Star Wars: Christmas In The Stars

Star Wars: Christmas In The StarsWhile just about every Star Wars fan knows about Meco and his classic Music Inspired by Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk album, most are unaware that he produced this holiday-themed Star Wars album after writing directly to George Lucas for permission to do so. Apparently, Lucas did not feel disillusioned enough following The Star Wars Holiday Special and gave the project the go ahead.

What resulted is exactly what you’d expect; a bunch of super-sugary sweet Christams-y songs that refer to elements of the Star Wars universe. For the most part, it’s the droids that get the attention, as Anthony Daniels as C-2PO and the sounds of R2-D2 introduce all the songs and Daniels sings (or speaks) a few himself.

The only original song that really stands out and deserves any kind of long-term re-play is “What Can You Get A Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)?”, which fulfills all the promise that preposterous title indicates. The rest are worth a chuckle or two, but mostly produce groans from all but the youngest Star Wars fans. The non-original tracks (“Sleigh Ride” and “A Christmas Sighting”) work better, as they are solid novelty versions of classic well-worn material.

I should make note of this album’s other claim to fame: the fact that it features the first recorded material by Jon Bon Jovi. Credited under his birth name, John Bongiovi, he sings lead on “R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry
Christmas” four years before Bon Jovi’s debut album. He’s virtually unrecognizable, not only because he was younger, but his voice is slightly altered (as all the voices are – to sound like elves, I guess). Still, if you’re a fan, you should get ahold of this little piece of Bon Jovi history.

Ultimately, Christmas In The Stars proves to be less than it could have been. It is neither a 3 out of 4timeless work (like Meco’s Galactic Funk) nor a monumental, so-bad-it’s-fantastic disaster like the Holiday Special. It’s a wacky novelty album that kids will love and adults can chuckle over. Star Wars fans will want it for completeness, but playing it at Christmastime is a tradition more likely to be honored in the breach than in the observance.

Order this CD

  1. Christmas In The Stars (3:17)
  2. Bells, Bells, Bells (3:15)
  3. The Odds Against Christmas (3:04)
  4. What Can You Get A Wookiee For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb)? (3:24)
  5. R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas (3:16)
  6. Sleigh Ride (3:36)
  7. Merry, Merry Christmas (2:09)
  8. A Christmas Sighting (‘Twas The Night Before…) (3:43)
  9. The Meaning Of Christmas (8:08)

Released by: RSO
Release date: 1980
Total running time: 33:52

Meco – Star Wars Party

Meco - Star Wars PartyTwenty-seven years after his first Star Wars-themed album, Music Inspired By Star Wars And Other Galactic Funk, Meco Monardo returns in time for the release of the final Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith. This album of (mostly) new material, Star Wars Party, has a very different feel to Meco’s Star Wars work of old.

Rather than go the direct disco route, the covers on Star Wars Party see Meco stretching into wildly differing directions. “I Am Your Father” is a trance-like dance track. “Star Wars Love Themes” melds cues from both trilogies into an odd march-like affair. “New Star Wars” is basically Meco’s modern take on a dance version of the main Star Wars theme, with lots of samples. “The Empire Strikes Back” is not really a new track, but a remix of the 1980 original that basically adds new sound effects to the mix. (I question the wisdom of including this track, since it basically outclasses the new covers completely.) “You Are Reckless” is a rambling hodge-podge of Star Wars music overdubbed with Yoda dialogue. “Lapti Nek” is certainly the best of the new crop; a decent rendition of the now redundant Max Rebo track, with solid use of dialogue sampling that doesn’t distract from the song.

The original tracks “Star Wars Party”, “Jedi Knight” and “Live Your Life” are lightweight fluff pieces that can’t stand up alongside even the questionable quality of the covers. The lyrics are absolutely atrocious (and not in a good way) and while the music is not horrible, neither is it memorable.

But the biggest problem with Star Wars Party isn’t Meco’s unusual musical choices or his lousy lyrics and simplistic original music, it’s his reliance on dialogue clips. While his choice of dialogue is fine and how he chooses to use it within a song is usually spot on, the problem is that only about a third of the clips are authentic (or at least close enough not to matter). It’s jarring hearing unknown voices speaking such classic lines (and then to hear them sampled over and over again). The worst are the people speaking Han and Leia’s lines in “Star Wars Love Themes” and the grating fake Yoda sprinkled throughout the CD. To make matters worse, there will often be authentic dialogue right next to these poor imitations, making the failure more glaring than it otherwise might be. If Meco wanted all these voice samples, he should have gotten clearance to use only original dialogue or given up on the idea.

But just when it seems that Star Wars Party will inevitably wind up filed somewhere between useless and unnecessary, we come to the final track on the disc, “Boogie Wookie”. Silly as its title may sound, it’s a lush disco dance track that is as close to the perfection Meco achieved on the original Galactic Funk album as Star Wars Party gets. With a generous sprinkling of Wookie dialogue throughout and no real lyrics to speak of, Meco falls into none of the traps that damage the other tracks. I won’t go so far as to say that “Boogie Wookie” is good enough to make me recommend this disc, but I found it good enough to justify the purchase to myself, at least.

Star Wars Party doesn’t live up to the legacy of Meco’s classic work from the golden age of Star Wars, but it isn’t a complete disaster. The remix of “Empire” is pretty good (but expendable) and “Boogie Wookie” and the “Lapti Nek” cover deserve attention. The other tracks have little value (and what value they have is mostly destroyed by the awful voice sampling). Ultimately, your enjoyment of Star Wars Party will likely be determined by how far three good tracks can take you.

rating: 2 out of 4

Note: Star Wars Party was simultaneously released under the alternate title Music Inspired By Star Wars. Both are available for purchase, but Star Wars Party is only available from Amazon.com and CDbaby.com. All other online retailers and brick and mortar stores sell only Music Inspired by Star Wars.

Order this CD

  1. I Am Your Father (3:07)
  2. Star Wars Party (3:10)
  3. Star Wars Love Themes (4:00)
  4. New Star Wars (3:07)
  5. The Empire Strikes Back (3:30)
  6. You Are Reckless (3:05)
  7. Jedi Knight (4:03)
  8. Lapti Nek (3:23)
  9. Live Your Life (3:18)
  10. Boogie Wookie (6:24)

Released by: Mecoman Productions
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 37:43

Lenny & Squiggy present Lenny and the Squigtones

Lenny & Squiggy present Lenny and the SquigtonesBefore A Mighty Wind, before This Is Spinal Tap, there was Lenny and the Squigtones.

Michael McKean and David Lander first created the characters of Lenny & Squiggy (then known as Lenny & Ant’ny) while members of the comedy troupe The Credibility Gap. When they were hired as writers for the Happy Days spin-off Laverne & Shirley (along with fellow Gap member Harry Shearer) they lobbied for their creations to be included as recurring characters.

After the show had gained success, an album was released, Laverne & Shirley Sing, featuring Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams performing in character. It sold well enough to justify a follow-up featuring the show’s other duo. On the show Lenny and Squiggy had often been shown performing with their band Lenny and the Squigtones, so an album by the erstwhile greasers actually made more sense than one by two bottling plant employees. Lenny & Squiggy present Lenny and the Squigtones is presented in the form of a concert and was, in fact, recorded live at the Roxy in Los Angeles. McKean and Lander stay in character throughout. The only thing that breaks the fourth wall is a joke that revolves around the “Happy Days gang” and a musical version of “In Cold Blood”.

The comedy shows an edge to the characters that is, no doubt, more in line with the original Credibility Gap version than the tamer presentation seen on Laverne & Shirley. The between-song sketches are perfectly tailored to the actors and they never fail to milk the most out of the jokes.

The music is also top-notch, expertly capturing an authentic 1950’s feel. Like the music in This Is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind, the songs never make fun of the style, but have fun with it. And in an interesting connection to Spinal Tap (the one that lands this in the Tap canon), Christopher Guest plays guitar for the band and is credited in the liner notes as Nigel Tufnel. His guitar work is actually noticeable, most clearly on “Foreign Legion Of Love”, which bears distinct similarities to Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge” and “Clam Caravan”.

4 out of 4Run, don’t walk, to your favorite record store to get Lenny & Squiggy present Lenny and the Squigtones. Then walk quietly home when you realize it’s long out of print, extremely difficult to find and darn expensive if you do. But by whatever means you employ, you must find this album. No fan of the Spinal Tap genre of recordings should be without it.

Order this CD

  1. Vamp On* (:50)
  2. Night After Night (2:30)
  3. Creature Without A Head (3:49)
  4. King Of The Cars (2:11)
  5. Squiggy’s Wedding Day (5:55)
  6. Love Is A Terrible Thing (2:52)
  7. Babyland* (For Eva Squigman) (3:16)
  8. (If Only I Had Listened To) Mama (2:10)
  9. So’s Your Old Testament* (1:29)
  10. Sister-In-Law (3:05)
  11. Honor Farm* (2:08)
  12. Starcrossed (2:59)
  13. Only Women Cry* (1:30)
  14. Foreign Legion of Love (4:20)
  15. Vamp Off* (:36)
    note: tracks with a (*) are spoken word tracks

Released by: Casablanca
Release date: 1979
Total running time: 39:40