Liz Phair has no fear of taking on the classics. Her first album, “Exile From Guyville,” was a song-by-song response to the macho attitudes of the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street"--a collection often cited as the best rock album of all time.
Now she’s tackled another cultural landmark, though this time with affection rather than disdain.
The musical chestnut she’s embraced?
It’s “Tra La La,” the theme from the ‘70s Saturday-morning kids show “The Banana Splits.”
That bouncy track is one of the highlights from “Saturday Morning,” an album featuring current rockers doing their favorite songs from kiddie TV shows.
The selections range from the venerable “Popeye” theme (done here by Face to Face) to the more recent “Happy Happy Joy Joy” from “Ren & Stimpy” (performed by Wax). The bulk of the choices are drawn from the ‘60s-'70s heyday of Saturday-morning programming.
Among the other highlights are “Speed Racer” by Sponge, “Spiderman” by the Ramones, “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” by Matthew Sweet and “Underdog” by the Butthole Surfers.
“These songs are the closest my generation has to folk songs,” says Ralph Sall, 31, the creator and producer of the album, which will be released Oct. 24 by Sall’s Bulletproof label through MCA.
A related TV special hosted by Drew Barrymore is planned on the Cartoon Network cable channel around the time of the release, and Marvel is putting together a companion comic book from the project.
Sall, who has produced artists from George Clinton to Jane’s Addiction, numerous soundtrack albums and such projects as the “Deadicated” Grateful Dead tribute album, began work on “Saturday Morning” a year ago, pairing songs with artists and making sure no one took it as a joke.
“The rock ‘n’ roll explosion and the flowering of the Saturday morning cartoon shows went hand in hand,” Sall says, noting that both the Beatles and the Jackson 5 were the subjects of cartoon shows. Many others, he notes, were built around such fictional bands as the Archies and Josie & the Pussycats.
“In those days, almost every cartoon show featured teen-agers who were a gang of friends who also were a band,” he says. “Every week on ‘The Archies’ and ‘Fat Albert’ they played a song. I don’t think anyone making those songs thought that they’d be anthems for a generation. But they turned out that way.”