Last time you remember, our heroes Rocky and Bullwinkle were cutting an original cast record! But little did they know that their composer had also made a record, and that half a century in the future, a Mr. Peabody and Sherman movie soundtrack album would be released as well!
ROCKY AND HIS FRIENDS
TV’s Original Cast Album
Golden Records LP-67 (12” 33 rpm / Mono / 1961)
Little Golden Records 659 (Two Songs: 7”45 rpm / 6” 68 rpm / Mono /1961)
Partial Reissue: Wonderland-Golden Records LP- 285 (12” 33 rpm / Mono / 1972)
Producers: Jay Ward Productions, Arthur Shimkin, Hudson Productions. Writer: Paul Parnes. Arranger/Conductor: Dennis Farnon. Running Time: 34 minutes.
Voices: June Foray (Rocky, Natasha, Red Riding Hood, Grandma); Bill Scott (Bullwinkle, Mr. Peabody, Police Officer; Livingstone, Gidney); Paul Frees (Boris, Police Officer, Ponce DeLeon, Stanley, Cannibal); Walter Tetley (Sherman).
Songs: “I Was Born to Be Airborne,” “I’m Rocky’s Pal,” “Peabody Here!” “The No-Goodnik’s Song,” “I Wanna Go Back,” “Peabody’s History,” “Moon Man Mambo,” “You Gotta Have a Crook,” “Fractured Fairy Tales.”
Soundtrack Segments: “Bullwinkle’s Corner: Tom Tom The Piper’s Son;” “Bullwinkle’s Corner: Peter Piper;” “Peabody’s Improbable History”: Ponce DeLeon;” “Peabody’s Improbable History”: Stanley and Livingstone;” “Fractured Fairy Tale: Ridinghoods Anonymous.”
This is one Golden Record that sets the gold standard. June Foray, Bill Scott, Paul Frees, Walter Tetley, five cartoon soundtracks, a witty script worthy of Ward and bouncy original songs arranged and conducted by one the show’s musical staff that has the same tone as the series music—and a brisk pace that matches the cartoon style! What more could a Jay Ward fan want?
If one were to quibble, none of the themes or music cues from the actual Ward library are included. Quibble noted. But it’s not a stretch to assume that, for a Golden Record, this had to be relatively expensive. It was recorded in LA, used the actual voice actors, a small orchestra, etc. Add in travel and expenses and you get an album that had to cost much, much more than Songs and Games of Fitness with Posture Pete, which consisted of one narrator and a tiny circus calliope.
New York songwriter Paul Parnes, whose music credits span over four decades and TV jingles include “Snap, Crackle, Pop,” is credited as writer, though the reflexive fourth-wall humor (“And now, ten seconds of needle scratch…”) suggests that Scott and Ward did some tweaking. Parnes wrote songs and background music for a lot of early ‘60s Golden Records (included the highly recommended Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales Narrated by Danny Kaye, which is on CD).
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Peabody and Sherman have the lion’s share of the Rocky and His Friends album, with three songs (heard here) and two stories. Paul Parnes songs for the Rocky album are catchy and cute, sounding very much like some of the tunes on Golden’s “studio cast” album, Songs of Yogi Bear. (If you’ve heard “Cutie of the Cave Set,” it’s akin to Sherman’s “I Wanna Go Back.”)
THE ENCHANTED WOODS
The Dennis Farnon Orchestra
RCA Victor Records LPM-1897 (12” 33 rpm / Mono / 1959)
Producer: Dick Peirce. Recorded in Hollywood, May 9 and 22, 1958. Running Time: 44 minutes.
Songs: “Among My Souvenirs” by Horatio Nicholls and Edgar Leslie; “Moonlove” by Andre Kostalanetz, Mack Davis and Mack David; “Cecelia” by Harry Ruby and Dave Dreyer; Right As The Rain” by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg; “Fools Rush In” by Johnny Mercer and Rube Bloom; The Lady is a Tramp” by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart; “You Are Too Beautiful” by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart; “Snowfall” by Claude Thornhill; “Winter Wonderland” by Felix Bernard and Richard Smith; “If You Had But a Dream” by Nat Bonx, Moe Jaffe and Jack Fulton; “I Hear a Rhapsody” by George Fragos, Jack Baker and Dick Gasparre; “Day by Day” by Sammy Cahn, Axel Stordahl and Paul Weston.
On the surface, this looks like a typical easy listening instrumental album of the Eisenhower/Kennedy era. I found it at a thrift store, where hundreds await being purchased, like Corduroy the Bear waiting for someone to love him.
This one is special, though. Not just because it’s weird. So were a lot of lounge and exotica recording artists of the era. Martin Denny’s records still creep me out, with all those squawking birds and screaming monkeys he played piano with. (Sorry Marty, that only works in the Tiki Room.)
This album is significant because of its orchestra leader, Canadian-born Dennis Farnon, who did the music for Mister Magoo and other UPA cartoons (and the strange Magoo in Hi-Fi album) and for many of the quirky, discordant musical stabs and themes for Jay Ward cartoons (along with others like Fred Steiner, who also composed for Star Trek). This album was created shortly before his work for Jay Ward.
Farnon is also linked to cartoons indirectly, two of his nieces being Shannon Farnon (voice of Wonder Woman on Superfriends) and Darleen Carr (“That Girl” in The Jungle Book). His other niece is Charmian Carr, who played Liesl in 1965’s The Sound of Music. His older brother Robert was also a renowned musical director and composer.
The Enchanted Woods is also notable for Farnon’s decision to use only woodwinds to showcase their versatility. While you’ll hear percussion and rhythmic touches, it’s all about the enchanted woodwinds, folks.
Several of Farnon’s other works found their way into movies and TV shows, including Ren and Stimpy. He also created library music for the BBC that was used for countless shows, including Doctor Who. A cool, quirky resumé indeed!
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
While most of The Enchanted Woods sounds like the music you hear when Samantha and either of the Darrins dine at an elegant restaurant, a few are deliciously Bullwinkley. Listen for the familiar discordant keys and other antics in this version of the seasonal that make this one of the strangest renditions on vinyl.
MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Relativity Music Group (CD and download)
Album Released on March 3, 2014. Composer: Danny Elfman. Conductor: Rick Wentworth. Orchestrations: Steve Bartek, Edward Trybeck, John Ashton Thomas. Running Time: 51 minutes.
Instrumentals: “Mr. Peabody’s Prologue,” “Reign of Terror!” “The Drop Off,” “The Dog Whistle,” “The Cherry Tree,” “A Deep Regard,” “Dinner Party,” “The Petersons/The Wabac Machine,” “Aquarela Do Brasil,” “Off To Egypt,” ‘The Wedding Exodus,” “Hammer-Time,” “The Flying Machine,” “Trojan Horse,” “War/Disaster,” “History Mash-Up,” “I’m a Dog Too,” “Fixing the Rip,” “Back To School,” “Aquarela Do Brasil (Coda).”
Pop Songs: “Way Back When” by Grizfolk; “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” (2010 Remix) by John Lennon.
Excerpt: “The Amazing Mr. Peabody” featuring Stephen Colbert.
Danny Elfman has come a long way from Oingo Boingo, as one of Hollywood’s top composers, with peers like John Williams and Thomas Newman, and predecessors like Miklos Rozka and Alfred Newman.
Elfman been the subject of a gentle ribbing for his “typical” Tim Burton score (“La-la-la-la Too-Doo-Doo-Doo Deedle-Deedle!”), but it’s actually been a long time since Beetlejuice and, although one might expect Elfman to set his WABAC machine to the ‘90s to dial in the strange for Mr. Peabody and Sherman, for the most part this is a symphonic, largely exhilarating score that avoids the most obvious choices of so many recent comedy/adventure scores.
What I like about the album is the way the musicians were positioned to make maximum use of the stereophonic separation. With all the digital technology available today, there’s still nothing like listening to those “ping-pong,” “ultra high-fidelity,” “visual sound,” “living dimension,” (Big arrow pointing left!)—STEREO—(Big arrow pointing right!) vinyl discs that so delighted the dinner guests of millions of real-life Rob and Laura Petries back in the days when hi-fi consoles were as big as Buicks. Listen to this Peabody soundtrack on headphones and you’ll hear a wealth of call-and-response arrangements, with one instrument on the left playing, followed immediately with another on the right. Of course, Mr. Peabody either invented stereo or made it possible for the person who did invent it.
This effect, which is surprisingly uncommon on contemporary soundtrack albums, cannot be simply an element of the movie that just happens to be on the album, because such a subtle effect is not as noticeable when watching the movie with dialogue and sound effects in a theatre or a home system. While I’m sure it creates a more subconscious effect for the film, I like to think it was a little treat for those of us with headphones.
There are two pop songs included on the album. One is John Lennon’s classic, “Beautiful Boy,” which gave us the line “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” The other is “Way Back When” by Grizfolk, whose music is described on their agency site as “where folklore meets four-on-the-floor; where tumbleweeds meet turntables.”
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Amazing Mr. Peabody”
This is the goofiest track on the album, with Stephen Colbert as Paul Peterson (a little nod to The Donna Reed Show?). I love the score, but it sure would be nice to also have dialogue sequences. I miss the days when all the animation studios produced dialogue story albums and even the shorter read-alongs that only Disney seems to do anymore. Then I’d buy both versions.