Like a Complete Unknown, Like a Rolling Toad

The similarities between Bob Dylan and Crazy Frog's Crazy Hits are so obvious you might miss them. Both are debuts by unusual vocalists who emerged from colorless scenes (Greenwich Village coffeehouses versus Ibiza clubs and ringtones) to unleash goosed-up covers of their favorite songs. What's more, they're all folk songs. Crazy Frog's tunes, including "Whoomp! (There It Is)," "Pump Up the Jam," and debut single "Axel F"—one of the last century's great vernacular melodies, and you know at least two people who can play it on piano—have entered the popular lexicon like few smashes can. For fun, think of these eight covers as the "new folk," whose I Ching is Jock Jams instead of Harry Smith.

The songs are monolithic, so it's easy to dismiss these takes as "unnecessary"—quickie product for a quicker buck. But if that was the producers' only goal, they should've tossed off more than one original (the fine Miami Vice/Miami bass revival "In the '80s") to save on publishing costs. At least here, all the originators get paid—ask arranger Dave Van Ronk or singer Georgia Turner, who taught Alan Lomax "House of the Rising Sun," if they ever saw a dime from Dylan's version! And Team Frog manage some novel effects with their arrangements, like the breakneck squiggle bass of "Popcorn" and the new, prettier chords running under "Who Let the Frog Out." Overall, Dylan's got the funnier voice and better rhythm, so his debut wins. But I predict Crazy Hits III will beat the pants off The Times They Are A-Changin'.

 
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