ANIMATION SPIN
March 20, 2018 posted by Greg Ehrbar

The Chipmunks Sing One More Time – But Not the Last

On their second album, David Seville and The Chipmunks deliver more hit singles, original tunes and folk songs and even try out a few more daring, “serious” styles.

SING AGAIN WITH THE CHIPMUNKS
Alvin, Simon and Theodore with David Seville
Liberty Records LST-7132 (Stereo) LRP-3132 (Mono) (12” 33 1/3 RPM / 1959)
Also on EP, CD and Download
Released in 1959; reissued in 1961 with revised Chipmunk character designs.

Producer/Voice Artist: Ross Bagdasarian. Engineer: Ted Keep. Cover Design: Pate/Francis and Associates. Running Time: 25 minutes.
Songs: “Sing Again with The Chipmunks,” “I Wish I Had a Horse,” “Sing a Goofy Song,” “Witch Doctor (Remake),” “Alvin’s Orchestra” by Ross Bagdasarian; “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” by Wallis Willis; “Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” “Home on the Range,” “Swanee River,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “Working on the Railroad” (Traditional with Arrangements and Special Lyrics by Ross Bagdasarian).

Sing Again with The Chipmunks opens with its own theme song, welcoming the listener with: “The whole production is for you!” This begins what appears at first to be merely an extension of their first LP, Let’s All Sing with The Chipmunks, which we explored last week.

But that would have been too easy for a creative mind like that of Ross Bagdasarian, the creator of the three singing characters and the phenomenon that followed. But from the second track on, Bagdasarian steers the album in several interesting directions when he could have easily taken straightforward routes with equally popular results.

There must have been a reason that “Coming ‘Round the Mountain” comes so early in the album, since it’s the most unusual track. Bagdasarian must have been especially pleased with it.The arrangement isn’t just a tango the way that “Old McDonald” became a cha-cha on the previous album, it’s a slow, pensive piece in which Alvin sings the chorus without a trace of irony.

The tempo next shifts into the kind of rock and roll rhythm more associated with the Chipmunks—but suddenly, the three give a bluesy blast to a new verse created by Bagdasarian: “Look, there! Comin’ round the nountain!” Finally, Alvin returns with the low tango to the fade. This is the sort of offbeat twist on a old chestnut that would have engendered admiration had it been performed by a popular star of the day instead of three Chipmunks.

Also on the moody side are the next tunes, “Home on the Range,” which does add a dose of Chipmunk comedy, and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” which was popular on several children’s records at the time, but nevertheless is downbeat, minor key march as military songs go. The most serious in context is the spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” which was also part of children’s music repertoires in those days. USA Today and others claim it refers to the Underground Railroad, subsequently becoming a ’60s Civil Rights anthem that was sung at Woodstock by Joan Baez.

On the happy peppy side, Bagdasarian makes recording history by presenting a version of “Witch Doctor” with all three Chipmunks. The original hit, released in April, 1958, featured only one speeded-up voice identified as the doctor himself. It wasn’t until the following October that “The Chipmunk Song” introduced Alvin, Simon and Theodore.

Several wonderful original songs grace the album, like “I Wish I Had a Horse,” but the crown jewel of Sing Again with The Chipmunks is its grand finale, “Alvin’s Orchestra”. This is the nothing less than the magnum opus of the David Seville and the Chipmunks’ oeuvre—a flawless blend of composing, arranging, conducting, engineering, writing and most of all, performing, in which Alvin truly, and masterfully, drives Dave over the edge.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Sing a Goofy Song”

This song may not be as well-known as several others in the Chipmunk catalog, but it’s a persistent melody to viewers of The Alvin Show. Each show had a song segment that began with a short bumper to introduce it, using the music bed from this song under the visual. The repeating “vamp” in “Sing a Goofy Song” was also woven into background music of the cartoons and was also played by Alvin on his harmonica at the end of some episodes.

4 Comments

  • Ross was a really good producer/arranger as his solo albums demonstrate quite well.

    • ‘Ross was a really good producer/arranger, as his solo albums demonstrate quite well.’
      But he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, as the Christmas album demonstrated. 😉

  • Of course Hitchcock fans remember him in “Rear Window,” since it’s in his apartment where Hitch makes his customary cameo appearance. Alfred…Alfred…ALFRED!

  • I was a major fan of “THE ALVIN SHOW” but, as a kid, I only knew of the familiar Christmas song. I found out about the record before the show, and I just did not recall that the Christmas song was given its own cartoon video within the show’s context. So many memorable episodes, including “ALVIN’S ORCHESTRA”. Thanks for posting this.

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