I’m a pretty sensitive person, but there are few things that trigger my emotions easier than The Muppets. Searching through Muppet clips yields almost a 100% guarantee on being moved to tears; just finding the link to this ciip from the 1990 special The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson made me start tearing up, and my last trip to Walt Disney World began with me leaving the plane to Orlando, choking back my emotions over a screening of 2011’s The Muppets. (For the record, this is the scene that made me such a mess.)
One would thus expect my revisitation of the soundtrack to The Muppet Movie (Walt Disney Records D0018525-02), back in print after a 20-year absence to commemorate the “Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition” Blu-Ray release of the 1979 film, to be accompanied with a good cry. For whatever reason, this was not the case – maybe because I’m too happy that this soundtrack is back on the market, looking and sounding better than ever.
Though it lacks audio bonus content – just the original 11-track, 33-minute album is here – the presentation is simple and effective. The static image of Kermit The Frog and Miss Piggy used for the Jim Henson Records/BMG CD release in 1993 is dutifully replaced by the original colorful painting of the happy Muppet couple sailing in a small boat, a rainbow shimmering over their heads. (And, thanks to an embossed digipak design, the rainbow does give off quite a sparkle!) An eight-page booklet features a center spread of film stills, original album credits and – best of all – two pages of new liner notes by songwriter Paul Williams, whose recollections of the making of The Muppet Movie are more than enough to give you the warm fuzzies. Williams’ conversational insight on the writing process and helping supply the emotions behind a gaggle of fictional felt characters solidify just what a maniacally underrated songwriter he is. (Favorite anecdote: at the close of Williams and lyricist Kenny Ascher’s first meeting with Jim Henson for the film, Williams promises to keep the Muppet creator in the loop as the songs are written. Henson’s trusting reply: “Oh, that’s all right Paul. I’ll hear them in the studio when we record them. I’m sure they’ll be terrific.”)
And, by heavens, they are terrific. Aficionados can probably sing “Rainbow Connection” and the bouncy “Movin’ Right Along” by heart, but there’s not a bad tune in the bunch, from the freak-funk of Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem’s “Can You Picture That?” and Kermit and Rowlf’s comic heartbreak tale “I Hope That Something Better Comes Along” (a prime example of Henson’s genius, colorfully duetting himself) to the gorgeous ballad “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday,” sung beautifully by Dave Goelz as resident Muppet weirdo The Great Gonzo. A few brief excerpts of instrumental score, written by Williams and Ascher and arranged by Ian Freebaim-Smith, are also quite pleasant.
If there’s one thing this new edition of The Muppet Movie misses the mark on, it’s proper credit for whoever made this pressing sound so nice. A sticker on the package boasts the disc is “digitally restored from the original master,” and it certainly sounds as such, with excellent dynamic and no needless gouging of volume. (See the above waveform of “Rainbow Connection.”) But there are no mastering details in the booklet, which is frankly a bummer, because I would have gladly commended those responsible in this space. (In fact, whoever you are, I will commend you anyway!)
To see such a deserving title get this kind of a red-carpet treatment is the kind of thing that, like The Muppets themselves, gives me hope for the future. I would love to see Disney utilize their sterling relationship with Kermit, Piggy Fozzie and the gang to put other long-deleted Muppet albums back onto CD where they belong. (With a new film, Muppets Most Wanted, releasing in March, there’s no time like the present!)
Until then, though? The Muppets were never above using oft-repeated turns of phrase to wrap things up, so – to quote The Muppet Movie‘s most enduring song, this new reissue is the perfect package for the lovers, the dreamers – and you.
The Muppet Movie soundtrack is a maniacally affordable $9.99 at Amazon.com!