I didn’t really expect an album of songs from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory by Primus to be much more than a side project by the band that I’d listen to once in amusement and then put on a shelf with my other Primus CDs. How wrong I was. The weirdness and twisted imagination the band uses in creating their own versions of these beloved songs is something that makes this just as much a proper Primus album as anything. The fact I already knew the words to much of this was just an added bonus. The band’s oddball humor and style and the strangeness of the original movie and songs are actually a really good match, making this a Primus project to remember.
Here is my original review from October…
Yes… yes they did. Primus has recorded a “cover” album of the soundtrack to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Why? Because they are Primus. If you love Primus, and you love Willy Wonka, then you might really love this. If you didn’t like Primus before, you will probably be screaming “blasphemy!”. If you are one of the lot that thinks Les Claypool is one of the best bass players of our time (as do I), then you may really be intrigued.
Who is this “Fungai Ensemble”? They consist of Mike Dillon on percussion and marimba, and Sam Bass on Cello. Basically, extra instrumentation to add eccentricities to the songs. But the biggest news here is the return of original drummer Tim Alexander to the fold. So what better way to celebrate than to record the songs of a movie Les Claypool has been obsessed with since he was a child? Only Primus.
While a couple of the tracks really twist the arrangements, such as “Pure Imagination”, others are closer to the originals, such as, well all of the “Oompa Loompa” songs. Yes, they did all of them. “Cheer Up Charlie” is both sweet and comical. “I Want It Now” boats lead vocals (for the first time if I’m not mistaken) by Ler a/k/a guitarist Larry LaLonde. And the entire album is bookended by “Hello Wonkites” and “Farewell Wonkites”, an adventurous instrumental based on “Pure Imagination”.
I really think the band captures the fun and excitement of the movie and its soundtrack here without doing just straight ahead covers. If you are familiar with Primus as a live band, you know how complex and sonically captivating the band can get when jamming on long instrumental passages. A lot of that fun was distilled into these tracks. And yet some of these would sit well next to Primus classics on a playlist, with none the wiser until the lyrics are recognized.
This is definitely not for Willy Wonka or Primus purists. Well then again, actually maybe it is. That sense of adventure and abandonment of the rules is what makes me like both the band and the movie. So in a weird twisted way, this album makes complete sense to me. It already has been and I’m sure will continue to be getting many repeat plays from me. I mean who can’t be put into a better mood by singing the “Oompa Loompa” songs, or “Golden Ticket”. Highly recommended for those seeking the fun and wacky side of things.
And here is some video from the album:
The Green Space performance of the album on Halloween!