The Smurfs

Smurf Hits '97

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It was inevitable that the British Smurf records released in the late '90s, which pride themselves on covers of other artists' pop songs, would attempt a Spice Girls track. "Wannabe (A Smurf Star)" will earn many laughs upon first listen if only for shock value. It would be easy to find hardcore fans frustrated with the Smurf marketing that allows such liberties to be taken but one wonders if that says more about the state of mind of the marketers or of the fans. It is a new Smurf generation of course, and it's easier to lighten up and enjoy the new offerings than to lash back at what atrocities are occurring. Smurf Hits '97 is somewhat misleading because the songs have not been released before in any format. The Smurfs are not trying anything new here but this album in particular is great to listen to because the track choices are exceptional with (laugh if you must) less filler. "The Smurfs Are Coming Home" is a spectacular ballad with beautifully produced foot-marching sound effects. The song at first sounds far away, but the effects bring the Smurfs right up to the mic and then further away again as the song fades, a double-layered, terrific transition that has more originality than most radio pop songs (though this is based on one, "The Three Lions"). "The Laughter Smurf" speaks for itself and with its catchy breakdown of hysteria, might even be recommended as a Prozac alternative for adults; these are the kind of wonders that kept listeners sane as children, if you will remember. "Smurf Billy Rock, Smurf Billy Roll" is delightful from the moment the first blue one yells, "Come on Smurfs, let's have a hoe down!" to its abrupt ending in which another one says he has broken a string on his fiddle -- who knows how long it would have lasted otherwise. The Smurfs even manage to breathe exciting new life into a song that had previously worn its welcome, "The Macarena." 'Nuff said.