Green and Red Christmas CD
James (October 24, 2006) - The Muppets always
seem to make Christmas merrier. With half-a-dozen Christmas productions
already under their belts, the Classic Muppet Show characters continue
the familiar tradition with a new CD, entitled "A
Green and Red Christmas".
This CD is 12-tracks
of all-new holiday cheer that will surely be a classic for years to come.
The CD is 100% newly recorded direct-to-CD content. This isn't a cheesy
compilation; this is a full blown Muppet album. The last Muppet album of
this level was "Kermit Unpigged" back in 1994. What really impressed
me with the album is that there were no gimmicks. There are no superfluous
celebrity duets. There's no insincerity or awkward attempt to conform a
style of modern trends or what's "hip". There's no lame story-line
or plot attempting to validate each performance. This album is just the
Muppets being the Muppets – and it's all new. What could be better?
standard for a Muppet Christmas album was 1979's "John
Denver and The Muppets: A Christmas Together". Whereas that album
relied on traditional Christmas carols (and John Denver), this album embraces
the modern holiday classics of the past century.
You, Santa Claus? (2:34)
The album kicks off with the ever-wonderful Dr. Teeth and the Electric
Mayhem. For over a decade the band has been stuck doing instrumental
gigs (their last performance with any significant vocals in 1990's "The
Muppets at Walt Disney World"). Dr. Teeth is back in full swing
leading the band in "'Zat You, Santa Claus?", a classic tune
made popular by Louis Armstrong. The song is performed in a very Mayhem-ish
manner, I could just picture the band up on the Muppet Theater's stage
singing. What a great way to kick off the album.
Red and Green Christmas (3:23)
Kermit and Miss Piggy take the next track as they sing about the true
color of Christmas. In the tender and calm song, Piggy explains all
that is red with Christmas while Kermit, naturally, supports the green
side of the season. Ironically, "A Red and Green Christmas"
is probably the weakest of all the songs on the album (although it is
still quite enjoyable).
Christmas Party Sing-Along (3:00)
Rowlf the Dog is at the piano singing about all his favorite Christmas
songs. From Rudolph to Frosty, Rowlf expresses his feelings towards
the good ol' fashioned Christmas party sing-alongs. Another big step
for this album is the vocal return of Rowlf (who hasn't uttered much
more than a sentence since Jim Henson's death.) Rowlf is in perfect
character here. The song is up-beat, toe-tapping, and retains that level
of classical good old fashion fun we've come to expect when Rowlf is
at the keys.
Christmas Baby (2:45)
Pepe is on the microphone next, singing his little prawny heart out
with "Merry Christmas Baby". The song, made famous by Bruce
Springsteen, is a perfect choice for Pepe. I never thought of Pepe as
much of a singer before, but I will never underestimate the talent of
the king prawn again. This is a great track, a perfect blend of Christmas
Man with the Bag (3:09)
The next song features the Electric Mayhem again. Floyd takes vocals
for "The Man with the Bag", a song probably best known for
its rendition by Kay Starr. Zoot shows his sax skills, Animal beats
the drum and Dr. Teeth rocks the keyboard. The song is a perfect fit
for the characters.
Miss Piggy goes solo on the next track as she performs a stunning version
of "Santa Baby". Piggy had previously sung part of the song
a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie" (during the Moulin Scrooge
number). Once again she knocks it out of the park. This song seems to
have been made for Piggy (despite being written 23 years before the
pig's genesis). Piggy owns this song and can justly join the ranks of
the other "Santa Baby" singers - including Eartha Kitt, Madonna,
Kylie Minogue and The Pussycat Dolls (to name just a few).
the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2:52)
Gonzo and Rizzo unite to perform a stirring rendition of a classic tune.
The relaxed and familiar chemistry that Gonzo and Rizzo bring to everything
they do together is really present here. The earnestness and humor of
the duo balances perfectly, and the classic pair provides yet another
wonderful track. This is among my favorites of the whole CD.
Pole Comedy Club (2:42)
"North Pole Comedy Club" is an entertaining track full of
even more classic Muppet spirit. Fozzie Bear gives an amazing Christmas-themed
comedy act, amid the heckling and remarks from Statler, Waldorf, Pepe
and others spectators. The song is somewhat reminiscent of Fozzie's
stand-up act in "A Muppet Family Christmas" (only longer,
and with out the snowman sidekick). Fozzie is great at telling these
terrible jokes, and it's just so hard not to love him.
Run Rudolph (3:10)
Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem are back for track #9 where they perform
yet another groovin' holiday tune. This time it's a cover of Chuck Berry's
famously recorded "Run, Run Rudolph". Dr. Teeth and the band
really jam on this track while keeping that unparalleled "Mayhem
sound" that their previous hits are known for. Here lies another
future Christmas classic.
One of the best qualities of the Swedish Chef is that the more you don't
understand him, the more you love him. The next track puts everyone's
favorite Scandinavian cook in the spotlight. The novelty of this song
might wear off if you're not a fan of the chef, but if you're anything
like me you could listen to his "börking" all day long.
"Christmas Smorgasbord" focuses the wacky and weird side of
the Muppets. It's silly, it's funny, and I don't quite get it. And that
is exactly why I love it – it's precisely the kind of track you
would expect the Swedish Chef to be involved in.
Christmas Queen (2:39)
The next song, featuring Miss Piggy, is a mixture of holiday cheer and
obligatory pig put-downs. I always love when Piggy is trying to keep
her cool amid insults, swine jokes and other deprecating comments. This
song has some hilarious lines from the back-up chorus, and is one of
the more irreverent holiday tunes on the album. Piggy tires to keep
the act elegant and classy, although, as usual, that proves quite impossible.
Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (3:49)
The album concludes with a heartfelt and moving rendition of "Have
Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" sung by Kermit the Frog. This
isn't the first time the Muppets have performed this song, but this
is one of the best renditions I've heard. It leaves you with a warm
holiday feeling. It's quite touching and an apt end to a delightful
Now no review
of this album would be complete without mentioning the recent recasts
featured prominently on several tracks. The CD marks audiences' first
real exposure to Bill Barretta as Rowlf the Dog and Dr. Teeth (previously
the characters of Jim Henson) and the first real taste of John Kennedy
as Floyd Pepper (previously the character of Jerry Nelson). This isn't
the first time Barretta and Kennedy have performed these characters, but
it is their first role of any real substance since inheriting them.
the longevity and timelessness of the Muppets, performer recasts are inevitable;
either a character disappears into obscurity or a new performer has to
be allowed to re-embody the character. These transitions can be awkward
and uneasy, especially for fans that have become so invested and attached.
However, of the 13 characters on the album there are only three (Gonzo,
Rizzo and Pepe) that still have their original performer, yet everyone
seems in perfect form here. Seeing a new voice coming from the puppets
can really help alleviate some of uneasiness associated with the change,
and the fact that this release relies solely on audio doesn't help with
alleviating any possible scrutiny – if nothing else fans will probably
be more critical.
But I must
say that Barretta and Kennedy are doing wonderful jobs with their new
roles. Both performers get close enough to the original voices while avoiding
stale and uncharacteristic imitations. I mean, it may not be Jim singing
but it defiantly is Rowlf singing. Both performers do a great job capturing
the spirits, integrities and personas of these beloved characters, and
I'm sure that with a few more exposures fans will come to accept theses
newer incarnations the same way they've come to embrace Steve Whitmire's
Kermit and Eric Jacobson's Piggy.
The CD does
a lot of things right and, in my opinion, this is the best original-content
(i.e. non-soundtrack) Muppet CD ever released. The songs are perfectly
selected and wonderfully executed. My only real complaint is that I wish
it was longer. With a runtime of just shy of 40-minutes, another 2 or
3 tracks would have greatly bulked up the album. I would have loved to
hear Johnny Fiama and Sal perform a Sinatra-esq ditty, Bunsen and Beaker
chiming in from Muppet Labs, the Muppet chickens cluck "Jingle Bells"
(akin to those infamous barking dogs), or just a big group song with the
whole troupe chiming in. Additionally, the vocal absence of Janice in
the Electric Mayhem's appearances is a bit disappointing (none of the
tracks suffered because of it, but as a fan I would have liked to have
Green and Red Christmas" has the potential to become a new holiday
classic. This album exceeded my expectations. It has even surpassed the
dated and slower-paced sentimentalities of "A Christmas Together"
to rise to the top of my holiday play list. So if you haven't already
gathered, I think the album is great and highly recommend this album as
an excellent addition to anyone's Christmas or Muppet CD collection. It
is full of great songs that are sincere, wacky, heartfelt, and very "Muppetational".
Muppet Christmas music? Beginning Friday November 24 and continuing through
Christmas Day, you'll be able to hear 200 of the best Muppet Christmas
songs of all-time on Muppet Central
Radio. Merry Christmas everyone!
as Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat & Statler
as Gonzo, Zoot & Waldorf
as Dr. Teeth, Pepe the King Prawn, Rowlf the Dog & The Swedish Chef
as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear & Animal
as Floyd Pepper
Vocals: Louise Gold, Jerry Nelson, Karen Prell, Mike Quinn and David Rudman