In the 41 years since its original airing on a still relatively young HBO, the Jim Henson TV special Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas has blossomed from a cult item into a holiday tradition, especially among those who are too cool to only habitually watch, say, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And yet there’s this baffling fact: Its soundtrack, filled with a host of killer songs, has never, not ever been released commercially as a stand-alone album.
That changes now: Pitchfork is reporting that The Jim Henson Company is giving the soundtrack a belated release, including on vinyl. The songs were all written by Paul Williams, the diminutive songwriting machine known for such saccharine-yet-smart hits as The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun,” Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen” (from the 1976 A Star is Born), and a hit song from a certain other Henson production, “The Rainbow Connection.” Onscreen, Williams also played the Phil Spector-ish villain in Brian De Palma’s 1974 cult favorite Phantom of the Paradise, for which he also wrote the songs.
Emmet Otter adapted Russell and Lillian Hoban’s beloved 1971 children’s book, which concerns the bittersweet tale of a cash-strapped otter who tries to win a local talent competition. Henson — who voiced some of the characters, though he gave the lead role to frequent collaborator Jerry Nelson — was in the middle of The Muppet Show’s five season stretch when he made the one-off special in 1977. Two years later, he gifted the world with The Muppet Movie. (The Muppets will return, by the way, on a show on Disney’s forthcoming streaming service.)
The Emmet Otter soundtrack will hit shelves on November 23, aka Black Friday. In addition to the 15 songs in the hour-long program, it will include a previously unreleased song called “Born in a Trunk.” In the meantime, enjoy this banger of a track from the jug-band’s main competition: the vaguely prog-y Riverbottom Nightmare Band, complete with one member who’s just an eel chilling in a tank.