The music career of The Brady Bunch through albums
What's a hit television series without some tie-in products? From lunchboxes, T-shirts, and board games, all types of merchandise help a show saturate the culture. Especially in the '70s, executives made it so that their biggest shows were absolutely inescapable. Among the ephemera released to coincide with certain shows was the cast recording. Several shows released full albums of their cast recording originals and cover versions of popular songs. The Partridge Family is the most obvious musical example, but another of America's favorite TV families also released a handful of records.
Between 1970 and 1973, the cast of The Brady Bunch recorded four official albums and a handful of solo/duet cuts. While now mostly relegated to thrift stores and the most completist of collections, these recordings are nonetheless worth a listen, especially due to their availability on many major streaming services.
The collection begins with Merry Christmas from the Brady Bunch, alternatively known as Christmas with The Brady Bunch. The LP consists of Brady Bunch re-recordings of traditional Christmas pieces, such as "O Holy Night," "Jingle Bells," and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." The album effectively serves its purpose as a novelty vehicle for Holiday cheer and would make a great addition to any Christmastime playlist. Among the highlights is a fun "Frosty the Snowman" by a then nine-years-old Susan Olsen, who played Cindy Brady. Group recordings of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "O Come, All Ye Faithful," and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" point to the ensemble's chemistry early in the show's production run.
Next in the all-Brady playlist is Meet the Brady Bunch. Whether done intentionally or not, this second Brady album shares a naming convention with the second U.S.-released Beatles album, Meet the Beatles. This album, free from the constraints of being a Christmas album, really showcases not only the Brady kids but also the music of the time. The standout single "Time to Change" will be recognizable to fans; it was featured in the 1972 episode "Dough Re Mi." The song takes its cues from a plot point wherein middle son Peter, entering puberty, begins to notice his voice changing. The bubblegum pop melody makes for a perfect earworm, and the of-its-time production is a great big dose of nostalgia, whether you lived through the era or not.
Their third album, 1972's The Kids from The Brady Bunch, features stylized artwork depicting the characters as they appeared in the animated program of the same name. Kids follows the established blueprint of covers of established hits paired with original compositions by professional songwriters. This time the Beatles connection is continued with a cover of the Fab Four's "Love Me Do." Other covers include Michael Jackson's "Ben," released that same year, Lobo's "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo," and a cover of Chicago's "Saturday in the Park." The record's high spot, though, regarding the song's quality and legacy, is "It's a Sunshine Day." The flower-power lyrics and buoyant melody made for a perfect signature Brady song. An interesting bit of trivia: the cover art was designed and drawn by the same artist, Joe Petagno, who designed the "war-pig" logo utilized by the heavy metal band Motörhead.
1973 completed the Brady Bunch album cycle, with the releases of The Brady Bunch Phonographic Album and an album of duets by Chris Knight & Maureen McCormick. The Phonographic album was mostly an extension of the formula established by earlier releases. A then-contemporary Billboard review praised the album's "rich harmonies and finely honed voices," describing the album as "an easy-to-take collection of pop tunes which will appeal to a specific audience which knows and enjoys this act." The self-titled Chris Knight & Maureen McCormick showcases McCormick's soft, ethereal voice, and allows Knight space to create some contrast. Of all these albums, this duet release is currently the hardest to listen to, as it is seemingly unavailable to stream on traditional services.
Taken as a whole, the Brady Bunch albums offer a fun, harmless snapshot of their time and the show's cast. While they're all a great listen, most listeners would be best served by checking out the greatest hits compilation, It's a Sunshine Day: The Best of the Brady Bunch. The collection, released in 1996, featured bonus tracks from the out-of-print McCormick & Knight album as well.
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