Mad About You - The Final Frontier
Atlantic Records, 1997
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/30/1997
My wife is crazy about the television show Mad About You - she rarely misses it, and when it started its syndicated run this past year, she watched them until she knew the episodes by heart.
So when the soundtrack to the show came out, I thought she'd flip over it. How good could this be, I thought - it doesn't even say which songs were featured on the show itself. And a redo of a theme song which was actually catchy? The nerve!
Now she can't pry the disc out of my hands - and I will admit I was surprised by the quality of this album. Paul Reiser (one of the stars of the show) and the other executive producers have accomplished exactly what they set out to do - make an album that sums up the show's five-year run (to date) through the selection and order of the songs.
Appropriately enough, it opens with the version of the theme song that, until recently, was the standard. Andrew Gold knew where he wanted to take this song, and the production of Don Was and piano work by Reiser - jeez, is there anything this guy doesn't do? - make the mix that much more special.
By interspersing clips from the show in between tracks, you can see the development of the relationship of Paul and Jamie Buchman. From the hauntingly beautiful rendition of "Who I Am" by Faith Hill to Etta James's "At Last!" you feel like you are there for every step of the relationship up to the marriage. It's also good to hear the Young Rascals again, a group I think has been sadly overlooked since the '60s passed into the history books.
The first single from the album, Eric Martin's "I Love The Way You Love Me," is an excellent choice - it perfectly fits the mood of the show and of the album itself. Also clocking in with a surprisingly good track is Lyle Lovett, with "Nobody Knows Me," a song which kicks off the troubled portion of the Buchman's relationship. The clip from the show is powerful beyond the grasp of words in a review - wow!
The reconciliation is barely touched on - though Julia Fordham's "Love & Forgiveness" says volumes for this phase. And, as the Buchmans awaited the birth of their first child (in case you've been living in a cave, it was a girl), the tracks selected for this portion of the album are perfectly chosen. It's good to hear Marc Cohn's power again ("The Things We've Handed Down," one of the tracks that had me in tears), and the Billy Joel-Reiser composition "Lullabye For You" is lovingly performed by BeBe Winans. Even Hootie & The Blowfish's track, "She Crawls Away" (originally on Fairweather Johnson, which I panned) sounds fresh.
The three songs about the baby - damn, get the Kleenex for the first song, Nil Lara's "My First Child." Christ, I'm tearing up just writing about it! This song is one of the most powerful four minutes of music I have heard in years, and makes me want to check out other albums by this band. And, since the disc was released before the season finale, there is a track for a baby boy (John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)") and a baby girl ("Baby Girl" by The Tony Rich Project).
That beings us to the moment that I would originally have called sacrilege - the remake of the theme song. However, Anita Baker not only makes the track her own, but it almost makes you forget about the original version. Reiser again plays piano, but this time, he wisely takes a back seat to the vocals of Baker and the harmony lines.
In fact, could "Mad About You - The Final Frontier" be the next single? Why not? Welcome Back, Kotter's theme was a number one song. Theme From S.W.A.T. was a big hit. And let's not forget about the themes from The Greatest American Hero and Friends - all got significant airplay. Why couldn't this track go to the top of the charts?
Mad About You - The Final Frontier is one hell of an emotional ride that feels too good to end. How Reiser et al. were able to pack in five years of television into 57 minutes of album and make it work is beyond me. This, to date, is the best album I've heard all year.