Seth MacFarlane

Music Is Better Than Words

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A vanity project that evades any rational explanation, as its flights of fancy are so far removed from its creator’s home turf, Music Is Better Than Words is a traditional big-band album from Seth MacFarlane, the self-satisfied wise-ass behind Family Guy. Demonstrating precisely the same amount of imagination that led him to creating no less than three permutations of Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, MacFarlane plays it straight throughout Music Is Better Than Words, hiring American Dad composer Joel McNeely to create approximations of Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, and Billy May's arrangements for Frank Sinatra's deathless, mid-century records for Capitol. These classic concept albums are clearly the blueprint for Music Is Better Than Words, which was, after all, recorded at Capitol Records' legendary studio with MacFarlane singing into the very same microphone Sinatra used all those years ago, and there is a bit of a concept to this 2011 LP, too, with the cartoonist selecting songs never recorded by any member of the Rat Pack -- along with a couple recent tunes like “She’s Wonderful Too,” which McNeely originally wrote for The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles -- for his tribute to that ring-a-ding-ding swing. MacFarlane and McNeely don’t attempt to ape the pizzazz of Frank’s Reprise years, nor do they spend much time with May’s snazzy snap, they stick with Riddle and Jenkins, keeping things sentimental and lush even when the words crackle with wit. Then again, MacFarlane is so concerned about inhabiting Sinatra’s silken suits he doesn’t really care about the meaning of the songs; all that matters is sounding like Ol' Blue Eyes, which MacFarlane does about as well as any number of hotel lounge singers this world over. Sure, it’s a surprise that he can carry a tune, but it’s no surprise that MacFarlane, who came to fame and fortune by telling obvious jokes so slowly a dog could understand, considers his competence as proof of his excellence, his smugness bearing no swagger, his self-satisfaction undercutting his otherwise perfectly pleasant surroundings.

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