Fourteen years ago, one of the worst moves that could have ever happened to the film and television worlds became a reality when the family of Jim Henson sold the rights to the Muppets and so many other related properties to Disney. The result of that sale has proven to be anything but successful with a handful of Muppet movies that have flopped as well as an equally unsuccessful TV series on ABC. The irony here is that allegedly Jim Henson wanted to sell to Disney way back in 1990, even farther back in time. Even Disney’s recent attempt to reboot Muppet Babies has proven to be anything but enjoyable. One can’t help but wonder how Henson would feel today if he were around and had sold to Disney all those years ago. For all the damage that Disney has done to Jim Henson’s legacy and that of his creations, it luckily didn’t get full control of everything that The Jim Henson Company does. That is evidenced in the form of the PBS Kids series Dinosaur Train, Sid The Science Kid and its newest creation, Splash and Bubbles. The latter of that group debuted on PBS Kids only two years ago and has already gone on to become one of the network’s top 5 most popular series, even finally seeing its first DVD release last week. The relatively young series even received its own soundtrack accompaniment as the month of June opened thanks to Music Film Recordings, Varese Sarabande, The Jim Henson Company and Herschend Studios. The 22-song record is the first of its kind for any PBS Kids series. Keeping that in mind, it shows that the network’s other shows could easily compete with Disney’s TV show soundtracks. This is proven in part through the record’s musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly. The record’s lyrical themes also support that statement and will be discussed later. The record’s sequencing supports that statement just as much as the lyrical themes and musical arrangements. Each element is pivotal in its own right in proving the viability of soundtracks from PBS Kids’ shows. All things considered, they make Splash and Bubbles: Rhythm of the Reef – Songs From Season One a strong first ever effort in what could be a bright musical future for PBS and PBS Kids.
Splash and Bubbles: Rhythm of the Reef – Songs From Season One is an intriguing new offering for fans of the family favorite PBS Kids series. That is especially the case considering that its release early this month marked the first time that any PBS Kids series has seen a soundtrack accompaniment to the show released. Considering that this is the first time that such a recording has been released, it is a strong first effort that will entertain the whole family. That is due in part to the musical arrangements within each of its 22 songs. The arrangements, from start to end, are fun, old school r&b and doo-wop style works. That is evident right from the compilation’s opener, the series’ title song. The fund definitely doesn’t end there. Case in point ‘I Never Knew About You,’ with its bass-driven arrangement. It conjures thoughts of some of the great songs included in the Blues Brothers movies, especially considering the inclusion of the keyboards and horns. To that end, this song’s arrangement is just as certain as any other to entertain listeners of all ages. ‘Hangin’ With Friends’ meanwhile conjures thoughts of Jackson 5, K.C. and the Sunshine Band among others. As if that isn’t enough, ‘Living It Up’ instantly conjures thoughts of Tina Turner while ‘One Small Ripple’ leads to thoughts of Diana Ross and the Supremes with its gentle, flowing arrangement and harmonies. One could even reach even farther back with ‘Only in the Ocean’ and compare its arrangement to the likes of The Trammps’ ‘Disco Inferno’ and Rose Royce’s ‘Car Wash.’ That’s the case even despite the fact that this song is only one-minute, 41-seconds long. Stylistically speaking, there’s no denying the comparisons. Between these comparisons, the others noted here and so many others that could be made throughout the record – including comparisons to works from Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament Funkadelic and so many others – the clear old school r&b style sounds exhibited throughout this record are sure to entertain adults just as much as their younger counterparts, if not more so. To that end, one must admit that the record’s collective arrangements are critical in their own right to its presentation. While they obviously play a key part in the album’s whole, they are not – again, collectively – its only important element. The album’s lyrical themes are just as important to note here as the record’s arrangements.
The lyrical themes expressed throughout Splash and Bubbles: Rhythm of the Reef – Songs From Season One present their own share of variance, just as with the record’s arrangements. ‘My Best Friend Ever’ and ‘Hangin’ With Friends’ obviously present the theme of friendship. ‘I Never Knew About You’ promotes diversity and taking the time to learn about others (I.E. tolerance). In a time when it seems that xenophobia and racism have so overtly returned to the fore of society, such a theme is not just welcome, but needed as a reminder for children and adults alike. On a much lighter note, ‘I Don’t Know What I’m Doing,’ – in its own way – seems to promote taking life as it comes and not being so serious about every little thing. It’s not saying to be carefree about everything, but to not be so serious about everything because being a little bit looser makes life better. While there are plenty of life lessons presented in the featured songs, there is also an emphasis on caring for the environment in the form of ‘Reeftown Rangers’ and ‘Keep It Clean.’ There are even biology lessons of sorts in the forms of ‘So Many Kinds of Fish,’ ‘Catch a Current,’ ‘The Changing Tide’ and ‘Seasonal Pond.’ Simply put, the lyrical themes featured throughout the record offer just as much to appreciate as the album’s musical arrangements thanks to their own variance. This makes the album even more welcome in both the home and the classroom. The compilation’s sequencing puts the final touch to its presentation, proving once more what makes this first-time effort a welcome recording from the involved parties.
Considering that Splash and Bubbles: Rhythm of the Reef – Songs From Season One spans 22 songs and 27 minutes, plenty of thought had to have been put into its sequencing. This is the case even despite the fact that the songs are not very long. The longest of the featured songs – the southern gospel-tinged ‘Dark in the Deep’ – clocks in at only one minute, 42 seconds and the shortest – ‘Only in the Ocean’ – at 33 seconds. By and large, the record keeps the energy flowing from one song to the next, slowing things down only three times – early in its run in ‘One Small Ripple,’ later in ‘And So We Celebrate (Coral Day)’ and in the album’s closer ‘Seasonal Pond.’ Other than those three moments, the record keeps things moving fluidly from one song to the next with plenty of mid-tempo and up-tempo arrangements. It also works hard to keep the lyrical topics varied, so as to ensure even more, listeners’ engagement. Keeping this in mind, the stability offered through the record’s arrangements does just as much to make this record a welcome companion to its TV series as its arrangements themselves and the album’s lyrical themes. When all three elements are jointly considered, they make this compilation a fun, welcome accompaniment to its broadcast companion.
Splash and Bubbles: Rhythm of the Reef – Songs From Season One is an enjoyable accompaniment to its broadcast counterpart that is just as certain to entertain grown-ups as it is children. That is proven in part through musical arrangements that are deeply rooted in the old Motown sounds of the 60s and 70s. Its lyrical themes present just enough variance – from friendship to environmental concern to general biology – to keep young listeners engaged and entertained. The sequencing of those themes and arrangements shows that plenty of time and thought was put into keeping listeners engaged and entertained in this aspect, too. When that thought is taken into consideration along with the thought put into the arrangements and lyrical themes, the whole of these elements makes the album in whole an enjoyable companion to the Splash and Bubbles series. It is available now in stores and online. More information on Splash and Bubbles is available online along with plenty of games, activities, printables and more at:
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