The theme song from the Fox cartoon Family Guy is recognizable to almost any teenager. The jazz and big band oriented music of the show normally take cues from old movies, musicals, and songs such as The Sound of Music or the musical style of Frank Sinatra. This genre of music is the showcase of Seth Macfarlane’s first solo release album, Music is better than Words. Macfarlane, along with being the mastermind behind the comedy of Family Guy, is also vocally trained and greatly inspired by old jazz standards and show tunes. in the album, Macfarlane’s comedic mind is pushed to the side, and replaced by a professional attempt at a vocal album. From all this comes an album that takes everything it has from the sounds of a past generation and brings them back in grand fashion for a new generation to listen to.
Where this album really succeeds is in providing a window in time back to when the music of the day was completely different from what we normally hear now. Macfarlane brings back very old songs that haven’t been sung for quite some time, and from them creates an adventurous listen for those who have not delved into the genre. yet for those who have listened to the likes of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and even older composers such as Glen Miller, this album can be seen as an updated version of old tunes. As far as Macfarlane’s singing goes, he is spot on, boasting both a fantastic vocal range and impressive use of tremolo. it is important to note the musicianship involved in the Jazz band that conductor Joel McNeely leads. McNeely is also behind the arrangements of the songs, some of his best work coming from songs such as “The Sadder but Wiser Girl” and the duet “Two Sleepy People”. overall there are a lot of good things in this album, with fun quirky songs and instrumentals that in themselves deserve multiple listens because of how intricate the swing rhythms become.
This album is a look back at very old songs, and this can make for an interesting listen on its own, but in the end it seems to be too driven by nostalgia to make it relevant. What would aid this album is more innovation to liven up the genre. For a lot of people, this is a hard genre of music to get into, and although this album could be a good starting album to open doors for these type of people, the genre needs to be moving in a new direction instead of just backwards. whether it comes from new original compositions, or covers of old songs that aren’t just repeats, are all things that would push this album forward.
To many, this may be completely different from what you are used to listening to, yet this should in no way be seen as a reason not to take a chance on this album. Swing beats and an orchestrated jazz band give the album complexity for those who want to listen for it, but for those who don’t, Macfarlane’s melodies alone are catchy enough to keep you entertained. in the end, although this album sits fully in the realm of nostalgia, the old show tunes and musical numbers do provide both a history of music, and a perfect example of how music in any form can entertain.