Various Artists

Scary Sound Effects

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Released in 1994, Rhino's Scary Sound Effects was designed by Dr. Demento for use on Halloween as children dress up strangely and roam their neighborhoods loudly demanding free candy. The album begins with 15 brief spoken phrases like "Welcome," "Go Home," "Get Away from Here" and "We're Digging for Your Treats." What follows are the usual mix of evil laughs, growling wolf men, haunted house and sci-fi noises. Robert C. Wayne is listed as "composer," George Emerson as "conductor," Gary Hoffman plays the Theremin, and screams are credited to Houston Emerson, Jeffery Freeman, Josh Miller, and Dione Wren. It's interesting to note how what in many cultures is a traditional Holy Day for ancestor reverence (Samhain, pronounced "Sowen," also known as All Hallows Eve prior to the Day of the Dead) has become such a vulgar, kitschy occasion with its thematic roots in Hollywood's cheesiest monster movies. This being said, sound effects records (and scary sound effects records, in particular) come in a full range of qualities, from the sleazy, cheap, and badly produced to the creative, well-conceived, and even artistically rewarding. Rhino's Scary Sound Effects lands more or less betwixt and between the two extremes. Its weakest moments occur during cheap theatrical stunts like "Witch Casts a Spell" and "Voodoo Chant," the latter being a throwback to the Universal film company's xenophobic ignorance regarding traditional Afro-Caribbean religious beliefs. "Grave Robbing Gone Wrong" and "Monsters in the Bat Cave" are good, clean fun, but "Haunted House" and "Very Scary Mansion" are more intriguing, and along with portions of the Flying Saucer series, could have artistic merit if taken out of context. And it is well away from the Halloween context that the last three tracks of this collection really seem to have potential. "Theremin Orchestra" and its sequel "The Phantom Theremin Orchestra" are only surpassed by a magnificent interlude titled "Pipe Organ and Bassoon." Tracks like these work fine for the kids on Halloween, but can also be enjoyed as weirdly satisfying strata that fairly cry out to be sampled and utilized elsewhere.

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