One of the mighty sailor man’s best vinyl ventures plus a holiday romp with DC superheroes as they save citizens, cities, the planet, and of course, save Christmas.
Hear 4 Exciting Christmas Stories with
POPEYE AND FRIENDS
Featuring Jack Mercer as the Voice of Popeye
Peter Pan Records #8125 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Stereo)
Released in 1977. Executive Producer: Martin Kasen. Writer/Producer: Arthur Korb. Running Time: 45 minutes.
There were four Peter Pan Popeye albums, three with the voice of Jack Mercer (the Jack Welch LP was previously featured on Spin). None of them, unfortunately, were graced with the voice of Mae Questel—RCA and Golden Records had that honor. The Olive “understudies” on the Peter Pan Records are fine, but they’re not our Mae.
The presence of Jack Mercer, a generally fine (and anonymous) supporting cast and some solid scripting take up the slack. Songwriter/Producer Arthur Korb, who was responsible for perhaps the highest number of Peter Pan Records from the mid-‘60s to the early ‘80s, kept the quality up, with a good sense of pacing and productions that sounded richer than they really were thanks to library music and a good sense of story pace, much in the style of classic radio cliffhangers.
The stories are particularly good on this Popeye Christmas album, sharp and character-savvy to the point of being genuinely funny, especially the first two, “Christmas Pie” and “Pearl Burgers.”
Mercer is as good as ever, even though we don’t get to hear him doing any other voices but Popeye. It’s always nice to hear the Mercer sound in other characters, especially to those of us who grew up listening to it in so many cartoons.
Olive gets a little shrill here, but the dialogue between the jewelry salesman and Popeye is witty, as is the gag about the difficulty of sizing a “wrisk watch” for the svelte Ms. Oyl.
The best story on the album, with a rare and welcome emphasis on Wimpy. The Hanna-Barbera revival of the late ‘70s must have necessitated the W.C. Fields-ish voice of Wimpy, but the timing of everyone involved is flawless and the writing is above average.
“Deck the Halls”
Popeye settles into the generic “helping others” mode here and dusts off the Scrooge story once again. Mercer does an outstanding job, though, especially when Popeye pretends to be a ghost and adds a touch of drama to the proceedings.
Bluto adds his two cents to the album by harassing Popeye when he acts as a department store Santa. This story is a nice cap off to the album.
Hear Three Exciting Christmas Stories with
SUPERMAN / BATMAN / WONDER WOMAN
Peter Pan Records #8199 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Stereo)
Released in 1977. Executive Producer: Martin Kasen. Writer/Producer: Arthur Korb. Running Time: 44 minutes.
Peter Pan Records was riding high in the late’70s, with a series of “Irwin the Disco Duck” albums and, especially, their numerous action/adventure records with licensed characters from DC and Marvel comics, as well as discs based on Star Trek, The Six Million Dollar Man, Space:1999, Planet of the Apes, Kojak and the short-lived Gemini Man. None of them, given their modest productions, featured the original casts.
Though not quite as polished as the Disney/Buena Vista adventure series, Peter Pan and its “Power Records” label was prolific. There were single LP’s and 7-inch 33’s, LP’s with books and 45’s with books—all with the graphic look of comic books. Subtle they weren’t, but earnest and energetic they were. Almost all were written and produced by Arthur Korb, with many undoubtedly adapted from comic magazine material.
It would be a pleasure to share the identities of the actors who played the roles—and multiple roles at that—but there are no credits to be found. The only discernable voice is possibly Peter Mark Richman, primarily playing villains.
Peter Pan released this Christmas-themed album in addition to a Six Million Dollar Man Christmas story LP. The stories were repurposed as individual 7-inch 33 RPM records.
Superman in “Light Up the Tree, Mr. President”
A mad professor, bent on nuclear destruction, somehow makes the White House tree switch a detonator for a worldwide nuclear attack. Lois Lane is played by the same actor who performs as Olive Oyl on the Popeye album.
Batman in “Christmas Carol Caper”
Batman and Robin thwart a crime or two as they volunteer to help out at a mission for the poor. This story has a lighter touch than the other two.
Wonder Woman in “The Prisoner of Christmas Island”
Once again, the Olive Oyl lady appears, this time as Brunhilde, who kidnaps the Santy Claus and tries to outwit “Vunder Voooman.” Sorry for the spoiler, but this is a rare instance in which a “jolly kiddie Christmas album” ends with an explosive death.
As Popeye might say, “Merry Chrisk-mas, Hapsgee Hanooks-kahs, joyous Festivus fer the resk of ya’s and the besk of News Years, mateys!”