Album Review: “Muppets- The Green Album” (2011)

The 2011 release of the awesome The Muppets film led me on a trip down memory lane, revisiting some of my favourite childhood characters and shows.  I grew up in the early 90’s so my Muppets history mainly contains the late 80’s/early 90’s cartoon, Muppet Babies (I even had stuffed animal muppet babies of Kermit, Fozzy and Miss Piggy!), but I was also a big fan of the live-action films, like The Muppets Take Manhattan and The Muppets Christmas Carol.  Anyway, all of my nostalgia needed a soundtrack and I had no hesitation in purchasing Muppets: The Green Album that same year.

Muppets: The Green Album is a cover album released by Disney, which features all the popular songs from the Muppets TV shows/films, re-recorded by contemporary artists.  Just looking at the back of the CD had me sold- even if I wasn’t a fan of the Muppets, I’d likely have purchased the album for names like Weezer, OK Go, Amy Lee, Sondre Lerche and Andrew Bird.   The disc is a fun ode to the Muppets and their famous songs, but several of the tracks are actually good pop/rock numbers in their own right.

Of course, the CD starts with the most famous of all Muppets songs, the Muppet Show Theme Song.  Rock band, OK Go handles this rendition and puts a refreshingly hip spin on the infamous song, with a pulsating bass beat, and electric guitar.  The other most well-known song from the franchise, The Rainbow Connection, appears next as a duet between rock band Weezer, and Paramore frontwoman,Hayley Williams.  Gone is Kermit the Frog’s croaky voice, replaced by smooth vocals from Weezer’s lead singer, Rivers Cuomo and Williams.  The ballad doesn’t stray far from the original, but the sweet, sentimental number is a classic and doesn’t need much tweaking.

Mahna Mahna (or the “do do do do do do” song, as I had known it for most of my life) is tackled by pop/rockers The Fray.  I honestly can’t hear much of The Fray’s influence here, as most of the singing seems to be done by Muppet characters more than anyone else, and the song sounds exactly the same as I remember it from the show.  That’s okay, though- this song has always made me smile and it certainly does here, too.  Meanwhile, Alkaline Trio offers up a fast-paced, punk style version of Moving Right Along, a song from the 1979 Muppet Movie.

I am not a huge fan of Evanescence, but I’ve always appreciated lead singer, Amy Lee’s vocal stylings and she continues to impress me with her version of Halfway Down The Stairs.  In typical Amy Lee/Evanescence fashion, the song takes on an dark, almost gothic feeling, which works surprisingly well.  Lee’s gorgeous, slightly operatic vocals are perfect on the symphonic number, which is a clear standout on the album.   One of my indie-favs, Sondre Lerche, contributes a lively version of Mr. Bassman, while Muppets back him with some fun sound effects.  Indie-folk musician Andrew Bird tackles another Kermit classic, Bein’ Green, with plenty of his trademark violin, whistling, and a beautifully understated vocal delivery.  As a side note, Bird is also responsible for “The Whistling Caruso” which was performed in the 2011 Muppet Movie.

I’m not very familiar with My Morning Jacket, but I do enjoy their country-lite rendition of Our World, and I particularly enjoy lead singer, Jim James’ distinctive vocals.  I’ve never heard of The Airborne Toxic Event, but I similarly enjoy their rockin’ version of The Wishing Song, which is a mix between hard rock and banjo-rock ala Mumford & Sons (and I’ll admit that I at first typed, “Muppford”…I suppose I’ve got Muppets on the brain now).  Brandon Saller from metal band Atreyu offers up an appropriately loud, rock ‘n roll rendition of Night Life– a song that was performed by Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem (Animal’s band) in The Great Muppet Caper.

The disc comes to a close with two ballads.  One-hit-wonder of sorts, Matt Nathanson, performs an earnest, if not a bit lacklustre, rendition of I Hope That Something Better Comes Along, while singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata, whom is so far only famous for collaborating with musicians far more famous than her (like Jason Mraz and Ray LaMontagne) offers a somewhat lackluster version of I’m Going To Go Back There Someday.  Yamagata’s throaty vocals are nice to listen to, but the song definitely isn’t as unique or exciting as the others on the album has been.

Despite the dull ending, Muppets: The Green Album is a great tribute to the songs from the Muppet franchise.  The offerings from OK Go, Alkaline Trio, and Amy Lee definitely make the album, but the rest of the songs are equally good and this CD is a must-have for anyone who is a Muppet fan.

Rating: 5 stars

Track List
1. Muppet Show Theme Song – OK Go
2. Rainbow Connection – Weezer and Hayley Williams
3. Mahna Mahna – The Fray
4. Movin’ Right Along – Alkaline Trio
5. Our World – My Morning Jacket
6. Halfway Down the Stairs – Amy Lee
7. Mr. Bassman – Sondre Lerche
8. Wishing Song – The Airborne Toxic Event
9. Night Life – Brandon Saller of Atreyu and Billy Martin
10. Bein’ Green – Andrew Bird
11. I Hope That Something Better Comes Along – Matt Nathanson
12. I’m Going To Go Back There Someday – Rachael Yamagata

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