Rebecca St. James
Stevenson (featuring Steven Curtis Chapman)
Paul Colman (formerly of Paul Colman Trio)
The O.C. Supertones
VEGGIE ROCKS! (2004)
While secular pop culture is synonymous with names like Britney Spears and Vin Diesel, Christian pop culture is likened to produce. It all started when the fine folks at Big Idea Productions thought it would be a... er, big idea... to have assorted vegetables feed kids their daily dose of Sunday morning values, and thus VeggieTales was born. Since then, the lovely CGI characters have been entertaining everyone ages 2 to 99, all the while sneaking Biblical lessons in amongst the silly songs. Today finds the VeggieTales rapidly losing momentum (you can only put talking vegetables into so many situations), but the lessons gleaned from them are as relevant as ever. In fact, I'm here today to share with you three lessons I learned from their Veggie Rocks! compilation.
1) Rock is the new pop. Consequently, the album's title is a bit misleading. The veggies themselves did not pick up instruments and have a jam session, but instead employed familiar Christian artists to cover their most popular (and silly) tunes in a parent-friendly fashion. That means almost everything you'll be hearing is pop-laden and downplays the crunch factor to nothing. In fact, Rebecca St. James's rendition of "The VeggieTales Theme Song" is loudest only second to Skillet's death-metal version of "Stand." Both tracks are rich in meaty riffs and quaking drum loops, but Rebecca's smooth vocals are bound to leave a better taste in parents' mouths than John Cooper's grainy screaming. Kids, however, will choose the latter over anything else on the disc. I did, anyway.
2) Familiarity breeds contempt. If you've heard the original versions of these silly songs, chances are your appreciation for this compilation will be lessened. Taking VeggieTales out of its element is extremely difficult to do without butchering many of these cuts, and while we wouldn't call Veggie Rocks! a "butchering," quite a few liberties were taken. Fortunately, most of the changes turn out just fine. Stevenson's Hanson-like interpretation of "I Love My Lips" features a catchy rock/pop melody and the introduction of Caleb Franklin's vocal talents, which bear an uncanny resemblance to his father's. In contrast, Caleb's vocals are inconsistent — at times they seem almost forced — but being that this is his first CCM outing, the effort is commendable. Another massive deviation is "The Water Buffalo Song," brought to new life by Superchic[k]. Unfortunately, Max Hsu didn't take the helm in mixing this time, resulting in yet another bubblegum tween rocker, but Tricia and Melissa Brock's cooing vocals single-handedly save this track. Perhaps the most impressive offering, though, comes from Paul Colman's covering of "I'm So Blue." Albeit a corny introduction, the band manages to achieve blistering pace instantly, adding volume to the song via copious bass and digitized programming. Truth be told, "I'm So Blue" possibly rocks harder than anything on One, the band's sophomore album. Finally, we have the obligatory recycled tracks: "In the Belly of the Whale," an original Newsboys recording from the Jonah movie; a punk-powered cover of "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" by Relient K, and Audio Adrenaline's live performance of "The Hairbrush Song," which first surfaced on their Some Kind of Zombie CD single. Knowing that these three tracks can be acquired elsewhere reduces the number of original songs on the disc to eight, cheapening the net worth of owning this album.
3) Slow, awkward, and dumb is no way to go through life, son. While Veggie Rocks! as a whole manages to entice listeners, some contributions don't cut the mustard. Sanctus Real's recording of "Promised Land" begins as a fun-filled romp, brandishing power chords sharp enough to slice celery, but after the second chorus it plunges abysmally due to an abnormally long bridge, no-frills instrumentation, and excessive repetition. Furthermore, the O.C. Supertones get in over their heads performing "I Can Be Your Friend." Attempting to replicate the Veggie's voices gets old amazingly fast, and the typical ska format (which is now dead) doesn't take the tune anywhere beyond the original version. The same goes for Tait's soggy execution of "His Cheeseburger," which somehow loses all the silly and goes for all-out ridiculous. Even Mr. Lunt puts this performance to shame, thanks to Michael Tait's dry vocals and the rest of the band's disenchanted musicianship. Skip this one — there's a serious lack of nutrients here.
Veggie Rocks! begins like a pristine tomato growing fresh from the vine. That tomato is then picked, dropped, bruised, and forgotten somewhere in a pile of dirt. Fortunately, the tomato remains intact, and we imagine so will the loyal legions of Veggie fanatics who purchase this album. Only casual listeners need apply though, as listening to Veggie Rocks! will be as satisfying as biting into a rotten cucumber for the show's hardcore purists.
A small site with rudimentary information on the disc, this one just gives the basics for promotional purposes.