Way Out Wednesday: The Electric Company

Written by Music, Way Out Wednesday

When I was younger, one of my favorite television shows was The Electric Company, a children’s series on PBS that helped teach kids how to read. Now, I was 10 years old at the time, and a very good reader, but I watched the show anyway, because I found it so entertaining. I knew Bill Cosby from his comedy albums, but I didn’t know about Rita Moreno’s impressive resume. And of course if you were a follower of the show, it most likely was your first exposure to Morgan Freeman. It’s hard for me to see him in anything now without thinking of him as the super cool “reading freak,” Easy Reader.

And speaking of Easy Reader, this brings us to the two songs featured here. For a long time, the only Electric Company album I had was this one pictured above, and needless to say, it was not performed by the original cast. Usually, the songs were strong enough to carry off, regardless of of who sang them; however, sometimes it just didn’t work. For example, here’s their version of “Easy Reader”:

Unknown Singer – Easy Reader

Luckily, I eventually found an actual Electric Company soundtrack. So here, for your listening pleasure, is the wonderful award-winning actor Morgan Freeman showing you how “Easy Reader” is supposed to sound:

Morgan Freeman – Easy Reader

I did some research, and there’s actually an older version of this album with more music. The difference with the one I have is that they took off all the songs Bill Cosby was involved in, either because he wasn’t on the show as much at that point or there was a conflict with the record label doing his comedy records, or possibly both. This one also has pictures of the newer cast members (Hattie Winston and Luis Avalos), but they’re not on any of the songs.

And now PBS is premiering a new, supposedly hipper Electric Company. I wonder if it’ll have the same staying power as the original, or if it’ll feel like a pale imitation — like the first album featured here. If you’d like to do more comparing and contrasting between these two albums, they’re both available to download here.