Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Meet The Brady Bunch

1972 Meet the Brady Bunch LP cover
Side One
1. We'll Always Be Friends (2:37)
2. Day After Day (3:09)
3. Baby, I'm-A Want You (2:42)
4. I Believe In You (1:56)
5. American Pie (3:39)
6. Time To Change (2:08)

Side Two
1. Me And You And A Dog Named Boo (3:00)
2. I Just Want To Be Your Friend (2:33)
3. Love My Life Away (2:38)
4. Come Run With Me (2:43)
5. Ain't It Crazy (2:07)
6. We Can Make The World A Whole Lot Brighter (2:25)

I found this record at the thrift store about a month ago, and while there was never any doubt that an artifact of such great historical and cultural significance would be featured here, the question of when it would happen was totally up in the air... until news of Brady Bunch creator, Sherwood Schwartz's recent passing prompted us to immediately stop the presses and get busy writing about The Brady Bunch. This report is dedicated to the man most responsible for bringing the Brady family into our living rooms and our lives.

Brady Cool
This cool Brady Bunch LP was released in 1972 by Paramount Records and was the sec... wait, what do you mean the words "Brady Bunch" and "cool" can't exist in the same sentence? Perhaps you're forgetting this is the show that introduced to the world, that hot new recording sensation Johnny Bravo? Come on, he had "all the platter jockeys waiting to freak out" over his new album (and he hadn't even recorded it yet). And how about that time Bobby rescued a classmate's kitten from an abandoned house and messed up his safety monitor uniform... OK, maybe we should just forget about that one, with the whole safety monitor thing and all...

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!
Cool or not, I've always liked the Bradys (even if I didn't always want to admit it). There is something comforting about the Brady World, where a fair and amusing solution to all of life's problems is just an emergency family meeting away. Sure, they will always be scoffed at by the self-styled too cool for school crowd, but deep down, aren't we all just a little jealous that our own families never erected a giant house of cards to settle a trading stamp dispute? And who among us has ever built an actual working volcano, complete with smoke that comes out ... and real molten lava that oozes all over the place? Uh-huh, that's what I thought. Remember that the next time you think about calling a Brady "square."

The Songs
I am pleasantly surprised at how much I'm actually enjoying many of these songs. The album is off to a strong start with the first three tracks: We'll Always Be Friends is a really nice opener, and dare I say, is even a bit touching *sniff* (no, I am not crying ... I just got done chopping some onions!). It sounds like all six of the kids are singing in unison, but with a mix that emphasizes the girls' voices. I can definitely recognize Marcia and Greg's voices when I listen closely, but it's more difficult for me to separate and pick out the others. 

1972 Paramount Records PAS-6032
The vocal mix sounds much the same on the Badfinger song Day After Day. The musical accompaniment is well done, and overall, it's a good and faithful rendition of the song, but with more sugary sweet vocals, naturally. 

I find the Bread song Baby, I'm-A Want You to be enjoyable, as well. The verse beginning with the line "used to be my life was just emotions passing by" sounds especially good. I think there is a key change there and the vocal mix seems to change up from the previous part.

Things go decidedly downhill from there with the upbeat and cheesy I Believe in You. Conjuring images of an embarrassingly choreographed, awkward song and dance routine, complete with spangled bell-bottomed jumpsuits, I find myself abruptly jolted from my relaxing, Marcia hair brushing daydreams, and into television variety show hell. 

Their inappropriately chipper version of Don McClean's American Pie offers no respite for this listener. I don't much care even for the original recording, to be honest, and this brassy, uptempo version does nothing to win me over to the song. In his book Growing Up Brady, Barry Williams even writes: "Worst of all, though, was our extraordinarily awful rendition of 'American Pie.' Ouch!"  

Side one ends with Time to Change; a song originally heard on an episode of the TV series. Absent from this recording are the lines Peter sings with his cracking, out of tune voice so prominently featured on the TV show version. This song also has less full-on, layered chorus vocals and more solo singing parts than any song heard thus far and I actually enjoyed it much more than the previous two tracks.

Back of 1972 Meet the Brady Bunch cover
For some reason, as soon as I saw the title on the back of the cover, I pictured Bobby singing lead on the Lobo song Me and You and a Dog Named Boo, but it's another one with what sounds like all of the kids singing in unison.

The next bunch of songs are not really grabbing me at all. The unrelenting, layered vocal mix/sound with its minimal dynamic changes starts to wear thin and become tiresome by now. I would also say the song selections on this side could have been better. 

We Can Make the World a Whole Lot Brighter closes the album on a positive note, and while I do enjoy this track, it sounds strangely subdued and melancholic, especially considering the optimistic title. It is no Sunshine Day, for sure, but I do agree that the Brady Bunch can (and do) make the world a whole lot brighter! 

Click here to listen to We'll Always Be Friends at Myspace.com
Click here to watch a segment of the Johnny Bravo episode on YouTube