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COMEDY/SPOKEN WORD

Dan Castetlaneta I Am Not Homer (OGLIO)

Perhaps anticipating that The Simpsons can't run forever, Dan Castellaneta tries to establish himself as more than just the voice of Homer. A former Second City performer, Castellaneta's joined by wife Deb Lacusta (the couple wrote the 2000 Simpsons episode where Barney Gumble successfully swears off booze) in a series of original twocharacter sketches. The liner notes promise that Castellaneta and Lacusta are the next Nichols and May, but they don't offer much sophisticated relationship comedy here. Most of the bits are just tepid media parodies making fun of radio psychiatrists ("AM Therapy") is hardly breaking new ground, and was anybody praying for another spoof of dumb-as-rocks Elvis fans ("Elvus"Y? But there are compensations; the "Horoscope" skit is hilariously paranoid, and Castellaneta and Lacusta do an amusing riff on conflicting responses to Citizen Kane. (She:"A rich guy dies unhappy cause he misses his sled. Boo-hoo, boo-hoo.... He could afford another one!" He: "He didn't need another sled." She: 'Then why did he burn it?") The album's best cut is the last, with Homer and Castellaneta's other characters (Barney, Krusty, Grandpa, Groundskeeper Willie) in the studio harmonizing on a first-rate song, "So Dumb (Homer's Lament)": "The nuclear plant is the reason I can't make a baby with Marge anymore/The reason I'm fat so they tell me is that I eat eight meals instead of just four..." 7 Am Not Homer is a reminder that the brilliance of The Simpsons comes from the combination of the acting, writing and animating. Castellaneta alone is amusing here, but Homer's not Homer without a first-rate ensemble behind him. Andrew Milner

The Simpsons
Testify! A Whole Lot More Original Music from the Television Series

(SHOUT! FACTORY) It tells you all you need to know about the relative decline of The Simpsons that where the sitcom's first nine seasons yielded two CDs' worth of musical highlights, the most recent nine years have resulted in only this one. (The anthem "They'll Never Stop the Simpsons" from Season 13 is beginning to

reprising Sideshow Bob) attests to the show's widespread appeal. Everything's spoofed from Hollywood has-beens in a Branson revue (a Yakov Smirnoff soundalike croons, "In Soviet Union, revue watches you!") to commercials ("Baby Stink Breath," the rib sandwich ad "Tastes Like Liberty"), plus full-fledged parodies ofMy Fair Lady, Evita and last season's Sound of Music satire ("I have eight teeth, goin' on seven teeth ...") Wisely, Shout! Factory incorporates

SONGS

sound like a threat). And at times while listening to Testify, it's obvious that more attention was spent on some of the production numbers than on such things as plot and consistent characterizations during the corresponding episode itself. End of rant. Even second-tier Simpsons music is more nourishing than virtually anything else on the small screen, and the variety of celebs on this collection (Shawn Colvin, the B-52's, David Byrne, Los Lobos, Kelsey Grammer

lengthy portions of dialogue from the show itself, which is great to hear again and more than holds up on its own: "I am a patient, reasonable, handsome man," Homer tells Flanders, "but even I have my limits." Andrew Milner Harry Shearer
Songs Pointed and Pointless

(COURGETTE)

Speaking of Th,e Simpsons: Harry Shearer has released yet another CD of material

from his long-running public-radio show Le Show (heard Sundays on WHYY). Where last year's Dropping Anchors spoofed Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, the focus here is life in Bush's America. "Waterboardin", USA" presents Gitmo as reconceived by The Beach Boys ("It's not torture if I say it ain't/ Those conventions are so old and quaint"). New York Is My Lady" offers a Sinatraesque tribute to the Big Apple, appropriately ambivalent given Shearer's longstanding animosity toward NYC ("Her tunnels of love are calling ... Her Bronx shows such pleasing cleavage"). Welsh singer Judith Owen (aka Mrs. Shearer) contributes strong vocals on the Shirley Bassey pastiche "Connect the Dots," which deconstructs Dick Cheney's business deals, and fellow Folksmen Christopher Guest and Michael McKean join Shearer on the savvy folk spoof "Corn Wine." The weaker cuts on the album, "All Backed Up" and "Never Sayin Neverland Again," suspiciously feel like fillers; implying that Elvis Presley was constipated or that Michael Jackson molests young boys seems, in 2007, well, pointless. But overall, the album reveals Shearer at his comic and musical best whatever the persona, he continues to wield one of the sharpest satirical minds around. Andrew Milner

Comedy
Various Artists
GoSimpsonic With The Simpsons: More Original Music FYom the Television Series (RHINO) The follow-up to 1997's Songs in the Key of Springfield offers further proof) like it's needed, that The Simpsons is a singular achievement in American pop culture. The 53 cuts here demonstrate the sitcom's satirical range: from sports to politics "fa rapping Ronald Reagan), James Bond to Mary Poppins, piety to prostitution (the Emmy-winning production number "We Put the Spring in Springfield"). Kudos to series composer Alf Clausen, responsible for most of the original songs' music. He proves a true heir to the Stan Freberg/Tom Lehrer/Allan Sherman legacy of witty musical satire. Guest artists include The Ramones, Linda Ronstadt and Hank Williams Jr., but the regular cast members acquit themselves superbly. Kelsey "Sideshow Bob" Crammer's one-man H. M. 8. Pinafore would make Gilbert and Sullivan smile, and Harry Shearer's Mr. Bums singing a sultry "Happy Birthday, Mr. Smithers" is worth the purchase price alone. The entire casf s lampoon of cheesy 1970s TV variety shows (The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour") is all too accurate, as anyone who's seen reruns of The Brady Bunch Hour will attest. Earlier this year, The. 3rHfou>A/&um was alousy attempt to write original songs for The Simpsons. Accept no substitutesGo Simpsonic is an indispensable addition to the coDection of any Simpsons fan. "Scuse me while I replay the "Mr. Sparkle" commercial...
Andrew Milner