The suave, unassuming Pink Panther turned 40 on April 11. Representing the space-age sophisticate and stylish mod era, this hip cat has undergone light plastic surgery of late, by way of artist Shag, to step out into the limelight as MGM goes all out for the big birthday bonanza. There is the re-release of The Pink Panther Film Collection on DVD, starring Peter Sellers, and, of course, the Pink Panther wouldn't be the Pink Panther without the sexy smooth signature song by Henry Mancini, and therefore no birthday celebration would be complete without also performing a little cosmetic touch-up on the melody.
Released by Virgin Records, Pink Panther Penthouse Party is a collection of 18 tracks in theme and variation (and, on a few others, form). Beginning with the original rendition of the movie theme song, the remaining tracks shoot for creating a lounge/cool ambience, where one can envision oneself dressed in a velvet smoking jacket hobnobbing with such timeless celebrities as "The Girl from Ipanema". In total, there are four versions of the main Pink Panther theme; the original, a remix by Mancini himself, a remix by Fischerspooner, and "The Pink Panther Theme Revisited" by St Germain. The original notwithstanding, the best interpretation is Mancini's own mix that is a fired-up blend of James Bond vigor and sophistication, complete with interludes by electric organ and harpsichord. St Germain's easy-going version emphasizes the punchy melody, distinctively highlighted by trombones, and interspersed with some impromptu variations on saxophone and layered on top of a reggae-tinged mix. Fischerspooner's offering is disappointing in comparison. The heaviness of the bass synths ends up reining in the melody to adhere to the strict timing, rather than giving freedom to the swing of the syncopation, and results in a lack of overall drive.
Two favorite associations with the lounge style make welcoming contributions: Peggy Lee's "Fever", redone by Gabin Remix Edit, and Astrud Gilberto's "The Girl from Ipanema", recreated by Tokyo's Pizzicato Five. Though neither attempt could ever outdo the originals, their treatments are respectable as they simulate the groove and pulse of the compilation. Pizzacato Five's rendition is particularly kooky. Known for their too-cool-for-words all-encompassing style, they max out their post-modern influences as they chop-and-mix between echoes of the original and fast-paced instrumental excerpts.
The standard of tracks is somewhat hit and miss. An example of a hit would be "Sacre Francais" by Dimitri From Paris; lightly electronic, full of French charm, this is something a sophisticated pink cat would be sure to revel in. A somewhat incongruous inclusion, and therefore a miss, is Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice". What a loud-mouth Brit is doing in this mix deserves to be questioned. And if you haven't picked up on the slight euro-trash taste by now, then you'll probably fail to find the humor in Arling & Cameron's kitsch version of "Voulez-Vous?" This is a brilliantly watered-down attempt, guaranteed to grate on the nerves of those who are blind enough to think this is high art to be appreciated as such.
It's all awfully flashy, and one can imagine the cat blushing pink from all the fuss being made of him. Fancy having a compilation dedicated solely to him; where modern artists have massaged their hip urban styles into their version of '60s coolness, so that we might all relive and celebrate his birthday. This was an entertaining concept that has transpired into a thoroughly entertaining compilation, not to be taken seriously, but to be enjoyed as is. The Pink Panther would no doubt expect nothing less.