Monthly Archives: January 2015

Songs The Brothers Warner Taught Me – A Review

As this is a review of a piece of art (an album) I should start by declaring that I have a potential conflict of interest, in that I know the artist through social media. But that doesn’t stop me liking it any the less, so any enthusiasm detected is that of a music-lover, rather than a shill.

Weird title, eh? The brothers Warner – or Warner Bros if that doesn’t ring any bells – produced a large number of cartoons under the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies brands – but have you ever wondered why? Until my encounter with this piece of work, I most certainly hadn’t. I had been quite happy to see cartoon characters fall off cliffs, get blown up, have anvils dropped on them – and always walk away. (A sort of guiltless violence, as the victim is always back in the next scene – but that’s another story altogether!)

This work, by Megan Lynch, aka @may_gun is, well, best let her describe it:

Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies were originally created to popularize songs from Warner Bros. musicals and songs that Warner Bros. owned the publishing rights to. So music and song has always been integral to them. Like many of my generation, my first exposure to classical music and jazz standards was via Warner Bros. cartoons. However, we usually only hear 5 seconds or less of the lyrics. Now you can hear these songs in context, as they were written.

Bear in mind that the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons were produced from the early 1930s to the late 1960s – so, considering the previous statement, the songs in question would pre-date these. (I may be wrong.)

So, we have a collection of songs from the early C20th, played on acoustic instruments, with vocals. When I listened to it, something seemed – wrong. It was then that I realised that there was nothing wrong at all, it’s just that I was expecting the clipping of mechanical (or early magnetic) recording, and the scratches of a shellac disc! [This is from someone who regularly listens to classical music, 100s of years old, played on period instruments; but there were no recordings of the original performances – this must be the difference.]

So, how does it actually sound? Well, it feels authentic. The recording sounds dry – and that’s a technical term – what you hear is what was recorded, hasn’t been buggered around with, tarted up, and all those little delights that make a “studio” album. I’m pretty sure that things WERE done to the recording, but it’s subtle, and doesn’t detract from the period nature of the pieces. If I were sitting in a studio, say, 90 years ago, this is what I would expect to hear. (Although, to keep with the times, I’d probably be choking to death on cigarette smoke.)

I feel that Megan’s voice is particularly suited to this genre – but then this is probably doing her a disservice, as I haven’t heard how she deals with other genres! (We’re talking about a professional vocal artist, here.) The instrumental side Just Works. The guitar on one of the tracks (sorry, wasn’t taking note,) recalled to mind Reinhardt, which probably further made my mind listen for the non-existent scratches, since these abound on all my Reinhardt/Grappelli recordings.

I feel strangely moved by having listened to this; I’m not great at processing speech (I tend to treat most song lyrics as music, rather than spoken language,) but I caught quite a few of the words listening to this – likewise for pieces actually recorded in that period – and picked up a lot of humour, often ironic, and a certain joie-de-vivre.

How to conclude? Oh, that’s simple – just go and buy the bloody thing, support the artist directly, and enjoy some great music from a century or so ago, as it should be heard.

Here it is, on BandCamp. Enjoy! (Because I did.)