"Weird Al" Yankovic
In 3-D (Atlantic 82685)
Weird Al is definitely one of those artists about which there is absolutely no middle ground. Either you love the guy, or you just wish his car would stall on the tracks in front of a speeding 141-car coal train.
I'm rather proudly in the former group, having cut my teeth on songs like "Stop Draggin' My Car Around" and "Another One Rides The Bus" long, long ago. Al has always been a reliable barometer of the musical pulse of the nation, as the songs he chooses to parody are usually the ones that are having great chart success.
That is, at least the ones that lend themselves to parody and that he can get permission to desecrate. But Al's not all about the parodies, either; he writes originals as well, and from time to time, he can crank out a classic, if I can acceptably use that word here. I figure if anything that The Guess Who ever turned out can be called classic, so can "Weird Al" Yankovic.
Al's library is pretty extensive, as he's been at it for almost twenty years a few years back, he even turned out a box set. (!) He's parodied Michael Jackson (twice), Nirvana, Dire Straits, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Aerosmith the list goes on. Not all of his stuff is great, by any means, he definitely has turned out his share of unlistenable crap, but I don't hold it against him. At no time, however, was he more on his game than with 1984's In 3-D. His parodies are outstanding, as are the songs chosen to be skewered, and the originals are on par with the rest.
This album probably got him his most mainstream exposure, at the very least, it was his first real success. The song that did it for him was "Eat It," a parody of Michael Jackson's "Beat It," released peak of the Thriller phenomenon, when anything remotely related to MJ was guaranteed attention by the bucketful.
Another parody is the great "King Of Suede," which murders another mega-popular song at the time, "King Of Pain" by The Police. "There's a little black spot on the sun today" becomes "There's a sale on our gabardine suits today", and so on.
Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger" becomes "Theme From Rocky VIII (Rye Or The Kaiser)," while "The Safety Dance" becomes "The Brady Bunch."
The best of the parodies on this one is maybe Al's greatest achievement. Greg Kihn managed a huge hit in 1983 with "Jeopardy," presenting Al with a rare slow-pitch lob of an opportunity. He knocked this one clear out of the damn park and right through old Mrs. McGillicuddy's plate glass window with "(I Lost On) Jeopardy." What's great about this one is that it was written long before "Jeopardy!" resurfaced in its Trebek mode. Al's lyrical pinnacle in this song: I don't know what I was thinkin' of/ I guess it just wasn't my night/ I sure hope I do better/ Next weekend on The Price Is Right. Pure poetry.
The originals, save for the unlistenable "Buy Me A Condo" (Al goes rasta yoiks!), are surprisingly solid. "Mr. Popeil" is a punkish homage to home shopping guru Ron Popeil, "Midnight Star" is a good-natured rip on supermarket tabloids, and "That Boy Could Dance" is OK.
The remaining two of the original tracks on the album are two of my favorite Al songs, period. "Polkas On 45" is a send-up of the "Stars On 45" medley records that somehow managed mild popularity at the time. Al pieces together songs of every type and flavor, and backs them with an accordion-heavy polka beat. I don't know why, but I am still just a total sucker for this song, and I'll crank it at any opportunity. Awesome driving song, strangely enough. The album closes with "Nature Trail To Hell," a movie trailer within a song about a fictional 3-D slasher flick.
Though dated, the album for some reason has real lasting power, especially compared with Al's subsequent releases. But I always like to know what's going on in Al's world, so I will rpobably always watch his career with at lease slight interest. His sense of humor can take some getting accustomed to, and it's not as funny now as it was when I was thirteen, but then again, what is? I used to love "Knight Rider," but now it just makes me squirm. At least Al has held up better than David Hasselhoff.
Review by Mario Speedwagon