Happy 50th To Here Comes Peter Cottontail!

Friends, it was a half-century ago today that the Rankin and Bass stop motion animated classic Here Comes Peter Cottontail was first broadcast on ABC. While I did not catch it when it was first aired as I hadn’t been born, Here Comes Peter Cottontail was a Holiday favorite of mine when I was growing up. In the days before a VCR or the internet made it possible to enjoy pretty much everything at our convenience, we only had one shot to see TV specials before we were forced to wait an entire year for it to be rebroadcast again. And for what it might be worth, I can recall watching this at my Grandparents a number of times in my youth, followed of course by sitting at the kitchen table and carefully dyeing Easter Eggs. In addition as I will share a little later in the article, watching Here Comes Peter Cottontail one year led to a very memorable and surprisingly scary experience.

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGE PROVIDED BY RogerRabbitFan.

Here Comes Peter Cottontail was inspired by two different sources, the first was the iconic tune of the same name written by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins, the same duo responsible for the slightly more popular “Here Comes Santa Claus” as well as the “Frosty the Snowman” Holiday songs. Thanks to the popularity of the Santa Claus tune, recorded by Gene Autry and released in 1947, the ‘Singing Cowboy’ would be tapped again to record “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” and “Frosty the Snowman” three years later. It might surprise you to learn that it was the song celebrating the busy Easter Bunny that fared better of the two on the Billboard charts, with it hitting the #3 spot for Hot Country Singles and nabbing the #5 slot on the Hot 100 list.

The second source that inspired the Rankin and Bass TV special came from the 1957 children’s story entitled The Easter Bunny That Overslept by Priscilla Friedrich, Otto Friedrich, and Adrienne Adams. In the case of the book, the titular Easter Bunny manages to miss the Holiday completely and spends the remainder of the book trying to deliver his stock of eggs during the remaining Holidays, finding out that children are less likely to accept them during the likes of the 4th of July. The teleplay for the television special adds a few additional elements and was written by Romeo Muller (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) and Thornton W. Burgess (Fables of the Green Forest).

Not from Here Comes Peter Cottontail… I just like to share classic animation.

It might interest you to know that Here Comes Peter Cottontail was released just a mere four months after another Rankin and Bass Holiday classic, Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town. Which as was pointed out in an article by Greg Ehrbar for the Cartoon Research site, this would most assuredly mean that Rankin and Bass were working on this Easter TV special at the same time as the latter. While Kizo Nagashima (The Wacky World of Mother Goose) is credited with being the Animagic (stop-motion) supervisor, the iconic songs were written by Maury Laws and Jules Bass who provided 6 original tunes for the Easter special.

The story for Here Comes Peter Cottontail concerns the titular character receiving the honor of being elected to the position of the official Easter Bunny, even though he exhibits less than stellar characteristics. The problem is that Peter has a rival of sorts in January Q. Irontail, who has no interest in spreading happiness but wants to be elected to the position so he can enact his revenge on children all over the world for the loss of his tail, which was severed when a child ran over it while roller skating. Irontail proposes a competition to see who can deliver the most Easter Eggs the following day, the winner will be the rabbit who is granted the title and position of Easter Bunny.

Thanks to some underhanded shenanigans by Irontail, Peter manages to sleep through the day, and the contest is won by the devious January who proceeds to transform the Easter Holiday into something more suitable for Halloween.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY disneyfanjsg.

So it is up to Peter Cottontail to somehow fix the mess that his carelessness has caused and take his rightful place as the official Easter Bunny. This is accomplished by meeting and teaming up with a colorful cast of characters, including some other Holiday guardians and the use of… a time machine?

I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t take a moment and point out that Here Comes Peter Cottontail benefits greatly from the fantastic cast of voice actors that were tapped for the production. Danny Kaye (White Christmas) lent his voice to not just Seymour S. Sassafras, the narrator for the special but Antoine and Colonel Wellington B. Bunny as well. In addition there is Casey Kasem (Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!) as Peter Cottontail, Paul Frees (The Haunted Mansion), Joan Gardner (Snorks), and of course the one and only Vincent Price as January Q. Irontail.

Which leads us to the scary experience I had in my youth one year after watching Here Comes Peter Cottontail. As a kid I would always spend the weekends at my Grandparents, for this particular Easter though it was extra special as my cousins happened to be visiting. Growing up as a Monster Kid there was certainly nothing about the Rankin and Bass TV special that would have unnerved me, but as we were quite frankly hopped up on sugar we laid in bed talking about the show. And then from outside of our window we heard something, it sounded just like the clanking of January Q. Irontail’s tail, followed by a shadow on the blinds of what appeared to be a rabbit hopping past the window. We ducked our heads under the covers and waited for that clanking sound to go away and after long minutes we dared to take a peek, thankfully everything was quiet after that and even with that unexpected fright we soon fell asleep.

The following morning we excitedly related the story to our Family and were told it was just our imagination and the amount of sugar we had consumed. To this day I do not believe that was the case, for one thing while hunting for Easter eggs that morning after breakfast, I found a small coffee can with a few nails hidden behind the short hedges in front of the bedroom window. I am absolutely positive that our uncles were the culprits, overhearing us talking about Here Comes Peter Cottontail in bed, with the shadow of the rabbit passing the window being just a little hand shadow puppetry.

So in closing out this overly long article, here is to 50 years of Here Comes Peter Cottontail, a Holiday special that is delightfully unique and fun as when it first aired. From all of us at the Pop Culture Retrorama site, we hope you have a very safe and happy holiday!

Pop Culture Retrorama Podcast Ep. 016 – Holiday Special II

Friends, the Holidays are upon us once again and my fellow Pop Culture Retrorama contributors felt that it was the perfect time to get together and put out a second Holiday Special. As I mention on the show itself, if 2020 had not thrown a monkey wrench into my podcasting plans, this second Holiday Special would have in fact been the start of the second season of the Pop Culture Retrorama podcast. At the very least we hope that this new episode of PCR will help a little in getting you into the Holiday Spirit – I am not ashamed to admit that being joined by Allison, Ashley, Earl, and Rockford – sharing thoughts and memories of some of our own favorite television Holiday Specials has really brightened my own Holidays. For what it might be worth, I start off the podcast with some information on the beloved Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town – which just ten days ago celebrated it’s 50th anniversary!

In addition on this second Holiday Special we have Allison Venezio-Preston, who talks about a memorable episode of The Hogan Family – surprisingly for a sitcom of the time – it was the only Holiday themed episode.

Earl Green joins us once again to discuss the recently released The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special – as well as giving you a glimpse at just how very much he appreciates Porgs!

Ashley Thomas aka The Nerdy Blogger of Fangirlish – talks about her love of A Disney Channel Christmas!!!! – which originally was broadcast back in 1983. This is a special that I am very sad to say that I missed, as we were not lucky enough to have The Disney Channel at that time.

Last but certainly not least is the esteemed Rockford Jay – considering he helps keep a lid on the madness over at the Haunted Drive-In, it might not shock you to learn that he has decided to discuss a classic episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. One that just so happens to take place during the Holidays… and features a Werewolf on a cruise ship!

Grab your favorite Holiday snack and beverage and join us for the second Holiday Special of the Pop Culture Retrorama podcast. And from all of us here at PCR – we wish you one and all – a very safe and happy Holidays!

If you have any suggestions for topics you would like for us to cover in a future episode – or possibly you have comments on the current show itself, email them to me at VicSagePopCulture@gmail.com You can also contact me on Twitter and on Facebook. In addition I certainly hope you will take the time to visit the Saturday Frights Facebook Page. There you can find posts from Rockford Jay, Preston Griffith and myself on a daily basis.

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Have You Ever Seen Spunky The Snowman?

Friends, not to the let the cat entirely out of the bag, but for the past week we’ve been working on a Holiday special for the Pop Culture Retrorama podcast – which should be released around the middle of the week. To get ourselves in the mood we have been watching all manner of retro seasonal specials over the last couple of weeks – that includes catching The RiffTrax Yule Log that was released in 2018 – a collection of clips from past offering as well as new skits. It was while watching this hilarious special though that I caught a few minutes of an animated Holiday cartoon that I had never seen before – something called Spunky the Snowman.

It didn’t take much time researching it online to find out some rather interesting information about Spunky the Snowman – which was originally released back in the late ’50s… sort of. It turns out that this particular animated short was actually a heavily truncated and dubbed Russian theatrical short film from 1955 entitled The Snow Postman. Spunky the Snowman was edited down from it’s original running time of nearly 20 minutes to a little over seven minutes – to better fit the running time of the Capt’n Sailorbird animated television series. A syndicated anthology show made up of animated shorts purchased from around the World, then edited and dubbed for American audiences – with the addition of brand new animated wraparound segments featuring the titular character of Capt’n Sailorbird as host.

As I found out online, The Snow Postman was directed by Leonid Amalrik for the Soyuzmultfilm animation studio – which was founded back in 1936 and I’m happy to say is still in operation today. The original short film is actually set on New Year’s Eve – with a group of children constructing a snowman to deliver a letter to Father Frost in the hopes they will receive a Holiday tree for their celebration. On the journey to deliver the letter, the ‘snow postman’ runs across some forest animals that want to steal the letter – so they can benefit from receiving the tree themselves.

Spunky the Snowman actually follows that basic story with minor changes here and there – relying on a narrator to move the story along. The real treat of this short in my opinion, is not the story but the beauty of the animation itself – something to help you get in the spirit of the Season.

Video and Article Image Provided by EncoreChristmas.

Enjoy A Little Ho-Ho-Horror With A Creepshow Holiday Special On Shudder!

Friends, just because the Holiday season is in full swing doesn’t mean that all television specials are focusing on everything light and uplifting. As it was recently announced that A Creepshow Holiday Special is going to be debuting on Shudder on the 18th of this month. It appears though that instead of two separate segments in the special – like with the first season of the series and even A Creepshow Animated Special – this is going to be an hour long tale entitled “Shapeshifters Anonymous“. Concerning a group of various shapeshifters who find themselves under siege by Santa Claus and what appears to be a legion of his street corner helpers – I think it is safe to say that A Creepshow Holiday Special is going to be high on over-the-top violence and humor.

Video and Article Image Provided by Shudder.

A Creepshow Holiday Special stars Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect) as well as Adam Pally (Iron Man 3). Interestingly enough the IMDb page for this special appears to be listed simply as “Episode #2.1” – in addition to the fact that the likes of Ali Larter (Mortal Kombat, House on Haunted Hill), Keith David (The Thing), and Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) are listed as making an appearance. If the Internet Movie Database is correct, it would lead one to assume that Shapeshifters Anonymous is actually one of the second season episodes of Shudder’s Creepshow series.

Although I must point out that it does seem odd to me that besides Camp and Pally there is no appearance of those other actors in the trailer itself, which leads me to believe they are actually going to be appearing in other Creepshow episodes later in 2021 when the second season officially premieres on Shudder.

Image Provided by the Official Shudder Twitter feed.

At the very least we do know that it is Greg Nicotero who has directed “Shapeshifters Anonymous” – thanks to that awesome piece of artwork courtesy of the official Shudder Twitter feed. Nicotero of course is also the showrunner for the series – a worthy choice to helm the production in my opinion as he worked with the late and great George A. Romero – the co-creator of the 1982 anthology film of the same name.

Celebrate The Holiday With The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw

Friends, from all of us at Pop Culture Retrorama, we hope you and yours are having a safe and happy holiday. I thought that since it was Thanksgiving that we should share an appropriate retro holiday special – I originally thought perhaps that 1979’s Intergalactic Thanksgiving or Please Don’t Eat the Planet would be a great choice – but in all honesty I talked about it already in that PCR podcast special. Instead I thought you might enjoy The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw – an uplifting Thanksgiving special that originally premiered 40 years ago on the 20th of November. I am not sure what I was doing on that night back in 1980, but I also managed to miss Daffy Duck’s Thanks-for-Giving Special, which was shown before the Berenstain Bears’ special.

The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw happens to be the second of five animated specials based on the popular book series by Stan and Jan Berenstain. The first as a matter of fact was The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree, that aired on December 3rd of 1979. In addition this animated special was written by Stan and Jan Berenstain and has the first appearance of the character of Bigpaw – who would go on to show up in future books as well as the mid-’80s animated series on CBS.

Music for the holiday special was overseen by Elliot Lawrence (As the World Turns, Network) – although the lyrics for the three song featured in the special were provided by Stan Berenstain. It featured Ron McLarty (The Flamingo Kid, The Postman) as both the narrator and the voice of Papa Bear, with Pat Lysinger, Gabriela Glatzer, and Jonathan Lewis as Mama, Sister, and Brother Bear. Bigpaw was voiced by Bob Kaliban, who you might recognize from the likes of Car 54, Where Are You? or the 2009 version of Schoolhouse Rock!.

Video Provided by Jack Sheldon – Topic.

The story for The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw concerns a legend in Bear Country known appropriately enough as ‘The Thanksgiving Legend of Bigpaw’. It states that if the bears show no signs of being generous to the needy – especially with the gifts provided by Mother Nature – then Bigpaw will show up to eat up Bear Country due to the ‘selfishness debt’. As it turns out, the legend is… partly… true. Can Thanksgiving be saved after a disastrous meeting between Bigpaw and the citizens of Bear Country?

Video and Article Image Provided by Berenstain Bears.

Vincent Price Hosts 1974’s The Horror Hall Of Fame

Friends, as hard as it might be to believe, we have nearly reach the end of October and only one more day remains until Halloween. Obviously I am not sure what you might have planned in regards to celebrations plans for tomorrow – but might I suggest you find a way to squeeze in The Horror Hall of Fame television special? Originally released on the evening of February 20th of 1974, it just so happens to feature none other than Vincent Price as host, along with some fantastic guest stars sharing their history with the horror genre.

Interestingly enough there were three other Horror Hall of Fame television specials – but as I’ve found online they have no connection besides honoring the horror genre. With The Horror Hall of Fame it is presented as more of a talk show or perhaps a variety special is the more apt description. Besides having the legendary Vincent Price acting as host – you also have the likes of John Astin (The Addams Family), Frank Gorshin (Batman ’66), John Carradine (The Secret of NIMH), Candy Clark (American Graffiti), as well as iconic make-up artist William Tuttle (The Twilight Zone).

Here is a fun fact for you, supposedly the actual taping of The Horror Hall of Fame, or at least the segment featuring Carradine was on February 5th of 1974. I bring this up as if that is indeed true – it would mean it was his 68th birthday. What better way to celebrate than appear beside a fellow member of the ‘Horror Hall of Fame’ and reminiscence on your career in horror films?

So without further ado, dim the lights if you are able and let Vincent Price act as your guide through the hallowed halls… and crypts… of 1974’s The Horror Hall of Fame.

Video and Article Image Provided by Dr. Gangrene.

We will have a few more holiday treats for you tomorrow – so make sure to check back with us for some Halloween fun throughout the day. In addition, a huge thank you to Dr. Gangrene for uploading this 1974 gem of a Holiday special!

A Creepshow Animated Special Debuts On October 29th!

Friends, as originally posted back at the end of September, while we are not lucky enough to be getting the second season of Shudder’s Creepshow this Season – we are at least being gifted two terrifying tales courtesy of A Creepshow Animated Special. The original information for the upcoming special stated that it would debut on Shudder on October 26th – it appears that the Creep needed a little extra time however as the new date is now Thursday October the 29th. The delay is understandable as the trailer for A Creepshow Animated Special reveals – the Creep himself is doing all the hard work of animating the Holiday treat!

A Creepshow Animated Special will feature two stories from Father and Son duo, Joe Hill (NOS4A2) and Stephen King (Salem’s Lot). The former has contributed a short story entitled Twittering from the Circus of the Dead – which was initially published in the 2010 collection entitled The New Dead. In my opinon, what little that actually might be worth, if you are a fan of the zombie genre you totally need to add the book to your personal library. In this adaptation by Melanie Dale, it is Joey King (The Act, Fargo) that lends her voice to the animated segment about a bored teenager who is in for the shock of her life.

Stephen King’s 1982 short story Survivor Type, which originally was published in the horror anthology collection entitled Terrors – has none other than Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys, Young Guns) portraying a shipwrecked man… who must face some extremely gruesome choices to survive. I believe that it is Creepshow showrunner Greg Nicotero that has handled the the duties for adapting this memorable short story.

Video and Article Image Provided by Shudder.

In closing out this article, besides The Mortuary Collection, A Creepshow Animated Special is what I have been most looking forward to watching this Season – and as it debuts just a few day before Halloween – it will certainly make for a most delightful treat. I will be sure to provide a non-spoiler review after I have the pleasure of checking it out for myself.

It Took 40 Years But I Finally Got One Of The Black Hole Puzzles!

The Black Hole Puzzle - Whitman - 1979

Friends, I dearly hope that you all are enjoying a very safe and Happy Holiday as well as the wish that you all experienced a very Merry Christmas. For myself – thanks to my friends and fellow co-workers at the arcade I had the day off to attempt to catch up on my sleep and enjoy a dinner with my Wife and Father. While due to a rather… energetic cat… I am afraid that we were not able to put up a tree this year – but other traditions were observed such as reading the entire run of Warren Ellis and James Cassaday’s Planetary as well as feasting on homemade chili. In addition I was able to see out the day by watching one of my favorite adaptations of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol – the 1984 made-for-television version starring the likes of George C. Scott, David Warner, Edward Woodward, Angela Pleasence, and Roger Rees. Also thanks to one of my best friends I received a wonderful retro related gift – one that has shockingly survived in nearly pristine condition for 40 years. I was given a Whitman puzzle for 1979’s The Black Hole – one that happens to feature the imposing Maximilian threatening some of the crew of the Palomino.

Video Provided by Epic Rocketry.

And that iconic robot menace does that and much more – poor Dr. Alex Durant (Anthony Perkins) – in the 1979 Walt Disney film. Having seen the film when it was originally released on December 21st of ’79 I can tell you that while I enjoyed the movie quite a bit – it was not only Maximilian but those heroic robots V.I.N.CENT and Old B.O.B. that I was most impressed with. And while it is true that Mego did produce action figures – kind of similar to what Hasbro would do with their 1982 G.I. Joe figures – I only managed to get V.I.N.CENT – and promptly snapped off one of his legs.

Video Provided by Brick Mantooth.

I really do like The Black Hole and I believe it is better than most people think – while it certainly wasn’t perfect it still was quite entertaining. I find it quite fitting that four days after the film celebrated it’s 40th anniversary that I would receive The Black Hole puzzle. The illustration for this puzzle was provided by Paul Edward Wenzel – a well known name for Walt Disney enthusiasts as for over 42 years he worked for the studio, providing artwork for collectibles and even films. It has been said that his artwork was featured on over 100 movie posters like Mary Poppins, The Parent Trap, Moon Pilot, Dragonslayer, and The Black Cauldron to name a few. I think it is interesting that for the puzzle – a similar illustration by Wenzel was used for the coloring book – that Maximilian is much, much bigger than in the film. I suppose though however that it does get the point across on how deadly and menacing the creation of Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell) truly is.

Pop Culture Retrorama Podcast Ep. 012 – A Cosmic Christmas (1977)

A Cosmic Christmas - Pop Culture Retrorama Podcast - Ep - 12

While this latest episode of the Pop Culture Retrorama podcast was indeed intended to be published on Christmas Eve, it just did not work out that way – having said that the message of the 1977 A Cosmic Christmas obviously is perfect for today. With the Holidays upon us it just felt right to tackle this particular television Holiday special that was produced by Nelvana Ltd. for the Canadian Broadcasting Company back in the day – although as I mention in the episode itself, I came to love it thanks to a local video store in the early ’80s. It was packaged with three additional Holiday TV specials that Nelvana had produced… it was a VHS tape that I was so attached to that my Father at one point refused to ever rent it for me again. As I attempt on every podcast – I shine a light on the creation of not only A Cosmic Christmas but in this case the founding of Nelvana – the extremely prolific Canadian animation studio. In addition I share with you a little history on the original three founders of the studio and the rather impressive projects they had a hand in. A Cosmic Christmas is an animated treat for the Holidays with a delightful and most assuredly different style of animation!

As a first fully animated half hour project for Nelvana – A Cosmic Christmas has a few rough spots but the amount of talent involved with the special shines through. Not the least of which includes having Sylvia Tyson providing the songs – she is probably best known for penning the incredibly catchy “You Were On My Mind” – a chart topping ditty covered by The We Five!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbuzEjEHso0
Video Provided by Classic Performances 2.

I point this out on the show itself but for some reason A Cosmic Christmas is not available on DVD or Blu-Ray at this time but at the very least you can pick up a copy on Amazon Streaming. And for what it’s worth if you really want a deep dive into the history of Nelvana, you will want to put aside a little bit of time and read this 2001 article from Kidscreen – like with many groundbreaking ideas – it is kind of amazing just how much luck and self-confidence played into the company making it big.

The story for A Cosmic Christmas involves three alien visitors arriving on Earth in modern times – trying to find an answer to a question their people have been seeking for a very long time. The good news is thanks to Keep It Weird‘s YouTube Channel you can actually watch A Cosmic Christmas for yourself – although there are some slight edits to this version of the animated special.

Video Provided by Keep It Weird!

If you have any suggestions for topics you would like for us to cover in a future episode – or possibly you have comments on the current show itself, email them to me at VicSagePopCulture@gmail.com You can also contact me on Facebook or even Twitter. Or perhaps check out the Pop Culture Retrorama Facebook page? There you can find posts a couple of times a day – featuring vintage commercials, comic book ads and toys.

The theme used at the beginning and ending of this episode was provided by Earl Green, if you enjoy his work, make sure to check out his exceptional spot on the internet – TheLogBook.com – let him know we sent you.

As always thank you for taking the time to listen to the show – from all of us at Pop Culture Retrorama we wish you a very Happy Holiday!

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John Denver And The Muppets – A Christmas Together (1979)

John Denver And The Muppets - A Christmas Together - 1979 - Rockford Jay

Friends, I amrunning extremely late with today’s article I am afraid to say – long story short, work the other evening threw a massive monkey wrench into my original plans, which was to have the brand new Pop Culture Retrorama podcast uploaded for your listening pleasure. As the subject of the new episode takes places on Christmas Eve… well… it would have been perfect but at least you will get a chance to listen to it on Christmas morning. I want to give a huge thank you to Allison Venezio-Preston for stepping up and publishing her article on Stetson – so you had that to enjoy earlier today. However, once again it was Rockford Jay who contacted me and provided another fantastic idea for an article – in this case the 1979 classic John Denver and The Muppets – A Christmas Together. An absolutely wonderful album filled with 13 tracks of some of the best Holiday music – that was originally released in October of 1979 – it was two months later on December 5th that ABC aired the John Denver and the Muppets – A Christmas Together television special. And while it was re-aired a couple of times over the year… the shocking fact is that this TV special has not been released on any home media format – not VHS, DVD or Blu-Ray. Which is a shame as it really is a remarkable Holiday special – it also marked the first time that Jim Henson and his studio created more realistic puppets for a production. Which he mentioned in an interview with Press Democrat in an article that was published on the day the special aired:

“they were carved from urethane foam, like most of the Muppets, and painted in New York. We had to be careful not to offend anyone by giving the figures comic characteristics. These are the first serious puppets we’ve made.”

Video Provided by Xtremepizan.

For myself I was first introduced to 1979’s John Denver and the Muppets – A Christmas Together courtesy of my grade school. This was in November in music class when we were gearing up for what to perform for the school pageant – our teacher brought along this still fantastic album and did her level best to keep order as we kids naturally lost it with Denver and The Muppets rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

Video Provided by Corn Bread Obrien.

John Denver and the Muppets is an album I listen to every single Holiday season… or if I am just feeling a little blue. I want to thank Allison Venezio-Preston once again for picking up my slack today and for always crafting a wonderful article. Of course as always I want to thank Rockford Jay for being kind enough to remind me about this 1979 album and planting the seed of writing about it – to say nothing of the fact he took time to take photos of his personal collection of said album!