Last week, Mike went to Llandudno and brought me back two albums he bought from a market. The albums were by two of my favourite artists: The Beatles and The Wombles. Okay, so the Wombles aren’t really one of my favourite bands (but they are jolly good fun) and the Beatles album was actually a group playing Beatles songs on the pan pipes, but I thought it’d still be fun to pit the two against each other.
I started off with The Pan Pipes Play The Beatles by The Pan Pipes. I love the Beatles and in the right setting the pan pipes can sound alright, so I was curious – if a little dubious – to find out how it would sound. The result was not good. Not good at all.
The first track was Let It Be, and straight away it sounded like a karaoke version of the song. A not-as-good version of the instrumental and an annoying instrument playing the melody as a guide for the vocals. I’m not a big fan of pan pipes anyway. Played correctly with the right backing they can sound okay, but like this… pfft. It’s not even good pan pipe playing! It really sounds like someone’s done it typing the notes into Garageband.
The album itself contains 17 Beatles songs and one John Lennon song. I point this out because Imagine is not a Beatles song. There are some good choices of Beatles songs though, with the likes of Fool On The Hill, In My Life and Norwegian Wood being some of the ‘lesser known’ songs along with the standard Let It Be, Yesterday and of course Hey Jude!, which is here printed with an exclamation mark.
To be honest, it’s all summed up by the album cover with the instruments. If you look at the drum kit, it’s not the one Ringo played. It’s someone trying to do something Beatles related but not being very convincing. I know that anybody trying to emulate the Beatles is never going to truly succeed, but this for me is a pretty poor tribute. I think it’s more that I don’t like the sound of the pan pipes and they don’t fit this kind of music, so it just doesn’t work at all. I hate to say it, but if you like the Beatles or have any respect for the pan pipes, do not buy this album.
Okay, so now onto the optimistically named greatest hits album, The Best Wombles Album So Far. I’ve heard a few songs before, so I’m going to write this as if I’d never heard any of the songs before.
The Wombling Song is undeniably one of the best TV theme tunes ever composed. I mean, how many kids TV themes have a full orchestra? Mike Batt’s beautiful arrangement and friendly lyrics make this a true classic. Remember You’re A Womble is the only other song that people really remember of the Wombles, and it’s easy to see why – cos it’s great fun! It’s more of a pop/rock song than the Wombling Song, but still retains some of the strings for that classical edge. It’s a good singalong song, doesn’t take itself too seriously and it has some seriously catchy lyrics.
Wombling White Tie and Tails is where you start to think “… hang on a minute. Are they just writing songs and adding ‘Womble’ into it?” The first two are all about being Wombles, but this is a song about dancing that’s just been tailored to mention Wombles. I don’t even remember Wombles doing much dancing. And lines like ‘Womble up and see me sometime’ make it sound like the Smurfs when they use Smurf to mean virtually everything. I hope the rest of the album isn’t going to be like this.
The Orinocco Song has some cool bluegrass music, but this time it’s a song about a guy being referred to as a Womble because he tried to tidy up. I suppose this works, but it’s a bit confusing. It’s like me doing a song about people nicknaming me Ben. If someone else was singing this, then it’d probably work better. It’s a good song though. Reminds me of The Monkees for some reason.
To Wimbledon With Love is a bit of a parody on James Bond. It’s a good style parody that would probably work in a really bad episode of The Wombles where one of them dreams of being a secret agent. So far we’ve had classical, rock, ballroom and bluegrass. There’s no consistency here. I mean, I know it’s a greatest hits, but still, it highlights that they just do lots of different styles.
Wombles On Parade gets back to a similar style as Remember You’re A Womble and sounds less contrived than the previous few songs. Aaand now they’ve lost it again, with a barbershop song with forced Womble references. The blues song that follows is less contrived, but still it’s introduced yet another genre into the album.
Wellington Goes To Waterloo is a nice little song that sounds a bit like a Beatles songs (or rather a Rutles song). We then go back into randomness with a country western song and at this point I’m not listening to the full songs, I’m skipping through when I get bored.
The album is rounded off with a Chinese-Womble themed song with weird high-pitched backing vocals (Invitation to the Ping Pong Ball), a Beach Boys style parody (Non Stop Wombling Summer Party), a medieval song with an excessively long title (The Myths And Legends Of King Merton Womble And His Journey To The Centre Of The Earth) a cover of Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King that has nothing to do with Wombles until a few people shout ‘Womble!’ near the end, a reggae song (Banana Rock) and finally Womble Of The Universe.
To be honest, this album has been very disappointing. I’d only ever heard The Wombling Song and Remember You’re A Womble and expected the rest to be like these two – songs about Womble life from the point of view of the Wombles – but it was just a mish mash of different styles and songs with the word Womble thrown in just to make it relevant. The songs themselves are good songs in their own right, but the fact they’ve used them for this project is a shame. I won’t be listening to any more Wombles songs.
So overall, neither of the albums did it for me, which is a real let down. I really wanted to like both albums but I just couldn’t. I don’t recommend you buy either album to be honest.
Beatles: (1 / 5) Wombles: (3 / 5)
Our rating: (2 / 5)