Friday, February 18, 2011

A Gold Star for Yellowgold

Fourth Collection Is A Charmer

I heard the Pink Panther theme first, then became familiar with the cartoons, which came later. Next came a generation of children who knew all about the cartoons, but had no clue that the famous Henry Mancini theme was originally for a series of movies. We came full-circle when I played the track for Ben, who began to choose it for his playlists back in 2005-2006.

This is all prologue. In the same time period, the Spare the Rock childrens' music program (and podcast) started playing the songs of Gustafer Yellowgold by Morgan Taylor. When we learned that Morgan would be performing a Gustafer set at the nearby Museum of the Moving Image, we made a point of going. We arrived early, walked in, and found the auditorium was playing...Pink Panther cartoons. Ben looked at us, stunned, as if to say, "You mean the music is for this?"

Many of the musical selections that Ben chose from those days have faded away - he either grew out of them, or they just didn't strike his fancy anymore. But Gustafer has stayed with us. And grown on us. And now Morgan has released the fourth CD/DVD collection, "Infinity Sock," and it's still as charming (and yellow) as the Pink Panther (is pink).

After that AMMI performance, we retreated to the snack bar. Ben kept looking over my shoulder and when I turned around, I saw that he was watching Morgan having a snack of his own. I couldn't help but approach him as we left, to compliment him on the imagery and music, which I did find unique in the world of childrens' entertainment that we were just beginning to explore. My one concern was the seeming lack of a cohesive story. Yes, Gustafer was a concert experience. But at that time, every song seemed to introduce a new element. And then the show just stopped. A last song and thanks for coming. "Yes, I'm working on that," Morgan told me. And indeed he has.

"Infinity Sock" tells the tale of Gustafer, a denizen from our Sun, who now lives in Minnesota with his pet eel. While doing laundry, Gustafer discovers that one of his eel's socks seems to stretch for eternity. In searching for the toe-end of the longest sock in the universe, Gustafer encounters a number of characters and situations.

We were all sucked in by the simple melodies and lyrics. I even copied "Infinity" into my playlist for commuting. Morgan's style for Gustafer songs harkens back to the styles of David Gates and James Taylor. Hope the reference to the former doesn't come off as an insult.

And while we've been hearing the songs since 2005, it's been some time since we sat down and watched more than one video. After watching the DVD in one sitting (not a problem if you have 35 minutes), the story was easy to follow (except perhaps for our three-month-old). And with the lyrics right on screen, it was hard not to sing along.

Bonus features (on the DVD) include Morgan giving a guitar lesson on how to play certain Gustafer songs, as well as how to draw Gustafer. There is also a tongue in cheek "science report" on whether or not Gustafer Yellowgold actually exists, hosted by Professor Orel Harnkess from the Huckaku Verification Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

What comes around, goes around. It was true for the Pink Panther and it's true again for Gustafer Yellowgold. A few years down the road, perhaps for the next collection, we'll be ready to hit the road with both kids and attend another song performance - one with a full story and a batch of songs we know and are ready to sing. "Infinity Sock" leaves me hoping there are more Gustafer stories that Morgan wants to tell.
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