Novelty pop/rock albums featuring famous cartoon characters jamming to the styles of the day are nothing new. In the 60's we had Alvin & the Chipmunks on (who actually had hits before becoming a cartoon), in the 70's Disco Mickey Mouse featuring Mickey & Friends singing tunes like "Macho Duck" and the MTV styled cartoon frenzy of the 80's brought us Jem, along with Barbie and the Rockers. All passing trends of their day, but in the year 1990 something wonderful was about to happen. Something wonderful and frankly, a little weird.
The world was in the middle of a "Teenage Mutant Media Blitz"! The TMNT cartoon and action figures had already eclipsed the former glory of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
Even in the realm of cinema the Turtles were the victors, as their rubber-suited live action counterparts put in performances infinitely more entertaining than anything Dolf Lundgren or Courtney Cox had to offer in their MOTU box-office fiasco.
After Splinter "made a funny", who didn't leave the movie theater that day shouting, "God, I love being a turtle!"?
Having conquered Hollywood, television and the toy industry there was only one place left to go: THE RECORDING STUDIO!
Through the power of Pizza Hut the turtles soon, in their own words, "Put down (their) weapons and picked up and instrument". The result was the surprisingly rockin' and sadly forgotten album of 1990 "TMNT: Out of Their Shells".
What could have been a poorly produced, sing-along kids record with the turtles talking about pizza and ninja stars (although that's in there) was instead a slick, diverse, rock and roll adventure that is fairly light on the self-mockery and heavy on the attitude. Sure you can catch clips of the live show on YouTube for a good laugh at the cheesy costumes and dancing, but the music was actually really good.
What follows is a review of the album track by track:
1. Coming Out Of Their Shells
Style: Accoustic ballad
Best Line: "We're comin' out up from under the street, now we're ready to rock, there will be no retreat, We're comin', out of our shells"
Comments: This is a great opener by Raphael that starts out soft and builds to a soulful chorus. The main point is to announce that the TMNT are coming up from the sewers to sing music. It's similar in style to "Patience" by Guns N' Roses.
2. Sing About It
Style: Power Pop
Best Line: "Draggin' your shell, all over town"
Comments: This song has a lot of distant sounding background chanting (oh, oh, oh yeah) with very 80's synth percussion. The vocals trade off between Raph and Mikey. The basic premise being that there is always a reason to sing. It's kind of a mix between Genesis and Tears for Fears.
Style: Surf Rock/Rap
Best Line: "Don't need the sun when your skin is green"
Comments: This song has funky bass line with Beach Boys style backing vocals and eventually has Mikey breaking into a fast paced rap about surfing in the sewers. I would have to say that it's like Beach Boys meet Ice T.
4. Skipping Stones
Style: Synthesizer Ballad
Best Line: "Standing in water, looks like glass"
Comments: I think Splinter sings this song as the vocals are very raspy. It's very slow with lots of dripping water sounds and echo effects. I don't really know what the song is about, but I think it has to do with "missing the music".
5. Pizza Power
Style: Pop Rock
Best Line: "Always better the next day-Pizza Power!"
Comments: Another lyrical exchange between Mike and Raph with funky guitars and more 80's synth magic about what else? Pizza! If you've ever played the Turtles In Time video game in the arcade this was the theme song.
6. Walk Straight
Best Line: "You may not be green and have a cool shell, but you-be-you and you'll do it so well!"
Comments: What the funk? Horns and Raph talk-singing/shouting about not "Mutating", which is either a metaphor for drugs or being a poser. Also has a pretty rockin' guitar solo. Like Rick James meets Parliament/Funkadelic.
7. No Treaties
Style: Hard Rock Ballad
Best Line: "We're four rockin' brothers and we're taking our stance"
Comments: Solid rock beat throughout with great heavy metal vocals by Raph. The song ends with some pretty awesome shredding on guitar. Basically about the plot of the album/show that Shredder has stolen music from the world and the Turtles are going to get it back.
Best Line: "Splinter, Splinter, this one's for you!"
Comments: Michelangelo raps about each of the four brothers describing their traits. It is here we learn that "He (Raph) wrote the music, I (Mike) wrote the words, we wrote everything that you've heard". It's more along the lines of a Fat Boys style rap.
9. April Ballad
Style: R& B Ballad
Best Line: "A Turtle's a friend, a friend to the end"
Comments: This is April's cry for help to the Turtles to save her. It's a cross between Tina Turner and Sheena Easton about how you need friends to help you.
10. Count On Us
Style: Rock Anthem
Best Line: "We gotta let the music be"
Comments: The Turtle's answer to April and the world that they will always be there to save the day. Another great line is "April you know we're with you and that you'll be OK". A lot of group chanting and sweet electric guitar riffs that ends up sounding like any chorus from a Poison song.
This album is like the movie "Galaxy Quest", way better than it needed to be. If you were remove all references to "Shells" "Green Skin" "Turtles" and "Pizza" this album could have been right along side New Kids on the Block in 1990.
These songs are so good, I often find myself singing them on the streets loudly and without shame-OK, that's a lie, but they are catchy.
You can usually find 2-3 copies on ebay at any given time, so take a chance and buy it already!
In the words of Michaelangelo, "What do you do when you can't think of a rhyme? Personally speaking, it's ending time"