Fred Rogers was and is one of the most important figures in the modern history of American television, and Americans’ lives in general. It was through his program, which featured so many invaluable life lessons and unforgettable songs. He might not have been Catholic, but the ordained Presbyterian minister still worked his own great miracles during his life and career. Now thanks to independent entertainment firm Act IV Music, some of that music and those lessons have been given new life in the brand new compilation record Thank You, Mister Rogers. The 13-song record features new arrangements of some of the songs that Rogers and his staff composed for his timeless series Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood that are just as enjoyable as their source material. Those songs and their arrangements are both key in their own right to the whole of this compilation and each will receive its own attention here. The album’s sequencing is important to its presentation, too. When it is considered along with the songs and their arrangements, the whole of the noted elements makes Thank You, Mister Rogers a wonderful tribute to the life and legacy of a wonderful man.
Act IV Music’s new tribute to Fred Rogers and his music is a recording that listeners of all ages will enjoy. That is due in no small part to the songs themselves. Every one of the 13 songs that make up the record’s body are works that were featured in PBS’ timeless and beloved series Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor’ and ‘It’s Such A Good Feeling,’ the songs that Rogers sang to open and close the show in every episode are here. So are ‘Many Ways To Say I Love You,’ ‘Some Things I Don’t Understand’ and ‘Please Don’t Think It’s Funny’ among so many others. The songs are performed by some very well-known names, adding to the album’s appeal. Famed singers Vanessa Williams and Kellie Pickler are joined by the likes of TV personality Tom Bergeron (whose performance of ‘Some Things I Don’t Understand’ is one of the record’s most surprisingly enjoyable moments), Jon Secada, Micky Dolenz and Rita Wilson (the wife of legendary actor Tom Hanks) as well as many other figures for the performances. That such big names were willing to come on board for this project and to perform such beloved songs says a lot about this compilation. The songs and their performers are collectively key to the whole of Thank You, Mister Rogers. They are only a portion of the compilation’s appeal. The arrangements featured in the recording play their own pivotal part to its whole.
The arrangements featured throughout the course of this record are important to note because they do stay true to their source material in large part. At the same time though, they also give the songs their own new identity in the process. In other words, they give audiences a touch of something old and something new at the same time. Case in point is Pickler’s take of ‘It’s Such A Good Feeling.’ Instead of keeping the song in its original form, Pickler took the song a step up, giving it more of a pop style work with a certain mainstream sensibility. On top of that, Rogers’ famous lines in which he sings, “I’ll be back/When the day is new/And I’ll have more ideas for you/And you’ll have things you’ll want to talk about/I will too” are replaced here with Pickler singing instead, “I’m glad we’re friends.” It comes across as surprising at first listen, but grows on audiences with each listener. That combination makes this take of the timeless work more than just another song from a children’s series, but almost a viable mainstream pop song. Williams’ vocal delivery n ‘Many Ways To Say I Love You’ meanwhile is so angelic. It works perfectly with the song’s gentle lullaby-style arrangement, making the song’s impact such that it will make even the most emotionally strong person get choked up. Bergeron’s performance in ‘Some Things I Don’t Understand’ does its own good job on this song is a bit more upbeat than Rogers’ take, yet doesn’t take away from that original by any means. If anything, it builds on Rogers’ version with its upbeat take and actually does a very good job of sounding and feeling like it is coming from the vantage point of a child. Some of the “whys” may even leave older listeners smiling and laughing slightly. The Cowsills’ take on the theme song of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is yet another example of the importance of the compilation’s arrangements. Yet again, audiences get here a song that stays mostly true to its source material, but instead of just leaving it as is, gives the song a bit of a kick, upping the tempo and making it slightly more poppy. The harmonies in the vocals add their own touch to the song’s whole. Between these arrangements and the compilation’s others, the whole of the compositions featured in this record does more than its share to make the recording enjoyable. When the arrangements are coupled with the song selections and their featured performers, the end result is a work that is that much more worth adding to any family’s home music library. The noted elements are not the record’s only notable elements either. Its overall sequencing is just as important as its content.
The sequencing of Thank You, Mr. Rogers is important to note because of the focus that it shows in making sure the record’s energy keeps listeners engaged and entertained. As noted, The Cowsills’ take of Won’t You Be My Neighbor’ is a slightly more upbeat take of the song than Mr. Rogers’ own original. It’s not some poppy type of work though. There is a certain reserved nature to the arrangement, but it is still slightly more upbeat than Rogers’ version of the song. The energy picks up more from there in the Afro-Cuban arrangement of ‘You Can Never Go Down The Drain’ before pulling back dramatically in ‘Sometimes People Are Good.’ The retro feel of ‘Perfectly Beautiful Day’ picks the record’s energy back up slightly while also transporting listeners back to the 1960s and 70s. That is something that older listeners will appreciate, that psychedelic sound here. Immediately after that song, the record’s energy pulls back again in ‘Many Ways To Say I Love You.’ Of course that lullaby gives way to a slightly more relaxed and smooth vibe in ‘Some Things I Don’t Understand.’ ‘This is My Home,’ which immediately follows ‘Some Things I Don’t Understand’ pulls back the album’s energy again before giving way to the more upbeat funk-style arrangement of ‘Let’s Be together Today,’ again changing the record’s feel. The up-and-down of the album’s energies continues from this point on to its finale, the ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas-esque ‘Thank You For Being You,’ which closes out the record with combined talents of all of the compilation’s featured artists. Simply put, from beginning to end, the album’s energies never remain the same from one song to the next. They change just enough from one work to the next to make sure they keep listeners engaged and entertained in this facet just as much as the songs and their arrangements do. Keeping all of this in mind, the thought and time put into the record’s sequencing, the work putting into the song selection and the artist selection makes the record in whole a fitting tribute to the life and legacy of Fred Rogers.
Act IV Music’s new Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood musical compilation Thank You, Mr. Rogers is a work that will appeal to listeners of all ages. It will take older listeners back to a better time while introducing a new generation to the greatness that was the music of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. That is proven in part through the songs featured in the compilation. The artists who perform the songs add even more interest to the record, as does the record’s sequencing. Each item examined here is key in its own way to the whole of Thank You, Mr. Rogers. All things considered, they make this compilation a presentation that listeners will themselves be thankful they added to their home music libraries. More information on Mr. Rogers-related titles is available online at:
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