Halloween Howls: Fun & Scary Music Album Review
Written by Richie Corelli
Released by Craft Recordings
Composed by Andrew Gold
Released on August 25th, 2023
If you've been on TikTok around Halloween, you’re probably familiar with Andrew Gold. A remixed version of his track "Spooky, Scary Skeletons" has taken over the platform every October for the past five years. It started when a charismatic young TikToker named @minecrafter2011, whose screen name is arguably one of the most Gen-Z monikers in history, developed a dance for the song. It was great. His jaunty footwork looked difficult, but was pretty easy to learn with a little practice. His video quickly spread across social media as other content creators jumped on the trend and mirrored minecrafter’s moves. The song built a mammoth following, with over 84 million impressions.
But if you’re not on TikTok, rewind a bit. In 2010, a YouTube user named TJ Ski, remembering an old Disney VHS, paired the original version of “Spooky Scary Skeletons” with a 1929 animated Disney cartoon short of skeletons dancing in a graveyard. It was fantastic. And when they posted it online, it caught fire and went viral.
If you missed that, then head back to the beginning. In 1996 Andrew Gold, who scored a trio of soft-pop hits two decades earlier with "Lonely Boy" (1977), "Thank You For Being a Friend" (1978), and the Freddy Mercury-backed "Never Let Her Slip Away" (1978), decided there wasn’t enough Halloween music and put out an album called Halloween Howls. Initially limited to CD and cassette, Craft Recordings reissued the album as an LP in 2021 and repressed it in 2023 on bone white vinyl.
From the onset, this release is directed at kids. A mild thunderclap and a brief interpolation of Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor sets the stage for Gold’s theatrics as he comes in with a vocal-effected spoken-word introduction to let his young audience know they’re in for a good time; “Hello, boys and girls. Welcome to my Halloween house.”
After the intro, the music starts with “It Must Be Halloween.” The track combines ‘60s R&B with carnival music and Gold’s British-invasion-inspired vocals. With its simple, call-and-response lyrics, monster call-outs, and silly sound effects, Gold embraces all the not-too-spooky Halloween clichés that are perfect for little ones who have graduated from the See ’n Say toys in their closet, but aren’t quite ready to unbox a Ouija.
“It Must Be Halloween” is the first in a trio of covers. For the second, Andrew Gold teams up with Stephen Bishop and Linda Ronstadt for a rendition of the Bobby Pickett song, “The Monster Mash.” It’s a straightforward take on the classic ‘60s hit. The original version of the song, a novelty pop track, was meant to parody the popular dance-crazes of that decade. More than half a century later, those references will likely be lost on children, but the catchy hook, creature call-outs, and exaggerated vocals should still incite dancing and laughter.
A little later in the record, Gold and his band do their version of “The Addams Family.” Their take is a little slower than the original 1964 television theme, but those iconic four notes still hold the same addictive power as they always have. Listeners can’t help but snap their fingers when prompted.
Immediately after “The Addams Family” comes “Ghostbusters.” This is a bit of a misstep. While Gold’s version is serviceable, his vocal style just doesn’t have the same charismatic purr that Ray Parker Jr. delivers in the original. And with Gold’s execution, the attack on the keyboard is softer, flattening the track. It’s not bad, per se. It’s just that the 1984 version is better.
Gold’s original pieces maintain the same fun, good-natured tone as the covers. “Don’t Scream (It’s Only Halloween)” is a fantastic example. This song is built on a catchy refrain that repeats over Zydeco-blues instrumentation. Because Halloween Howls was made for a younger audience, the jolly, innocuous vocals continually take center stage. And while “Don’t Scream (It’s Only Halloween)” certainly keeps that vocal silliness going, the style of the song also gives the band freedom to noodle around. That’s a good thing.
“In Our Haunted House” is another one worth mentioning. After a vocal skit where two young boys sneak past a creaky door, they’re greeted by a stalking waltz as old-timey keys scuttle over a bed of sandy beats. Gold sings with a Beatles-meets-Dracula inflection, occasionally interrupted by a gratuitous Peter Lorre impression, clearly enjoying himself with every syllable. It’s an enjoyment that’s infectious.
With the original pressing, “In Our Haunted House” was the record’s swan song. But with this release, Craft wisely added an extra track: “Spooky Scary Skeletons (Undead Tombstone Remix).” This is the version the TikTokers know and love. It’s a contemporary version of an old song. Sped up from the original, with pounding bass and an EDM bridge, the track doesn’t fit with the rest of the album stylistically. But that hardly matters. This thing is a banger.
The album artwork, which has been updated from the original 1996 release, is simple but effective. It was designed by Jess Rotter, who has created artwork for The Grateful Dead, Cat Stevens, Harry Nilsson, and Questlove. With this record, a cartoon of happy skeletons frolic past a haunted house. The gatefold illustration depicts a lively Halloween dance party. Bright and busy, it’s full of color and creatures and happiness. It’s a Where’s Waldo of monsters and a perfect image for children to get lost in as they listen to the music.
Overall, Andrew Gold’s Halloween Howls: Fun & Scary Music is an enjoyable romp. Although it is marketed as a Halloween record, its cheerful and celebratory nature may make it appealing to kids beyond the holiday. And while some of the tracks might be a little juvenile for adults, there’s plenty here for all the little monsters in your life to enjoy.
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