Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Two More Wizards

Okay, these will be the last story records I'm looking at in awhile because I'm not aware of any more records I want to get too soon and the weather is starting to warm up, and in Missouri, it can get hot. And since I have these records sent to me and they usually arrive on days I work, they sit outside for a bit, and I don't want to take the risk of them warping.

First off is Art Carney reading a short adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This recording was re-released many times in a variety of forms. My copy is a regular 33rpm record with a reading of the classic Poky Little Puppy, the song "Little Fat Policeman," and a really short story and song about "Brave Cowboy Bill." Art Carney is only on the Oz track.

And take a look at the producer: Golden Records. Yep, here's their Wizard of Oz, though their Wizard of Oz Returns really dwarfs this one.

My copy's sleeve is pretty badly beaten up, in that it is no longer a sleeve, but two pieces of cardboard. Lovely.

This Wizard runs eight minutes, and licensed four songs from the MGM movie: "Over the Rainbow," "We're Off To See The Wizard," "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead," and "The Merry Old Land of Oz."

Art Carney's retelling takes on a less linear style to the story. It introduces Dorothy and says she'd like to visit other countries, spurring a bouncy "Over the Rainbow." It then tells us how the tornado took Dorothy to Oz, and then says she met all sorts of strange people, like the Wicked Witches, and the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion, and we are told what they wanted. Then we're told about the Wizard, and that gives us "We're Off To See The Wizard."

In the Emerald City, we're given "The Merry Old Land of Oz," which has the expanded opening with "There's a garden spot I'm told..." We are told the Wizard sees them one at a time and tasks them to kill the Wicked Witch of the West, which is said to be difficult, but all it took was a bucket of water because "the Witch was made of brown sugar." This spurs "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead."

Then the story wraps up with an explanation that the Wizard granted their wishes, Dorothy's needing the help of a magical pair of silver slippers. And when Dorothy's home, there's a reprise of "Over the Rainbow."

Overall, not a very special version. Short and sweet, some nice takes on the songs, but I wouldn't recommend this one unless you're a completist. There isn't a voice cast, just Art telling the story and people singing the songs.

The other record has also been re-released many times. It's a retelling by Peter Pan Records and was released as a readalong with a 45 rpm record, though the book was reillustrated a few times and the opening was changed out. (I found a version online introduced by Barney the Book Bear, but when I played my copy, it was a deep, grandfatherly voice calling himself a Peter Pan storyteller. Maybe the one I found online was from a cassette version.) 
It was also released as a lead feature on a 33rpm without gaps for page turns. I found a nice transfer of that on YouTube, so you can actually go there and give it a listen.

The story runs 5 and a half minutes in the non-readalong form and uses a small cast for the principal characters and a small chorus. There are three original and very short songs, the lyrics of which are in the book.

The story opens with the song "We're On Our Way," then we are introduced to Dorothy, but we are told that her trip to Oz happens when she's walking home (from school, maybe?) when she sees a tornado and runs into a nearby house. (The illustration, however, shows Aunt Em inside.) And we know what happens with the house...

In Oz, there is no Wicked Witch of the East, and the Munchkins greet her with the song "We're A Happy Bunch Of Munchkins." The Munchkins then direct her to the Emerald City, and inbetween meeting her friends, the "We're On Our Way" song is reprised.

The Emerald City is reached with no mishap, and the Wizard, a man in a crown, tasks them to destroy the Wicked Witch of the West, who immediately sends her Winged Monkeys to capture Dorothy and her friends. Dorothy's friends are kept in a cell, while Dorothy is made to work, singing the song, "Somewhere."

Hearing Dorothy's song, the Witch threatens her, forcing Toto to bite the Witch, making the Witch strike Toto, making Dorothy throw the water on the Witch.  She melts, leaving behind the Silver Shoes.

The Wizard says this adventure proves that the Scarecrow has a brain, the Tin Woodman has a heart, and the Lion has courage. And that's a cop-out, since they were in a cell the whole time, making that the biggest flaw in this program. Surely they could have had the Wizard present them with the actual things, since this is just audio.

The Wizard tells Dorothy to use the Silver Shoes, which she instantly does, sending her home, the chorus ending with a musical flourish: "And that's the wonderful story of the wonderful wizard of Oz!"

I actually like the little songs, though they've been criticized as derivative of the MGM movie's songs. It's easy to match up "We're On Our Way" with "Off To See the Wizard," "Somewhere" with "Over the Rainbow," and "We're A Happy Bunch Of Munchkins" with "We Welcome You To Munchkinland," but they did a nice job with the songs nonetheless.

The story adaptation was very basic but suitable, though the "you had what you needed all along" bit doesn't work if Dorothy's friends can't get a chance to show that they do.

Did some of these record producers just have an aversion to Good Witches? They omitted them in both of these and the Snagglepuss album.

So, overall, this one is worth picking up in some form, especially since you can probably find it for a pretty cheap price.


rocketdave said...

I'm pretty sure that Golden Record was the one I owned as a kid. I guess I don't remember what the jacket looked like so well, but I know it had the Poky Little Puppy on it and your description sounds pretty close to what I remember. I had no idea that was Art Carney narrating, but of course the name Art Carney would have meant nothing to me at that age anyway.

Nathan said...

My family had that Peter Pan cassette when I was a kid. I remember those songs quite well.

Sam A M said...

That Peter Pan book is one my my exposures too but without the record - I preferred looking through that book at my Math Tudor's house than actually being helped with Maths. I read some of the lines, like the Witch's, much better myself in mind than how they were actually on audio, however. Odd how the last illustration has Dorothy's friends waving good-bye to her and going over a Kansas fence . . .

As for the Art Canney one, I thought it was a "GOLDEN" spot.

Anonymous said...

I had that record as a kid back in the mid-1960s. But what I found really strange was that the narrator - Art Carney - sounded nothing like Art Carney from "The Honeymooners"! I don't think it was the same Art Carney. I think I heard later that the Art on the record was some radio personality. Also, my record had "Peter and the Wolf" on the reverse side.