Reviews: Poppin' Guitars
Scott Wolf's Mouse Clubhouse

August 2009

There's a new album out with some of the Sherman brothers greatest songs, not just from their Disney movies, but from the theme parks and some of their non-Disney projects. Not only did this album get Richard Sherman's approval, but he was involved in the guidance of the CD as well.

I won't "string" you along any longer; the album is entitled Poppin' Guitars: A Tuneful of Sherman.

This CD features a tuneful of guitarists including Elliot Easton from The Cars, Laurence Juber from Wings, world-renowned Australian guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel and over a dozen other others who pluck and strum some great "picks" from the Sherman brothers library of songs. One beautiful Sherman song that's just not heard that much, largely because it isn't a Disney tune, is "Hushabye Mountain," from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and there's the possibly rarer "The Slipper and the Rose Waltz," but not all selections are rare. What's a Sherman brothers album without songs from Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, The Jungle Book.

Two of my personal favorites are on here, both theme parks songs, "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" and "It's a Small World," a couple songs I included on my own album, "Ragtime at the Magical Kingdoms." This guitar duet of "It's a Small World" in particular really gives new life to the song.

If you're a fan of guitar music and the Shermans, you won't want to miss these gorgeous guitar arrangements which put a new spin on some great tunes, while maintaining a classic feel about it.

If you get this album, you can have a great big beautiful tomorrow, listening to these supercalifragiclistic songs of the Shermans.

Two of my personal favorites are on here, both theme parks songs, "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" and "It's a Small World," a couple songs I included on my own album, "Ragtime at the Magical Kingdoms." This guitar duet of "It's a Small World" in particular really gives new life to the song.

Leonard Maltin

July 2009

Producer James Jensen has compiled a lovely CD of acoustic guitar solos featuring the music of The Sherman Brothers. These tuneful, upbeat songs work amazingly well even without their indelible lyrics--or is it just that they're so ingrained in my consciousness that I'm singing along in my head? Either way, this CD features the work of many fine musicians including Laurence Juber, Tommy Emmanuel, Al Petteway, Kenny Sultan, Greg Hawkes, Doug Smith, Mark Hanson, Pat Donohue (whom I listen to every week on A Prairie Home Companion), Jim Tozier, Eltjo Haselhoff, Elliot Easton, Mike Dowling, Nick Charles, and Tim Pacheco. Like an earlier Jensen offering (Delovely Guitar, a collection of Cole Porter tunes), this album serves as a reminder of how beautiful the guitar can sound when played by a master, without any rhythmic accompaniment. Every track is a treat, although I must single out Doug Smith's exceptional performance of "Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)." If you purchase the CD from amazon.com you'll receive a behind-the-scenes DVD as well.

Dave Walker

July 2009

This is probably THE acoustic guitar CD of the year. Yes, we are just past the halfway mark of the calendar for 2009, but this CD has it all. James Jensen of Solid Air Records has once again assembled most of the finest acoustic guitar players alive today and recorded them playing some of the best-loved music ever written. In every respect this should be the next Grammy for all concerned!

The array of talent is stunning. Ace guitarists Laurence Juber, Mark Hanson, Doug Smith, Kenny Sultan, Al Petteway, Mike Dowling and many others (including ukulele sensation Greg Hawkes) are joined this time by the inimitable Tommy Emmanuel, all in the service of the songs of Robert and Richard M. Sherman.

Now, before you ask "Who?" let me list a few of the songs the Sherman brothers have written:

Winnie the Pooh
A Spoonful of Sugar
You're Sixteen
Feed the Birds (Tuppence A Bag)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
Chim Chim Cher-ee
It's a Small World

... among many others. And these are just a few of the songs on the CD!

There is even more reason to order your copy today. For this special CD, Solid Air is offering a combination CD / DVD package for only $17.99 (in addition to the CD-only package for $15.99). This DVD is only available "for a limited time" and I can tell you that you do not want to miss it.

Entitled "Behind the Scenes", the DVD contains extensive footage of Tommy Emmanuel recording his beautiful version of Winnie the Pooh, with alternate takes and studio chatter with his recording engineer - Laurence Juber! LJ gives a virtual master class on arranging for the guitar in explaining his version of A Spoonful of Sugar. And the "star" of the video has to be Richard M. Sherman, who discusses writing the songs, working with Walt Disney, hearing his music played on solo acoustic guitar, and even giving Tommy Emmanuel feedback on his own songs. We even get to see Mr. Sherman hear the first playback of Tommy's recording and his own thoughts on this project.

What a combination! The music from so many Disney classics, Disneyland, and even a number one song for Ringo Starr, arranged and played by stellar guitarists, along with a DVD of behind the scenes footage. What more can I say?

Well I can tell you about the songs. Tommy Emmanuel's Winnie the Pooh is a powerhouse start to the CD. Tommy pulls out all of the stops for this song which is a favourite of his and his daughters. From the opening mist of chordal harmonics ("nothing artificial about those" as LJ points out!) to the subtly over-dubbed melody this one is a real gem, a genuine mix of technical skill and musicality.

Not to be outdone, Laurence Juber provides a superb arrangement of A Spoonful of Sugar complete with complex orchestral counterpoint thrown in to stay true to the original as well as to delight your ears. The way this song grows through subtle key changes and delightful transitions makes it a joy to hear over and over.

Al Petteway slows the tempo a bit with his arrangement of Hushabye Mountain from the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Petteway does a great job with this tender ballad, keeping the haunting melody front and center.

Kenny Sultan then livens up the proceedings with his skipping version of There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, a popular tune from the Disney theme parks. Sultan spices up this happy tune with some down-home blues fingerpickin' and string bending that suits it to a "T".

Slipping out of the solo guitar realm for one tune, Greg Hawkes works his ukulele magic on You're Sixteen. The song sounds as if it were written just for uke, or perhaps a whole orchestra of them. If your foot is not tapping to this song, you may not be breathing.

Getting back to the guitar, Doug Smith provides a wonderful version of Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag), with both melodic delicacy and harmonic richness. The exquisite sound of his guitar sounds like a baritone guitar in an open tuning to my ears. Gorgeous!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang seems to sneak onto the sound stage. This playful version by Mark Hanson has all of his trademark care and attention to detail in the arrangement which keeps true to the atmosphere of the song as well as its melody and scoring. All of this requires him to play all over the neck of the guitar as well as to toss of some sparkling harmonic work, seemingly effortlessly.

Pat Donohue provides a swinging version of Let's Get Together, a song from the movie The Parent Trap (sung by Hayley Mills in the movie). This funky fingerpicking number is another foot tapper and just a lot of fun to listen to.

By now we might need a breather, and Jim Tozier provides it with a lovely performance of The Slipper and the Rose Waltz, a song from the film The Slipper and the Rose and for which the Sherman brothers received an Academy Award nomination for Best Song.

The mellow mood continues into the next track by Eltjo Haselhoff, until after almost a minute it suddenly blossoms into a boisterous version of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. There is some great playing in a whole variety of styles in this one, and each is more fun than the last.

The Age of Not Believing is another Academy Award nominated song, this time from the film Bedknobs and Broomsticks. This lovely multi-guitar version by Eliot Easton (double-tracked, I assume) is full and rich and a fun romp through the melody.

The oddly-punctuated I Wan'na Be Like You (sometimes also called "The Monkey Song") is from the film The Jungle Book. Mike Dowling gives us an imaginative arrangement and a spirited performance that gives this classic new life.

Of all those great songs from Mary Poppins, it was Chim Chim Cher-ee that walked off with the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1964. Nick Charles does the song proud with a fine arrangment of a classic song that takes it through several changes of mood and tempo.

Stay Awake, a lullaby from Mary Poppins, is given a sensitive reading by Tim Pacheco, who is careful not to lose the sleepy-time feeling of the song in the film. He captures the dreamy atmosphere very well indeed.

So how can such an amazing CD end? Mark Hanson and Doug Smith provide a superbly worthy finale in their incredible duo version of It's a Small World. Theirs is a truly ear-opening rendition that will show you aspects and avenues of this song that you may never have guessed existed. These two great players combine to produce a wonderfully sublime musical experience that is the perfect ending to a magnificent project.

Buying this one is a no-brainer. Your only decision is whether to shell out the extra $2 for the DVD! I would say get the CD / DVD package - you will be glad you acted quickly enough to get one!

You can purchase this CD/ DVD or just the CD at Acoustic Music Resource or if you prefer (or if they are sold out!) at Amazon (who for some reason are selling the CD/DVD package cheaper than JUST the CD!) here: Amazon.com Exclusive: Poppin' Guitars : A Tuneful of Sherman (CD/DVD Combo)