Oct 312019

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Nightmare Revisited

Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? Regardless of which team you are on, the soundtrack of the movie is still a good way to get in the spooky spirit. The premise of the movie originated from a poem written by Tim Burton in 1982. Jack, the Pumpkin King, rules over Halloween Town, home to a variety of monsters. When he discovers Christmas Town, he wants to shake things up and try out the novel holiday in Halloween Town. Hijinks abound and go awry, with plenty of opportunities to sing along.

In 1990, Walt Disney Studios took the project on as a full-length movie. However, the stop-motion, animated movie was released in 1993 under the Touchstone Pictures moniker because Walt Disney doubted its kid-friendliness. The movie defied expectations and became popular, receiving positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. The music itself also received accolades. Danny Elfman, the singing voice of Jack, wrote the songs and score of the original movie. The soundtrack won the Saturn Award for Best Music, awarded by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.

Upon the 15th anniversary of the movie, a cover album of the original soundtrack, Nightmare Revisited, was released in 2008. Studded with covers from a variety of alternative rock, punk, and (some may say) emo acts, the cover album reached the US Billboard 200. Listen to a few covers spanning the story line and then check the track list to see if your favorite angsty band of the aughts features.

The All-American Rejects – Jack’s Lament (Danny Elfman cover)

Jack is getting bored of the same-old, same-old Halloween song and dance. Luckily, The All-American Rejects know something about “moving along.” This cover stays with tradition, keeping the instrumentation mellow (like the strings in the original) instead of adding too much of a rock band background. Tyson Ritter keeps with Elfman’s style, with a flair for the dramatic during the more spoken aspects of the song. The addition of background vocals differs from the solo song, but not from the overall approach of the original soundtrack (the Citizens of Halloween often chime in during other songs). Jack’s musings certainly want an audience.

Korn – Kidnap the Sandy Claws (Danny Elfman, Paul Reubens, and Catherine O’Hara cover)

Imagine never being told about Christmas… and also being a monster. Of course you’d hear “Santa Claus” as “Sandy Claws.” It’s not enough for Jack to bring Christmas to Halloween Town, he also wants to play king of Christmas Town by taking over Sandy Claws’s job (hence the kidnapping).

Korn formed in the same year that The Nightmare Before Christmas was released. They are considered trailblazers in the “nu-metal” genre (defined by Wikipedia as “a subgenre of alternative metal that combines elements of heavy metal music with elements of other music genres such as hip hop, alternative rock, funk, industrial, and grunge”), but music nerds still disagree about whether or not they are truly “heavy metal.”

Since the song was originally performed by children characters, Korn naturally deepens the vocals while keeping the mocking attitude. Unlike the previous cover, this one adds more intense instrumentation. However, Korn remains true to the spoken parts, being dramatic without being mockable. The menace escalates in the song, with a few screams thrown in for good measure, and we become more and more concerned for poor Sandy Claws.

Amy Lee – Sally’s Song (Catherine O’Hara cover)

Sally has a vision that Jack’s plan is going to backfire and tries to warn him. He of course doesn’t listen, but she loves him anyway. Typical rag doll behavior. Amy Lee, of Evanescence fame, provides powerhouse vocals that contrast the light and meeker vocals of the original while keeping the haunted mood. This cover contains more dramatic background music, eschewing the original’s more lighthearted accordion accompaniment in favor of piano that builds towards the end. If you didn’t know the song was from a movie, you might not find it out of place on an Evanescence album. The lyrics and musical style fit, so much so that I keep waiting for someone to chime in with “Wake me up!”

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Oogie Boogie’s Song (Ed Ivory and Ken Page cover)

Oogie Boogie is the baddest monster in Halloween Town, so of course he has his own theme song. I find Oogie Boogie’s personality a bit much, so an instrumental cover by this Mexican acoustic guitar pair is perfect: all of the jamming without the dialogue. This cover song sparked Rodrigo and Gabriela’s interest in soundtracks. A few years later they worked with Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack for the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie and helped with the Puss in Boots (from Shrek, played by Antonio Banderas) soundtrack.

The original is a bit jazzy, but in this cover we can hear Rodrigo and Gabriela’s flamenco influences. Firm guitar strums are juxtaposed with fast yet daintier strokes and the occasional “boing”-like twangs, telling their own story without the original dialogue. We can hear the precision of the guitar playing, staying steady even while many different styles interweave.

Nightmare Revisited track listing:

  1. Overture – DeVotchKa (Danny Elfman cover)
  2. Opening – Danny Elfman (Patrick Stewart cover)
  3. This is Halloween – Marilyn Manson (The Citizens of Halloween cover)
  4. Jack’s Lament – The All-American Rejects (Danny Elfman cover)
  5. Doctor Finkelstein/In the Forest – amiina (Danny Elfman cover)
  6. What’s This – Flyleaf (Danny Elfman cover)
  7. Town Meeting Song (Extended Version) – The Polyphonic Spree (Danny Elfman and Cast cover)
  8. Jack and Sally Montage – Vitamin String Quartet (Danny Elfman cover)
  9. Jack’s Obsession – Sparklehorse (Danny Elfman and Cast cover)
  10. Kidnap the Sandy Claws – Korn (Danny Elfman, Paul Reubens, and Catherine O’Har  cover)
  11. Making Christmas – Rise Against (Danny Elfman and The Citizens of Halloween cover)
  12. Nabbed – Yoshida Brothers (Danny Elfman cover)
  13. Oogie Boogie’s Song – Rodrigo y Gabriela (Ed Ivory, Ken Page cover)
  14. Sally’s Song – Amy Lee (Catherine O’Hara cover)
  15. Christmas Eve Montage – RJD2 (Danny Elfman cover)
  16. Poor Jack – Plain White T’s (Danny Elfman cover)
  17. To the Rescue – Datarock (Danny Elfman cover)
  18. Finale/Reprise – Shiny Toy Guns (Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara, and The Citizens of Halloween cover)
  19. Closing – Danny Elfman
  20. End Title – The Album Leaf (Danny Elfman cover)
  21. Oogie Boogie’s Song (Bonus Track) – Tiger Army (Ed Ivory, Ken Page cover)
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