Warner Brother’s cartoons – the classics drawn in the 30s, 40s and 50s – connect to modern-day audiences with surprising timelessness. Surprising, because if you look beneath the frenetic humor, you’ll find period details threaded throughout. Nowhere were early twentieth-century totems used more regularly than in the soundtracks. Composer Carl Stalling regularly quoted Tin Pan Alley songs in his background scores with a literality that vexed his animators, and selected songs were sung by the characters. Even then, these classics were typically reduced to a line or two that highlighted an action or emotion, rather than sung all the way through. Most of the songs, as songs, remain a mystery to even ardent Warner Brothers’ fans.
This disc features new performances of a dozen songs sung or played in classic Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes shorts, opening with the memorable “Hello Ma Baby.” Famously sung by Michigan J. Frog in “One Froggy Evening,” Lynch expands on the Jolson-esque chorus quoted in the cartoon with the classic’s ragtime verses. Perhaps even more iconic is “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” the title of which was often used as shorthand for a quick exit. Here the lyric is revealed as a post-nuptial love song whose expectation of wedding-night bliss is surprisingly scandalous. Other tunes, such as “It’s Magic” and “It Can’t Be Wrong,” were used mostly as mood melodies, so hearing them sung is like being introduced rather than reintroduced.
Lynch is a talented vocalist who uses portamenti and trills to conjure the jazz age. The acoustic accompaniment, including lazy fiddle solos, chipper ukulele and haunting turns on the saw give these songs a chance to unfold, and separated from the frenzy of a cartoon they unfold and flower. Still, when anyone croons “Someone’s Rocking My Dreamboat,” it’s hard not to imagine Bugs Bunny floating idly to a South Pacific island in (the un-PC) “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips” or carried in a barrel in “Gorilla My Dreams.” Lynch is joined in reanimating these classics by the Tony Marcus (guitar, mandolin, fiddle) and Robert Armstrong (national steel guitar, banjo, accordion, ukulele, saw) of the Cheap Suit Serenaders, with appearances by Steven Strauss (bass, ukulele) and Brandon Essex (bass). [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]