Oh, my God! They recorded Kenny!
No, we're not talking Kenny Rogers here, or even Kenny G. We're talking Kenny McCormick, the mumbling, frequently decapitated elementary schooler whose death is a weekly occurrence on the Comedy Central cartoon "South Park."
Of course, anyone who either watches the show or has children in middle school already knows that. Many may also know that Kenny's recording debut comes courtesy of "Chef Aid: The South Park Album" (Columbia/American 69377, arriving in stores today).
Given the amount of money already being made on "South Park" videos and T-shirts, there was a certain inevitability to the release of a "South Park" CD. After all, if the Brady Bunch could cut songs, why not Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny?
But the "Chef Aid" album isn't built around the warbling of animated tykes (and after hearing Cartman's rendition of the Styx oldie "Come Sail Away," you'll be glad of it). Instead, it's an all-star project designed to emphasize the show's hiptitude. On the whole, the album is much like the show: occasionally funny, frequently tasteless and guaranteed to provoke the prudish.
"Chef Aid" started out as an episode in which Chef -- a crooning, Salisbury-steak-slinging love machine voiced by Isaac Hayes -- winds up owing $2 million after losing a court case. He's saved from certain poverty when his old rock star buddies mount a charity concert on his behalf. Elton John, Rick James and Ozzy Osbourne (who bites the head off Kenny) all make cameos.
"Chef Aid: The South Park Album" doesn't completely follow the TV episode. There's no Mr. Hat subplot, no appearance by Johnnie Cochran, and no sign of Alanis Morissette performing "Stinky Britches" (don't ask). But it does have Ween, Perry Farrell, and the bizarre pairing of Ozzy Osbourne and Ol' Dirty Bastard.
"The South Park Album" also expands on the show's fondness for low humor and vulgarity. Even on the show, Chef's songs are full of comic innuendo, as he mixes food- and sex-metaphors in such single-entendre masterpieces as "Love Gravy." But when all viewers get is a 45-second snippet of the song, the lyrics aren't likely to get too explicit.
On album, however, Chef serves up the uncut versions of these songs, and that takes them beyond even the boundaries of cable-TV decency. "No Substitute," his valentine to Kathy Lee Gifford, includes a ridiculously explicit description of hummingbird nookie, while the Rick James/Ike Turner version of "Love Gravy" goes so far over the edge that even Chef is offended. "C'mon, Rick," says Chef. " That's not cool."
There are some wickedly funny musical numbers. Rapper Master P borrows from Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead" to create "Kenny's Dead," while Porno for Pyros' Perry Farrell turns in a wonderfully funky -- and surprisingly erudite -- version of Chef's "Hot Lava."
Naturally, the "South Park" gang gets into the act from time to time. Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny join Wyclef Jean on the nonsensical ragga lament "Bubblegoose" (though Cartman keeps mistaking Wyclef for rapper Mack 10), while Vietnam vet Ned Garblansky uses Bad Co.'s "Feel Like Makin' Love" to prove you don't need a larynx to make records.
But the best track for fans is Nitro's "Mentally Dull (Think Tank Remix)," a mega-mix that shapes snippets of "South Park" NTC dialogue into a four-and-a-half minute techno workout. Not only does it include some of the show's best bits, but Nitro even managed to turn the phrase "Oh, my God! They killed Kenny!" into a chorus of sorts.
There's also plenty of cursing on the album -- and not of the bleeped variety heard on the show, either. Ol' Dirty begins and ends his contribution to "Nowhere to Run" with polysyllabic profanity, and "Will They Die 4 You," by Ma$e, Puffy & Lil' Kim, is much rougher than any of those rappers' MTV fare.
In short, "Chef Aid: The South Park Album," like "South Park" itself, is not kid stuff.
"Chef Aid: The South Park Album"
Sun score: **
Sundial: To hear excerpts from "Chef Aid: The South Park Album," call Sundial at 410-783-1800 and enter the code 6225. For other local Sundial numbers, see the directory on Page 2B.
Pub Date: 11/24/98