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POP MUSIC | RECORD RACK

*** 1/2 VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Songs in the Key of Springfield: Original Music from the Television Series," Rhino

March 16, 1997|Steve Hochman

The musical moments on "The Simpsons"--like most things on the series--consistently provide some of the most delicious satire on the tube. Even removed from the animated visuals, the work of composer Alf Clausen and the show's writers seems touched with wicked genius.

Whatever the genre, they are almost unfailingly dead on target: Medleys from the musicals "Oh, Streetcar!" (Marge, played by Julie Kavner, as Blanche DuBois) and "Stop the Planet of the Apes" (Phil Hartman's Troy McLure in the Charlton Heston role) make you wish the productions were real. The "Schoolhouse Rock" parody "The Amendment Song" not only plays off baby boomer/Gen-X '70s nostalgia, but also slips in a very '90s civics lesson. And the devastatingly Disney-esque "See My Vest," in which Mr. Burns (Harry Shearer) belts about pelts, might fool real Disney composer Alan Menken.

This is a generous, thorough collection of highlights culled from the show's eight seasons--including several variations of Danny Elfman's evocative title music, the "Itchy and Scratchy" theme, guest spots by Tony Bennett and Beverly D'Angelo, an uncredited Michael Jackson appearance ("Happy Birthday Lisa," which is credited to Mozart) and numerous bits of dialogue. True fans, though, know there's even more where this came from, week after week--and nightly in syndication.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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* Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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