Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Music Review: FREDDY'S GREATEST HITS (1987, The Elm Street Group): PART 1

Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 34 minutes.

Well, folks, I decided to switch things up a little for this installment, and it's been a while since I did a bona fide music review. Chances are, you've already heard of this- hell, you might have even heard it- but I feel as if you didn't truly appreciate it, didn't 'get it.' If you did, you'd be listening to it right now instead of reading this. So, for those who are familiar- let's take a pensive journey in musical appreciation. For the newcomers, others have discussed it at X-EntertainmentThe Manchester Morgue, and Way Out Junk, and it's easily found for download and is listenable on YouTube, so prepare yourself for the best album Stacey Q never made.

Now, for starters, we all realize that Freddy underwent a kind of downward (or upward, depending on your vantage point) spiral, from diminutive, terrifying, burn victim child murderer to laughy, jokey, one-liner machine. We've all seen the the yo-yos, the trading cards, the board games, etc., etc., and I suppose it was only a matter of time before a pop album emerged, but interestingly enough, the release date of this album falls between installments 3 and 4––long before Freddy became a parody of a parody of a parody. Also of note is that Stacey Q's breakthrough album BETTER THAN HEAVEN (featuring such hits as "Two of Hearts and "Insecurity," sung in character as the psychiatrist Dr. Q)

was released in the latter half of 1986, and she didn't release her next until HARD MACHINE in 1988. What was she doing in 1987, exactly? It is my contention that FREDDY'S GREATEST HITS does not feature a Stacey Q rip-off artist, but quite possibly clandestine (contract-breaking) vocals by an incognito Ms. Q herself. But, I digress. Let's look at the blow by blow:

Track 1: "Do the Freddy"

A reimagining of "Do the Freddie" by the English mod group, Freddie and the Dreamers. (Yeah, I just saw you smugly arch your eyebrow and purse your lips when you saw that the original band name featured the word 'dreamers.') It is not, in fact, a remake of "Let's do the Freddie" by Chubby Checker, which was an attempt to profit from Freddie and the Dreamers' faddish success, unlike this, which is an attempt to artistically reimagine an existing work for a different age.

In case you didn't know what you were getting into, right off the bat we have Robert Englund scream: "I'M FREDDY- AND THIS IS FOR YOU!!! HAHAHAAHAHAHAHA!!!" which is immediately followed by some reverb-heavy 80's drums. Hang on tight, everyone- we're only four seconds into the album.

Then we got faux-Stacey Q and her back-up singers telling us to

"Pick your feet up/ swing your arms up, too/Move your head both ways/ Like you see him do/ Well, jump three feet to the swinging beat/ of the Freddy"

I can't quite say that I remember Freddy moving in that exact manner in the films. I guess I remember him jumping a lot, through mirrors and glass and such, but I can't recall if it was precisely three feet, or if it was even done to the swinging beat of the Freddy. Guess I'll have to watch all the movies again. But, for the time being, I'm willing to give faux-Stacey Q the benefit of the doubt. By the way, she's not in full-on Q mode in this first track. Probably she thought her contract enforcers would never listen past the first track of the Freddy Album. She really starts to crank up the Q-ish sex kitten by around Track 6. More on that later.

Anyway, Englund starts to mix up the AHAHAHAHAHAHAs (that occasionally interrupt the song) which straight out AHHHHHHHHHHHHs. Freddy is just straight-up howling (in pain?). We're only on Track 1, and it somehow sounds as if he is either having a large splinter extracted from his eye, or he's about to bust a nut– now, each represents a terrifying prospect, and I'm not sure we're yet in a mindset to properly consider them. With a few final extraneous howls, the song fades out and into...

2. Dance... or Else!

Freddy lays out the rules right away in this song. In fact, there's only one rule, and that rule is simple: DANCE...or else!!

"This here's the kind of party you don't need to show I.D./If you're a guest of Freddy's you can come right in for free/ the atmosphere is charged with party electricity/ there's just one rule applies/ but it's one you better keeeeeeeeep!"

And he's not kidding––"Dance or else" is the only rule at Club Freddy. There's nobody checking I.D., no drink minimum, no waitlist, hell, there's not even a rule against pissing on the toilet seats or leaving lewd graffiti behind on the bathroom walls, so long as you keep dancing as you do it.

Freddy's laugh in this song is more of a guffaw than a cackle or a howl, as was the case in Track 1. He's in control, and he knows it. And there's no reason for him to be perturbed––from his all-seeing, omniscient vantage point he can watch the dancers down below, adhering to Freddy's Rule––yep, they're dancing all right.

"You gotta daaaaaaaaaaaance––DANCE OR ELSE! /Remember marathons? you had to dance until you drop/ on Freddy's special dance floor the excitement never stops/ I'll give you one suggestion, it's a secret you can keep/ If you want to stay alive, you'll think twice before you sleeeeeep"

Now, this song goes on for four minutes and twenty-nine seconds, which may strike you as a tad excessive, but we haven's even gotten to the nearly six minute "Don't Sleep" or the instrumental track, "Elm Street Dreams." Well, I got some news for ya––Freddy is calling the shots, and he's not listening to some stuffy hit machine producer who usually cranks out two and three minute-long puff pieces.

Then Freddy recites a poem in the third person:

"Running steps work best at night/Remember Freddy's always right/Scared? Or do you think you've got the cure?/ Check out Freddy's manicure!"

I like the way he rhymes 'cure' with 'manicure.' Only you can get away with that kind of shit, Freddy. Then one of the gals re-recites the poem. She can't quite pull off the double-rhyme, but before it truly sinks in, there's a rockin' guitar solo. Then the song kinda drags itself out for another 2 minutes. I think Freddy is fully aware of this, so he inserts a lot of reverb, echo-effects, and repetition, leaving you with an even hazier recollection of events. Did that song really go on for nearly five minutes? Nahhh.
Annnd fade out. Whew. Okay, you can stop dancing...for now.

3. In the Midnight Hour

Next up, we have another Freddy cover, this time of Wilson Pickett's 1965 hit "In the Midnight Hour." Freddy joins the pantheon of great musical artists to cover this song, along with The Doors, Van Morrison, The Grateful Dead, Johnny Thunders, Roxy Music, and Echo & the Bunnymen. Freddy's version, not surprisingly, is the best of these, even outdoing the original.

This one's pretty much a straight-up cover, down to the growlin' sax and the Hammond organ interludes, with a few startling interjections by Freddy.


Freddy's gettin' pretty worked up, and the studio back-up singers are really getting into it. I can only imagine in the recording studio the high-fives that occurred just after they wrapped. "Really soulful, ladies, nice work!"

4. Don't Sleep

Just when you thought you couldn't possibly have any more fun, Freddy switches things up on you with a mournful ballad he likes to call "Don't Sleep." Reminiscent of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," and in all the best ways, faux-Stacey Q really ratchets up the emotion on this track. I, for one, was almost in tears. I'm serious, she really lays it all out there.

It begins with an ominous warning from Freddy–

"Don't sleep....don't dream..."

a warning which is repeated by some new, ethereal, male back-up singers. Then Stacey:

"Oooooh, you know he's comin' out, tonight/ Yeah-eh-eh-yuhhh/ He's comin' after you- ton-night/there's no escape/so hear what I say-eh-eh-eyyyyyy/ ....If you wanna stay aliiiiiiiiiive– Don't Sleep"

And on that last "Don't sleep," Freddy joins in, harmoniously, on the word "sleep" to emphasize the seriousness of the situation and give it a little more weight, more Freddy/Stacey pathos. This could have been one of the great all-time duets, had there been a video. Kinda like that one with Paula Abdul and the cartoon cat. I like that one a lot. Anyway, we get that soulful, echoey guitar solo at the one-minute mark, just to let you know that this song is going to go on for a long time: there will be multiple solo breaks.

"Ooooh, you wanted somethin' new, tonight/ Ohhhh-oh-oh-ohhh/ What are you tryin' to do, tonight?/ If this is some game/ I just don't wanna play/ If you wanna stay alive...DON'T SLEEEEEEEEEP"

Wait a second, Stacey, is this song still about Freddy? Is there some stuff happening in your life that you would like to talk about? I'm getting worried over here. This isn't just some game to me, either. I care. Then, Boom- another soulful, echoey guitar solo. Get used to those.

"Oooooh/ You know he's comin' out toniiiiight/ Oh, no-oh-ohhh/ He's comin' after you, toniiiiiight/ You try to escape/ But he will have his wayyyyy/ And if you wanna stay alive, don't sleeeeeeep"The rest of the song is sort of free-form guitar solo/spoken word. Freddy interrupts the reverie with a fiendish chortle, and we're on our way to:

5. All I Have to Do Is Dream

"I see your dreams!!!" Cue slappy bass riff. We are back on the road to morbid exuberance with this one. Man, that last track did a number on me, so give me a second. Whewww. Alright.

Now this is another cover- this one of "All I Have to Do is Dream," made famous by The Everly Brothers back in 1958. Freddy likes himself some Oldies, I can tell you that. I don't really remember synths, reverb-heavy drums, and slap bass in the original recording, but it's been a while since I heard it.

Freddy's got delicious comebacks in this one.

Girls: "All I have to do is dre-eee-eee-am. Dream, dream, dream..."

Freddy: "AWWWWWWW, DID YOU MISS FREDDY??? Just remember, all you have to do is DREAM– HAAAAAHAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!"

There's some awesome spoken-word interaction, too–

Girls: "Gee whiz"Freddy: "AWWWWW!"

Freddy is all smartass, all the time in this one, even mocking the way the singers enunciate, near the end. Damn! It's good to have you back Freddy.

All that woeful melancholy in Track 4 kinda had me down in the dumps.

Now, this concludes part one of FREDDY'S GREATEST HITS, but tomorrow I'll delve into some of the most memorable songs on the album. Here's what we have to go:

6. Obsession
7. Wooly Bully
8. Down in the Boiler Room
9. Elm Street Dreams

-Sean Gill

Edit: Continued HERE.


Jason said...

LOL! Thank you for another music review!

Anonymous said...

Nice work mate. No offense, but you're a better man than I if you can listen to this crap in it's entirety.

skeelo said...

Am looking forward to part 2 very much!!! Hahahha this is great

Anonymous said...

Heard track 1 on the Dr. Demento show back in the 80's, and actually liked it (though I think the movies are dumb). I've been thinking of this song lately and wondering who sang it. Now I know!