Saturday, September 01, 2007

CD Review: The Simpsons Tesitfy; Interview with Composer Alf Clausen; Solomon's Weekly Rant: Bob Newhart 35th Anniversary; Comcast's Tube Time

Welcome to a special Saturday here at Sitcoms Online! Today we we will have a mini-review, but for a CD, instead of a DVD. We will be reviewing the new Simpsons CD from Shout! Factory titled The Simpsons Testify - A Whole Lot More Original Music From the Original Television Series. And that is not all! We have an interview with Alf Clausen, the composer that is behind all of this great music on the CD! See skees53's mini review of The Simpsons Testify - A Whole Lot More Original Music From the Original Television Series and his interview with Mr. Alf Clausen:

The Simpsons Testify - A Whole Lot More Original Music From the Original Television Series (Shout!, $18.98) contains 41 musical tracks from one of the greatest series of all time, as selected by the award-winning music composer of the series, Alf Clausen. The CD contains music from 1999 all the way up through 2007, all tracks coming directly from the episodes (plus there are four tracks that were previously unaired on the series that are thrown in as a nice bonus). Fans of the series are certain to recognize many of the tracks, including "Ode to Branson," "They'll Never Stop the Simpsons," "Baby Stink Breath," "Homer & Marge," "Everybody Hates Ned Flanders," "Who Wants a Haircut?," and more songs and medleys from all of the great episodes from the past few seasons. Some of the songs even have well-known guests performing all or parts of a song, including Shawn Colvin, Los Lobos, Weird Al (performing "Homer & Marge," a great parody of John Cougar's "Jack & Diane"), David Byrne, The B-52's (parodying their own "Love Shack" with "Glove Slap"), Baha Men, and Rick Gervais.
The CD includes a nice booklet (just like the DVDs of the series, you can't do anything for The Simpsons without a nice booklet) that gives listeners all of the information that they need to know about each and every track contained within the CD, including the episode each track was recorded for, the characters that are included in the song, and the artists that performed the song. And even more like the DVDs (with their introduction by Matt Groening), there is even an introduction from Alf Clausen at the beginning of the booklet--very nice!
Honestly, it is hard to imagine what the series would be like without some of these great songs. It is almost bizarre to consider that musical tracks for a TV series could be this good, and in some cases (particularly "Homer & Marge" and "Everybody Hates Ned Flanders") can be addictive songs that you just can't get out of your head. The CD gives listeners an alternative method for listening to all of these great songs without having to watch the episodes on TV or wait for the DVDs to be released. Of course, the songs are nice to see with the original episode as well (the episode kind of helps to serve as a "video" for the music), but these songs are a rare exception in music created for a TV series where the music just by itself is excellent. For those that are interested in even more music from older seasons of the series, there are some other CDs out there that are similar to this, which are worth picking up if you are interested. But I have a feeling this will by no means be the last CD of this type--like they say in "They'll Never Stop The Simpsons," have no fears cause they'll have stories for years!
-- Reviewed by skees53
(5/5 stars)

To purchase this CD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
Amazon.com

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
The Simpsons Official Website
The Simpsons TV.com Page
Official Website for the Legendary Alf Clausen
Alf Clausen's Credits

As part of this release, we were fortunate enough to be able to have Alf Clausen take a few minutes to talk to us, the composer that is behind all of this great music on the CD. The interview, conducted by skees53, is as follows:

Sitcoms Online: I was reading about your education and training on your website and noticed that you had aspirations to become a music instructor. Yet instead, you became a composer for TV shows and movies, for many great series including The Simpsons. Did you ever anticipate going this route, particularly considering how music historically has not been part of TV shows?
Alf Clausen: Well, it was interesting because I grew up in a small town in North Dakota, Jamestown North Dakota, and for the most part, folks in North Dakota don't know much about the music industry. So, when I grew up, I really didn't have any idea that one could make a living as a composer and arranger in television. Little by little, as I completed my education and started getting into the business, I discovered that one really could make a living doing that. From an early age of 17, I was fascinated with the way music was put together from the standpoint of composition and the standpoint of orchestration, and I fell in love with Henry Mancini's music. I was very much influenced by his film music and that is what kind of drew me into this in the first place. And little by little, it just started working and I discovered that I really could make a living doing this.

Sitcoms Online: So pardon us if this sounds like a dumb question, but what exactly does a music composer do, particularly on a series like The Simpsons?
Alf Clausen: Well, my duties are two-fold on The Simpsons. The first part is called the underscore composer, which means that I compose all of the original background music that you hear on the show. So I get together with the executive producer and we look at the episode every week and decide which spots are going to contain music and he gives me his read on the emotional content of every one of the music cues, and from that point on, it is my job to then compose the music according to the guidelines that he has given me, compose it to time so that it actually fits in the scene. It's my responsibility to decide what kind of orchestra I'm going to use (we have a 35 piece orchestra every week), make sure the musicians get called to show up at the right place and right time, make sure the studio is booked, make sure all of the music is composed, arranged, and copied, and that I show up the following Friday and record all of the music. I conduct the orchestra myself. We have a fairly large crew as well. My job is kind of like an executive position, making sure all of those pieces fall into place, and I turn in the music at the end of the recording session and it fits the show in the way they want it. The other part of my job is as the songwriter. I write all of the original songs for the show and the job is pretty much the same except that the timeline is different. I do those about 7-8 months before the show airs, and I write the songs to the lyrics that the writers have crafted, but I produce the demos of the songs, I produce the final tracks of the songs, and make sure they are all the way the producers want them.

Sitcoms Online: I've noticed that you've done a lot of work with a lot of live-action series, yet The Simpsons is an animated series. How similar or different is this?
Alf Clausen: Its really quite similar in scope and in process because my job as an underscore composer is to compose original music that supports the dialog and action on the screen, and that process is the same whether its a sitcom, a drama show like Moonlighting (which I did before I got on The Simpsons), whether its a feature film, etc., the process is basically the same. In television, what I like about it is the instant gratification part where I can look at an episode on Friday and record the music the following Friday, its mixed on Monday and Tuesday, and goes on the air on Sunday. Its a very quick turnaround as opposed to films where it can sometimes take years.

Sitcoms Online: If The Simpsons hadn't come along or if it hadn't become the success that it is today, where do you think you would be in your career today?
Alf Clausen: On the unemployment line. No, only kidding! Well, that is hard to know because I had a certain amount of success before coming to The Simpsons all the way back to being the musical director of The Donny and Marie Show on ABC in the early part of my career, which was a top 10 show on ABC, so I've had a very good career up to the point where I did The Simpsons. I was the composer on the Moonlighting series for four year, on the sitcom ALF (no relation), a lot of movies of the week, some feature film work, and all of the kind of stuff, so I'm sure that my career would have gone on and probably I would have ended up working in feature films more than television.

Sitcoms Online: So basically just in a different direction?
Alf Clausen: Yeah, it was interesting, because I'd never done animation before, and they'd asked me if I'd ever done animation when they interviewed me for this job, and I said no, but that didn't deter them and they liked my credentials and they liked my music and decided to hire me.

Sitcoms Online: You never quite know what is going to come along in the future, so we don't know yet if The Simpsons will be what you are best known for, but if it is, would this be a legacy that you would be proud of?
Alf Clausen: Oh, absolutely... absolutely! I'm VERY proud to tell my friends what I do for a living and for the most part, they say "oh my god, that's wonderful, what's it like not having to work for a living?" They think I have all of this fun on the show all the time. Then I have to very subtly inform them that I work a few more hours than they do every week because I put in 80-90 hours a week sometimes when I'm doing the score for a show.

Sitcoms Online: It seems like it would be a great job, with The Simpsons being such a great show and everything.
Alf Clausen: Oh well it is, and the peripheral part of it is wonderful as well, the chance to release a CD like this of my music, that is a real treat and this is the third one and the reception of the first two has been wonderful, and it looks like it will be for this one as well.

We thank Mr. Alf Clausen for his time and wish him continued success. We are so honored we had a chance to interview him. A living legend indeed.


Solomon's Weekly Rant
Saturday, September 1, 2007
"Why is TV Land Celebrating Bob Newhart 35th Anniversary?; Comcast's Tube Time is Behind Time"
By Solomon Davis

For years I thought that a TV show had to currently be on the TV Land's programming schedule to have an anniversary celebration. Especially since in the last 3 years there were no celebrations for shows like Rhoda, Chico and the Man, and The Jeffersons. None of those of shows were on TV Land at the time of their anniversary and received no type of recognition. But in ten days, TV Land is actually going to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of The Bob Newhart Show. And after checking the TV Land schedule, just like I thought The Bob Newhart Show wasn't on listed anywhere in the regular schedule. So why is this anniversary so special to TV Land when all the other great shows from that decade were not recognized at all? It's quite obvious to me that someone in control of TV Land programming is a huge fan of this show because of this special treatment for a show that hasn't been on TV Land's schedule in years. So after contacting TV Land and asking why was The Bob Newhart Show's 35th Anniversary was so special to them, they responded to me and gave me a very unacceptable answer. I was told that the Bob Newhart anniversary is being celebrated because it's one of the premiere sitcoms of all time. So if that's true then why isn't there a marathon scheduled for Maude's 35th Anniversary in the month of September? This is just another one of those TV Land programming curve balls once again thrown to viewers by the people at TVPlanet.

Do the people at Comcast have any idea that there is a DVD release schedule on TVShowsonDVD.com? I don't think they do because if they did, Tube Time (On Demand service for classic TV from Sony) wouldn't need to be updated with the right sitcoms. By having the first seasons of Who's the Boss, Diff'rent Strokes, and The Facts of Life on Tube Time, means that Tube Time is "Behind Time." Why do viewers need to watch shows on Tube Time that they can buy on DVD? And what's even worse is that Tube Time also has What's Happening!! which is already complete on DVD which can also make Tube Time "Confused Time." Why not give us What's Happening Now!! instead? Comcast needs to really build a new department called research so that the right Sony shows can be featured OnDemand. If the people at Comcast had done any research, they would have viewers watching the third season of Diff'rent Strokes, the second season of Who's the Boss, and the fourth season of The Facts of Life. No one wants to watch TV shows that they own or can buy out of the stores because that is called a pointless TV viewing experience. So until Tube Time adds more updated TV shows to watch, they can just retitle Tube Time and have everyone click on "Behind Time" when they are in a TV season already on DVD watching mood.

My TV Highlight of the Week: Monday, August 27, 2007 - Jay Leno returning back from vacation on The Tonight Show.
My TV Lowlight of the Week: Monday, August 27, 2007 - ESPN airing the entire Michael Vick press conference over and over and over. Stop it!

Agree or disagree with Solomon? Discuss it here.

DISCLAIMER: Remember, Solomon is not the voice of SitcomsOnline. He is just stating his opinions and does not reflect what SitcomsOnline says or thinks. It is just his 'View' but it is always quite entertaining.

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