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“That’s All, Folks!” Cartoon Songs From Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes (2001) and The Carl Stalling Project (1990 and 1995) April 6, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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"That's All, Folks!" Cartoon Songs From Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes

“That’s All, Folks!” Cartoon Songs From Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes

This album is both wonderful and frustrating. It’s wonderful because it has nearly two hours of classic music from great old cartoons on two CDs, and because it comes packaged in a CD-sized hardcover book with a hundred pages of text and illustrations. It’s frustrating because so much great music — so much of the music that comes to mind to me, at least, when I remember watching Warner Bros cartoons — isn’t here.

In 2001, that didn’t seem to be too much of a problem, because surely there’d be another volume with “One Froggy Evening” and some of the other essentials. Unfortunately, there never was another volume.

Oh, well. There’s still a lot here, and some of it is top notch material, including the full “What’s Opera, Doc?” and “Three Little Bops,” as well as 11:30 of “Bugs Bunny’s Greatest Hits.” It can sometimes seem a little disjointed, because you’re often getting short cues from a variety of cartoons, and because it goes from material that anyone who’s even slightly interested in these cartoons has seen plenty of times to more obscure earlier cartoons.

The book is worthwhile, too. Producer Daniel Goldmark contributed the introduction “Cartoon Music: A Quick Appreciation” and the closing “Notes on the Featured Cartoons.” Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald, authors of the indispensable book Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons, have an article on “The Creation of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.” Keith Scott wrote “Who Was That? Specialty Voices in the Warner Bros. Musical Cartoons.”

So… it is pretty wonderful, really. But it should have been the first in a wonderful series.

Not that it’s the only collection of this kind of music.

The Carl Stalling Project: Music From Warner Bros. Cartoons 1936-1958

The Carl Stalling Project: Music From Warner Bros. Cartoons 1936-1958

In 1990, Warner released The Carl Stalling Project: Music From Warner Bros. Cartoons 1936-1958, and followed up with The Carl Stalling Project Volume 2 in 1995. These are also essential purchases for any hardcore fan, but they may arguably be a little less attractive to the casual fan who remembers the more famous cartoons. The first album was a tribute to Warner Bros. composer Carl Stalling, and was aimed at the kind of artsy audience that recognizes names like John Zorn (who contributed an introduction to the liner notes) and Hal Willner (who organized the project). It’s still great, of course, with this kind of source material, but it’s even more disjointed than the above album. You can make a case that that’s not a bad thing — by including more obscure selections and not many complete cartoon scores, the album lets you hear this music as music rather than just as a reminder of the cartoons. And the music is definitely worth listening closely to. The only problem is, not all of it was written by Carl Stalling. Some of the most familiar music here was actually composed by Raymond Scott, and I vaguely recall that there was a bit of a fuss over the CD crediting all the music to Stalling. The upside was that Raymond Scott’s music experienced a resurgence of interest as a result.

The liner notes to the 1995 follow-up mention that some listeners wanted more complete cues and more familiar music, pointing out that the first volume was intended as an introduction to Stalling as a composer and arranger rather than a conventional soundtrack. But the second volume does deliver a bit more of what those listeners wanted. There’s a bit less to the liner notes this time around, but it’s still a must-have for fans of this music.

The liner notes from Volume 2 also promised more volumes, but they never appeared. One possible future album was a collection of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck songs, and “That’s All, Folks” does have tracks devoted to Bugs and Daffy respectively, but there’s not nearly a full album’s worth. “That’s All, Folks” was the work of a different producer, so there’s no way of knowing what future Carl Stalling Project CDs might have had.

That there’s still interest in this music should be evident from the fact that the Looney Tunes DVDs include isolated music scores as an option for some cartoons. Could be I just need to see about ripping those tracks to my hard drive and putting together my own compilation.

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