, the bridge feels a bit like a classical choral piece.

The other fun song is "Marley and Marley."  The movie casts Waldorf and Statler as Jacob Marley and his brother Robert.  The song is their warning to Scrooge, yet they still managed to get some heckling in.  It's got a Russian feel to it and is in a minor key, which really plays well with the characters.

Interestingly, there were a couple songs on here I didn't recognize.  Further researched proved that "Room in Your Heart" and "Chairman of the Board" were both cut from the movie (or at least the home video version, depending on who you ask.  I didn't see it in the theater, so I can't say with authority).  "Room in Your Heart" is sung by Honeydew and "meeped" by Beaker.  Since they play the two gentlemen trying to get a donation from Scrooge, I can certainly see why it would be cut.  There's no way that the early Scrooge would listen to it.

Sam the Eagle sings "Chairman of the Board" to a young Scrooge in the past.  I'm not a fan of the character, and this song does nothing for me.  I'm glad it's not in the movie.

The recent DVD release tries to cut out "When Love is Gone."  Yet that song shows up twice here.  The first time is when it is sung by Belle as she is breaking up with Scrooge.  It's a tender ballad that really can break your heart.  It shows up again as the final track as sung by Martina McBride.  This version speeds things up slightly for a country tinged pop take on the song.  It's a good version.

By my count, 6 of the 18 tracks are instrumental.  There's the "Overture," obviously.  Since the movie gets serious during the "Christmas Future" portion of the story, there are no songs there.  So the only representation it gets here is an instrumental track.  Probably the most fun is the song from "Fozziwig's Party."  This one starts out like a slow classical waltz.  About half way through, the band, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, gets board and they really pick things up with a jazzy dance number.  The instrumental tracks are scattered throughout the CD, and all of them do a perfect job of capturing that moment in the movie.  I can easily picture all the represented scenes as I listen to the orchestra playing.

And really, that's the big things with The Muppet Christmas Carol Soundtrack.  Every track but the two cut from the film remind me of the movie.  In fact, I'm dying to go watch the movie again.  And for that reason, it will hold a special place in my Christmas music collection.

CD Length: 41:38
1. Overture
2. Scrooge
3. Room in Your Heart
4. Good King Wenceslas
5. One More Sleep 'til Christmas
6. Marley and Marley
7. Christmas Past
8. Chairman of the Board
9. Fozziwig's Party
10. When Love is Gone
11. It Feels Like Christmas
12. Christmas Scat
13. Bless Us All
14. Christmas Future
15. Christmas Morning
16. Thankful Heart
17. Finale - When Love is Found/It Feels Like Christmas
18. When Love is Gone (Martina McBride version)

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