We gave it an A
Mickey Mouse is in no danger, but Ziggy Marley better watch out. The career of Sebastian the calypso crab is going swimmingly. With his second album, the breakaway star of Disney’s animated feature The Little Mermaid proves he’s no one-dimensional spin-off. Disney’s Sebastian Party Gras!, featuring Samuel E. Wright, establishes the crustacean as our foremost interpreter of Caribbean music for kids.
Party Gras!, like Sebastian before it, is practically guaranteed to be a big hit. Rollicking reggae and calypso, slick production and a TV special — this album has it all.
Through 12 songs and 43 minutes, Sebastian (Wright), with his gravelly voice, his inter-stanza bubble blowing, and his impeccable island accent, is like some Platonic ideal of a crab. During Mermaid‘s filming, in fact, Wright approached his role like a Method actor: He demanded that his microphone be raised so he would feel small and experience life like a crab. My favorite song here is ”I’m a Crustacean” (”It’s my occupation/And my reputation…From station to station…For your information I’m proud to be a crab”). The simple lyric does everything that a million children’s songs about self-esteem have done, but with subtlety and humor.
”Carousel,” on the other hand, is about as subtle as a Sunday-school lesson. ”Life is a carousel/With every turn/Try for the brass ring.” Obviously, Sebastian’s handlers have told him he’s a role model now. The self-consciousness of this song, and of ”Life Is a Magic Thing” (”Creation smiles as the/Flowers bloom”), undermines Sebastian’s crabby appeal. He’s not Raffi — he’s seafood! But at least these songs are pretty. So are Wright/ Sebastian’s growly renditions of ”What a Wonderful World” and ”Give a Little Love.”
But Sebastian is at his most crablike with party tunes: a cleaned-up version of the classic Mardi Gras song ”Iko Iko” (the ”love machine” of the original becomes a ”mermaid queen”), ”Limbo Rock,” ”Twist and Shout,” and, with a background of humid-jungle sounds, ”Coconut.”
Maybe the best thing I can say about this album is that when you hear those last three songs, you don’t automatically think of Chubby Checker, the Beatles, and Harry Nilsson. You think of Sebastian, the greatest crab impersonation in the history of music. A