Well, it’s already two weeks into December—the holidays are fast approaching—and we’re already two weeks into the Morbidly Merry Christmas Celebration! With time flying so fast, you’re going to want to start getting all your holiday shopping wrapped up soon—and the album we have for you this week would make a perfect gift for your own little Jack Skellington. We’re talking about the recently released Nightmare Revisited from the folks over at Walt Disney Records. This album is bursting at the seams with a wide variety of artists performing their renditions of Danny Elfman’s classic songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas, with Danny Elfman himself making a special appearance.
While a vast majority of the songs are superb, there are a few that leave a little to be desired. When I think of an album full of essentially cover songs, whether it be a tribute or not, I always look for the artists to either provide their own unique take on the original song, or at least to perform it in a way so complementary to the original that I am blown away at the true, rediscovered depth of the original. Marilyn Manson’s rendition of “This is Halloween” is a perfect example of this—there was so much that could have been done to make that track truly awesome—but it just didn’t follow through. The same could be said for The All-American Reject’s rendition of “Jack’s Lament” and Sparklehorse’s version of “Jack’s Obsession.” Not to say that these songs aren’t performed well, or that I didn’t enjoy them, they just didn’t blow me away like I had hoped. That being said, and even with a few songs that didn’t surprise me very much, this album is definitely worth picking up and giving it a spin yourself. If you’re a fan of the original Nightmare, I have a feeling that you’re going to love this album.
The CD starts off with a very fun Overture by Devotchka, played in an almost old-fashioned European circus style, followed up by Danny Elfman’s introductory narration. The album then dives head first into the Nightmare world with Marilyn Manson’s rendition of “This is Halloween” and All American Rejects version of “Jack’s Lament.” The album then takes a nice jaunt into the strange with the all instrumental track “Doctor Finklestein/In the Forest” performed by Amiina. This is the first song to really stand out against the rest—as the use of synthesizers really help to create and define the Elfman-esque world.
(“Dr Finklestein/In the Forest” clip)
We are then greeted by Flyleaf’s rendition of “What’s This” which is a hauntingly rocked out version of the original. Two thumbs up from me on their performance.
(“What’s This?” clip)
We’re then launched into the almost-nine-minute epic of the “Town Meeting Song” performed by The Polyphonic Spree. While this track runs really long, The Polyphonic Spree keep it musically very interesting. Given that the band has so many members, they’re able to keep all the layers and voices really rocking. They also change up the tempo and styles several times, which keeps the song moving.
Following the “Town Meeting Song” is a gloriously fun performance by The Vitamin String Quartet called “Jack and Sally Montage.” Their all instrumental performance is highlighted with various musical motifs taken from Elfman’s original score and delightfully arranged together. Their style really takes you back as you listen, and you can see the scenes play in your head.
(“Jack and Sally Montage” clip)
We’re then taken to the acoustic rendering of “Jack’s Obsession” by Sparklehorse and then rocked out by Korn with their version of “Kidnap the Sandy Claws.” I’m not the biggest fan of Korn—but this track is one of my favorites on the album. The lively song is heightened by their heavy rock style, perfectly suiting their performance to the characters in the film.
(“Kidnap the Sandy Claws” clip)
The rock out continues on with a rendition of “Making Christmas” by Rise Against. Their driving rock highlights the manic nature of the song and really lends a new layer to mania.
(“Making Christmas” clip)
We’re then taken into a more experimental track, with the song “Nabbed” by Yoshida Brothers. With funky beats and layers of electronic sounds, it lends an interesting twist to the fun motifs of the original Nightmare. This interesting sort of experimental feel is followed through with the next track “Oogie Boogie’s Song” as Rodrigo Y Gabriela perform the song acoustically on guitars and percussion, and yet actually omit the vocals of the song. This lends a really different, completely unexpected approach to the original version.
The next track is one of the finest—“Sally’s Song” performed by Amy Lee of Evanescence. Amy’s voice lends an incredibly haunting and beautiful emotion to the song. This is a perfect example of what I was talking about earlier—a cover of a song that really heightens the emotion and shows a whole new depth for the song.
(“Sally’s Song” clip)
The next track is a very experimental and fun track from RJD2 called “Christmas Eve Montage.” Following is a nice version of “Poor Jack” by the Plain White T’s. While very basic, this version of “Poor Jack” keeps very true to the original. It is then quickly followed up by another more experimental track called “To the Rescue” by Datarock. This is a really fun, upbeat piece of mania. There is a nice driving beat behind rocking synths and very fun melodies. This song changes so much that you will have to listen to it several times to catch it all. It really reminds me of Danny Elfman’s early days with Oingo Boingo when he did the music for his brother’s cult classic Forbidden Zone. Fans of that film will know exactly what I’m talking about.
(“To the Rescue” clip)
The last three songs on the disc offer a very emotional and sentimental ending to this great CD. The 18th track of the album is my personal favorite on the entire album—it is the “Finale/Reprise” performed by Shiny Toy Guns. This song starts off very spooky but then resolves to an incredibly beautiful vocal duet arrangement coupled with soaring synths. Danny Elfman then chimes in with his closing narration, followed by The Album Leaf’s “End Title.” This is a very calm and beautiful instrumental arrangement that acts as a perfect closer to the album.
By this point, the listener has traveled through their memories of the film and have landed delicately back on ground, fully encompassing a wide range of emotions brought together by Elfman’s original score.
Overall, this album gets two stumps up, as a very fun, and sometimes hauntingly beautiful, kick back to the good old days when I wanted to live in Halloweentown myself. I highly recommend all you Deadites head out and get yourself a copy of this CD. You should be able to find it at just about any major retailer—and definitely at any good music store. In my opinion, it would make a perfect holiday gift for anyone on your list—whether they’re a fan of the film or a fan of the artists on the album, it is sure to bring a smile to their face.
Well, that about does it for this week here in the Musical Morgue. I’ll play a little bit of my favorite track of the Nightmare Revisited album now, the “Finale/Reprise” for you. Be sure to tune in next time when we’ll have more great tunes that you’ll want to add to your collection. Until then, I’m Gruesome Joe and I’ll be chilling out here in the Morgue, waiting for you, until next time…