From the time I first got a cassette recorder as a kid I started recording stuff off of TV. All kinds of stuff. Tons of TV shows, TV specials ...whole Horror, Monster, Sci/Fi, Comedy and Dramatic-type movies (or at least the good parts) and anything else that came along. (I even recently found a tape I made of the cast of the first Star Wars movie on the Mike Douglas show during summer '77) Everything that I probably would've just videotaped if vcrs had existed yet. But since they didn't I spent a lot of time working on projects or school work while listening to just the soundtrack portion of some of my favorite shit. That "must-record" list naturally included a lot of cartoons and short subjects. But it was really through listening to these old films' sound effects and orchestral nuances that I honed my ear enough that even now I can usually tell if I'm listening to a Warners, M-G-M, Universal or Columbia studio movie or cartoon --even if I'm in the next room.
I've always loved the sound of MGM cartoons, (Though a lot of them I originally only saw in Florida when I was visiting my grandparents.) so having a CD release like this still gets me kinda excited. This is the first time that the original Scott Bradley MGM cartoon soundtracks have ever been offered in any format. Well okay...actually there was one other CD release to showcase some of Scott's work simply called TEX AVERY in about 1990...but disc wasn't very long, the soundtracks weren't of the best quality and most still had sound effects and voice tracks.
Not so here.
This new 2-disk, dual-release from Film Score Classics and Turner Classic Movies features no less than 25(!) full cartoon soundtracks...over 2 and a half hours of (mostly) GREAT sounding music tracks from 1950's Tom and Jerry and Tex Avery cartoons --including bits here and there that were "overwritten" and have never appeared ANYWHERE before. The handsome booklet itself is just about worth the price, all chock full of super-nice frame blow-ups as well as providing some limited production notes and insight to the Bradley creative process. Below is an example of some of the eye-candy and info provided on each cartoon and it's soundtrack.
I watched old MGM cartoons all the time as a kid (in Atlanta they were all on UHF stations) but by the time I was a pre-teen their time slots had been replaced with early 1960's Hanna Barbera cartoons and imports like Ultra-man and Speed Racer. Some years later at World Con '78 (held at the long-gone Atlanta landmark hotel The Riviera which sat at I-85 and Peachtree Street) I met longtime-animator Ken Mitchroney and he sold me 4 Tom and Jerry cartoons on 16mm film. Since T&J hadn't been on the Atlanta airwaves since I had started to think about animation as a possible career path, these four cartoons --for the time being at least-- were my only representations of that franchise. One of those cartoons was Uncle Pecos, whose soundtrack is featured here in full clarity.
I'm still a little blown away to find out that via this booklet (especially after watching that cartoon all those years) that Shug Fisher, who provided Uncle Pecos' singing voice was actually "Shorty" on the later episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies!
Another thing I didn't know until I was an adult, is that when ol' Uncle Pecos gives nephew Jerry a samplin' of his electric-geetar encore, it's really just an extended intro of Les Paul's classic How High the Moon?
There are several truly inspired performances and stand alone music tracks in this long-overdue and much appreciated release of a now under-appreciated American art form.
Now on the "cons" side....
This release clearly states on the cover that this is "Volume 1: The 1950's"...which seems really odd to me. As much as I love Scott Bradley's orchestrations, I always thought that his cartoon scores from the 1940's were ultimately superior to his work in the 50's. While as I stated, there are definitely some standout tracks like Dixieland Droopy, Downbeat Bear, Blue Cat Blues, Neapolitan Mouse and TV of Tomorrow, there are also too many representations of Bradley's more frantically-generic chase cartoon pieces. It always seemed to me that in the 40's Scott's scores relied more heavily on refrains from MGM musicals and artists like Fats Waller. (And going in chronological order, shouldn't some of those soundtracks have logically been showcased in a first release? I mean, even a lot of the non-specific images that were chosen for the booklet, back and inside covers are ALL from 1940's productions!) Nothing at all against Scott Bradley, I just feel he was just more at home in the 40's, and as a result those soundtracks are more musical-themed than visual comment. There's so much good material for a release of this caliber just in-between 1945-1950 it's staggering! (Mouse in Manhattan, Tee for Two, Springtime for Thomas, Trap Happy, Solid Serenade, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse, The Invisible Mouse, Kitty Foiled and most of Avery's Red and Screwy Squirrel cartoons --just to name a few!)
Plus I hate that some of my old audio-favorites like The Flying Cat, The 3 Little Pups, Push-Button Kitty, The Flying Sorceress and Baby Butch were left out of this collection.
I would hope it's because volume 2 intends be "More of the 1950's"-- rather than it just be because these particular tracks no longer exist.
(Sheez, I gotta admit... even to me, that sounded kinda "Recliner of rage".)
Still any fan of classic cartoon music should probably pick it up --but be aware, as with many FSC releases, this pressing is limited to only 3000 copies.