Oh Say Can You SING?
Music Recordings by Major League Players
$17.99 (plus shipping)
c. 2005 Good Sports Recordings, Inc.
Good Sports Recordings' recently released compilation album of current and former major league baseball players' musical performances is nothing if not unique. It includes a CD with eleven songs and a DVD with some "extras", all for $17.99, which isn't too bad since lots of albums that benefit a cause no better than the producer's wallet go for more than that, and don't come with a DVD.
By contrast, some of the proceeds from this album will go to charities chosen by the ballplayers who performed on it. These are listed in the liner notes, good causes all, and frankly, that's the best reason (if not the only one) to buy this CD. The various tracks don't work well together in any sense of the word, with country songs following bluegrass songs following rap songs following rock and roll and pop songs and oldies and so forth. Even fans with the most eclectic of musical tastes will find their heads spinning after listening to this album straight through.
Nevertheless, a good cause is a good cause, and baseball is baseball, so this disc is certainly worth the money in those regards. Good Sports Recordings, Inc. has hockey, basketball and football equipment in their logo, in addition to baseball, so it's possible that this is just the first of a series of benefit albums to come. In the future, sticking with one or maybe two closely related music genres per album should help to net both better reviews and better sales.
This CD's unique nature, I feel, prevents it from being reviewed simply as one entity. The tracks are so diverse and the musicians' talents so varied that it would be an injustice to lump them all together, so I will review each song individually and then the DVD separately as well.
Ben Broussard, 1B/DH, Cleveland Indians, With or Without You, U2
Broussard (currently hitting .254 with 10 homers and 38 RBI) plays acoustic guitar and sings the lead on this U2 classic, and he does not embarrass himself with either venture. His voice, a solid baritone quite different from the breathy style used by Bono, works well for the song. He wisely does not attempt Bono's falsetto on the chorus or bridge. Possibly the best track on the album.
Sean Casey, 1B, Cincinnati Reds, How Do You Like Me Now?,Toby Keith
Casey's (.304, 4 HR, 40 RBI) lack of power as a hitter belies the power in his voice on this fun country track. Country music isn't known for its great vocal performances, so it's not as though Sean had to emulate Pavarotti, but he certainly proves himself up to this task. A solid track.
Jeff Conine, 1B/OF, Florida Marlins, Plush, Stone Temple Pilots
Conine (.271, 2 HR, 13 RBI) has gotten only sparing playing time with the Marlins this year, thanks largely to his age (39) and to the presence of more talented players (Cabrera, Delgado, Encarnacion) on the Marlins. Likewise there are more talented singers on this CD. I'm not much of a fan of STP, and even though the screaming tones of their lead "singer" aren't much to live up to, Conine has trouble holding some of the notes. Not the worst track on the album, but far from the best.
Coco Crisp, OF, Cleveland Indians, We Got That Thing, Original song
Crisp (.295, 8 hr, 37 RBI, 11 SB) deserves credit for writing his own song for this album, and while I can't call what he does "singing" he seems to rap as well as anyone I've heard. Not a rap fan myself, I can still appreciate his sense of rythm, quick-rhyming lyrics and solid delivery.
Matt Ginter, RHP, NY Mets, Dooley, The Dillards
Clearly the producers of this disc were not aiming for name recognition or staying power when they sought out players to perform on the album. Ginter spent the winter on the DL after having surgery on his ankle, got traded to the Tigers in April for Steve Colyer(???), pitched badly every other week for Detroit (5.47 ERA in 25 IP)until late June and was then outrighted to Toledo, where he's 3-2 in six starts with a 3.82 ERA in 35 innings.
On the other hand, he can play the banjo. I like Bluegrass music, and I can say with some authority that Ginter does fine in that role (I think he sings backup vocals as well). Kudos to Scott Schorr, the producer of "Oh Say Can You Sing?" for seeking players who could do something other than sing, though I'm not sure that placing this staple of Bluegrass music right after an original rap song was the best choice.
Aubrey Huff, 1B/OF Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Letters From Home, John Michael Montgomery
Huff (.261, 11 HR, 53 RBI) is struggling through a rough year at the plate, but gives a solid performance on this patriotic country number. Huff shares my birthday (December 20) but is two years younger than me, and has now got not one but two major life accomlishments on me: playing major league baseball and recording an album. I'm way behind schedule.
Scott Linebrink, RHP, San Diego Padres, Wave on Wave, Pat Green
Linebrink (4-1, 2.14 ERA, 13 Holds) has been a vital cog in the Padres' bullpen machine, which, with the second lowest ERA and second most wins in the NL, is a huge reason that San Diego is leading the NL West right now, albeit tenuously. Showing his versatility, Linebrink sings and plays guitar on this country song, and is decent at both.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies, Wish List, Original Song
J-Roll (.274, 7 HR, 62 Runs, 23 SB) signed a 5-year extension with the Phillies last month, which means he should never have to worry about money again. This is a good thing, because I don't see much of a future for him in the recording industry. Like Coco Crisp, he deserves credit for writing (if not really "singing") his own rap song, but the lyrics aren't very creative or interesting ("As a child I never had a big wish list / A bat and ball was all I wanted for Christmas / In '78 a star was born / 2001 his career was on"), and he doesn't deliver them as well as Crisp did.
Ozzie Smith, Hall of Fame Shortstop, Cupid, Sam Cooke
Over the course of his 19-year career, Smith showed talents for stealing bases (580 of them), doing back-flips, and hitting respectably enough (2460 hits, .262 career average) to keep his phenomenal glove (13 Gold ones) in the lineup. Now he's shown a talent for singing as well, as his impressive performance truly does justice to the late Sam Cooke on this R&B classic. His smooth voice delivers nicely on this track, which is helpful to the album as a whole, since Smith is far and away the biggest name (and biggest drawing card) on this record. Now we just need a cooking show on the Food Network and Smith will have nothing left to prove. "Omelets by Ozzie", anyone?
Omar Vizquel, SS, SF Giants, Broadway, Goo Goo Dolls
Vizquel (.294, 3 HR, 46 Runs, 14 SB) sings and plays the drums on this '90's pop/rock song. His drum work seems fine, but as a singer, well... let's just say he's having a surprisingly good year at the plate for a 38-year old shortstop in a pitchers' park.
Kelly Wunsch, LOOGY, Los Angeles Dodgers, Hurts So Good, John Mellencamp
Wunsch (1-1, 4.56 ERA, 15 Holds) is the quintessential Lefty One Out GuY, with 26 of his 45 appearances this year lasting less than one full inning. Despite his debateable prowess in that limited role, he manages to submit one of the best tracks on this disc, with a rendition of Hurts So Good of which Mellencamp would be proud. He sings lead and plays acoustic guitar on the track, which is a solid ending to a weird and disjointed CD. This is your reward if you kept listening this long.
DVD: Player Interviews; Outtakes; Ozzie's Memorabilia Tour
The DVD offers only marginal additional value, though there are a few amusing moments in the outtakes section and the tour of Ozzie Smith's trophy room is very interesting and informative. To their credit, the players all come off as likeable, average guys, most of whom are much more humble than you'd expect. The players were permitted to perform and record in the comforts of their own homes, as the producer brought his studio to them. This may explain why some parts of the DVD feature less than optimal lighting, a forgiveable offense given the trade-off, namely that the music would sound better if the players were more comfortanble. (It's probably also true that they'd be more likely to contribute of they didn't have to travel to do so, though the never mention this on the DVD, of course.)
Incidentally, producer Scott Schorr bears a striking resemblance to Dan Lauria, the dad from The Wonder Years, albeit with more hair. I don't know what that has to do with anything, but I found it interesting.
The interviews are spliced together, a 5-to-10 second clip at a time, in the quick, keep-it-moving style typical of modern commercials and much of TV. A head-on, color shot will cut to a shaky, intentionally out-of-focus black & white camera, from a side angle, often in mid-sentence, presumably for some kind of "authentic" feel or something, but that doesn't work well either. In parts of the interviews and outtakes the color seems washed out or the camera is slightly blurry. Like I mentioned, the tour of Ozzie's memorabilia is the best part of the DVD, so skip to that and you won't be disappointed.
23 July 2005
Oh Say Can You SING?
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 7/23/2005