In 1990, Geffen Records released "The Simpsons Sing the Blues," an ill-conceived pairing of the series' voice actors with various rock "names." The one-time novelty was closer to "Golden Throats" territory than the subversive spirit of the TV show. Rhino's " Songs in the Key of Springfield" corrects that earlier misstep
The new disc collects original music and dialogue from "Simpsons" episodes, so fans now have digital versions of the "Itchy & Scratchy" theme, variations of the show's end credits, and ludicrous musical versions of "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Planet of the Apes."
One of the show's strengths is the varied supporting cast, reflected in this compilation. Milhouse, Apu, Troy McClure, Chief Wiggum, Krusty and others add spice to the gumbo.
The clever use of celebrity cameos is here too. Tony Bennett's "Capitol City" kneecaps every hokey city-themed tune from "My Kind of Town" to "New York, New York." Other ringers include Beverly D'Angelo (as country singer Lurleen Lumpkin), Tito Puente (the hate-filled "Señor Burns") and Robert Goulet (an immortal "Jingle Bells" performed in Bart's treehouse casino). There's a Vegas-tinged "South of the Border" by LA session-singer Gene Merlino, known to "Beat of the Traps" fans as Gene Marshall a truly brilliant bit of casting.
Alf Clausen (composer and songwriter) researched Internet discussions, trawling for viewers' favorite moments, which determined the album's selections. The Net's currently abuzz with complaints about what wasn't included (Barry White's ode to snakes, Linda Rondstadt's "Plow King" commercial), which will perhaps shape the content of a follow-up.
With one regrettable lapse (Yeardley Smith as Lisa singing "Jazzman") the second audio spin-off of "The Simpsons" gets it right. The dialogue is used effectively to contextualize the music, and no bit is overly long. "Songs In The Key of Springfield" sounds like a bootleg assembled by a lunatic fanboy, but with better fidelity.