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A fun tribute album
on October 29, 2010
"Glee"'s third episode-specific CD release (or EP), following those for "The Power of Madonna" and "Journey", is the soundtrack to their tribute episode to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", the biggest cult film of all-time (and "The Rocky Horror Show", the stage show that was the original inspiration; indeed, some of the song choices made here are references to differences between the two shows). It is overall a strong effort, and features some great work by a number of the castmembers. Indeed, considering this was only one episode, a surprising number of the regulars (all save Mark Salling/Puck, who wasn't in the episode, Mike O'Malley, Jane Lynch, and Jessalyn Gilsig, who don't normally sing anyway). Some spoilers for the episode will inevitably creep into the review, so be warned.
1. "Science Fiction/Double Feature" - the longest song on the album, actually (though the shortest in the actual episode), a quirky melange of references to 1930s-1950s sci-fi/horror cinema that establishes the tone of the original story. This is actually the first solo song for Naya Rivera/Santana. It's a bit of an odd choice for that distinction, since it has no real relevance to her, but Rivera's mix of hard pop and R & B vocals have rapidly become one of my favourite sounds on the show, and she does well here. She sounds rather different than she normally does here, singing a much slower and less intense number than past work on Madonna or Lady Gaga - indeed, a lot of people were convinced that it was Jenna Ushkowitz/Tina or Dianna Agron/Quinn (personally, the former is plausible, as Rivera and Ushkowitz actually do sound rather alike; I really can't see how people thought this was Agron, though).
2. "Over At The Frankenstein Place" - maybe the least remarkable of the songs featured (both on its own and in terms of staging in the episode), but featuring good work from Lea Michele/Rachel, Cory Monteith/Finn, and Chris Colfer/Kurt.
3. "Damnit, Janet" - Michele/Rachel and Monteith/Finn again, with backup from Colfer, Agron, and Amber Riley/Mercedes. One of the funnest numbers in the actual show, with the actors gleefully hamming it up playing their characters playing their roles rather stiltedly (albeit, that's totally suitable for "Rocky Horror"). Cory Monteith has improved massively since the show started (listen to his voice now compared to when it started; the electronic assistance has majorly dialled down), and this is in fact one of my favourite songs he's ever done. He's never going to match Lea Michele in singing ability, but I like their voices together.
4. "Whatever Happened to Saturday Night?" - typically referred to as "Hot Patootie - Bless My Soul" due to the film, this different title refers to an older name for the song. Song by guest star John Stamos/Dr. Carl Howell as his audition song, as it were. Overall, the cast of Glee are much better singers than the cast of the original musical (Susan Sarandon is one of the greats of her generation, but nobody thinks of her as a singer), but the film version of this was performed by Meatloaf, obviously of a much higher calibre than most of his castmates. Nonetheless, the Stamos version is fun on its own (even moreso in the episode, where it's given a really exuberant group dance number).
5. "Sweet Transvestite" - ah, sure to be the biggest controversy. This is performed by Amber Riley, who, though a great singer, is never going to match Tim Curry's sensational original, though she is, in other respects, a superior singer. The song has been reimagined as more of an R & B thing, which makes it distinctive and clearly not just trying to copy Curry; and the performance is fun; but simply due to the iconic nature of the original, it's clearly inferior. It's also the most prominent victim of the incredibly arbitrary line censorship that somebody at FOX always forces on the producers; in this case, apparently you can't say "transsexual" (well, actually, you can say it, but you can't sing it; it was much the same with "bitch", which the characters say all the time, but in "Bad Romance" became "freak"). Fun, nonetheless.
6. "Toucha, Toucha, Touch Me" - also somewhat censored, again in arbitrary and rather pointless ways (you can't sing "heavy petting", but you can actually show characters engaged in it? Whatever, FOX), but a fun performance on the show. Jayma Mays/Emma had this as her audition song, so she's the latest to get to perform hers on the show itself. Mays rarely sings (this is only her third contribution), but she's pretty good. The Columbia and Magenta roles are filled by Rivera and Heather Morris/Brittany, and in the show itself they totally steal the scene.
7. "The Time Warp" - the song of the show; even people who don't know anything about "Rocky Horror" know this one. The film version is handled solely by Riff-Raff and Magenta - in "Glee", it's been repurposed as a group performance number outside of the story, so while most of it is done by Colfer, Agron, and Kevin McHale/The Criminologist, Monteith and Riley also chip in some bars. There's also a difference between the soundtrack version and the performance version: it the former, Rivera sings one of Magenta's lines, but in the show itself Agron is dubbed in. Colfer, probably the most gifted male singer outside of Matthew Morrison/Will, does an amazing Riff-Raff; Agron is probably the weakest of the female singers, but she handles her part fine (her take on Magenta's spoken lines is quite good, actually). Quite fun.
Overall, I'd call this a four-star collection. I don't think any of these numbers will make it onto the "Top 10 Glee Songs" list compiled at the end of the show, but nonetheless, it's nice.