Square dance

An album from the denizens of Bikini Bottom brings out some rock 'n' roll royalty.

"I've worked on all kinds of records, but this is really incredible," Andy Paley says. "I've never done anything this good."

That's quite a claim for producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Paley, who has worked with a boggling range of talents including Jerry Lee Lewis, Madonna, the Ramones, Little Jimmy Scott and Brian Wilson. It's even more extraordinary considering that the album in question features not flesh-and-blood talents but animated ones -- the spongy, spiny and slimy residents of Bikini Bottom, undersea world of Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob SquarePants."

Paley has teamed with SpongeBob-voicer Tom Kenny to create a debut album from an underwater group, SpongeBob and the Hi-Seas' "The Best Day Ever." Paley and Kenny co-wrote all the material on the record, and while it is meant to be heard as the work of a single band -- a la the Archies or Banana Splits -- some formidable talent helps bring the tracks to life: Mandy Barnett, Flaco Jimenez, Tommy Ramone, Nino Tempo, Brian Wilson and members of NRBQ, as well as session players extraordinaire James Burton, Corky Hale and Tommy Morgan all contributed. Legendary Philadelphia DJ Jerry Blavat also is a presence, providing lead-ins and interstitials that tie the album together as a radio show being broadcast on the night of a big Hi-Seas concert. The album is set to be released Sept. 12, with a special "Best Day Ever" episode of "SpongeBob" to follow on Nickelodeon.

Paley and Kenny recruited the "SpongeBob" cast to sing the intricately crafted songs and perform the fake commercials and listener call-in bits, taking care to give each character a spotlight moment. Single-cell megalomaniac Sheldon J. Plankton lays out his plan for world domination in a "96 Tears"-style rocker, while world-weary Squidward Tentacles reveals a more sensitive side on a ballad that expresses how hard it is to be a superior being among dolts. SpongeBob himself greets the day cheerily on the title track, pines Gene Pitney-style for his lost snail and belts out a love song to his underwear called, appropriately enough, "Tighty Whities."

"We wanted to take the personality of the show and the personality of the characters and use that as a springboard for a collection of songs you might hear in Bikini Bottom," Kenny says. "All the hard work the show has done gave us the foundation we needed to put the characters in a new format. And I think that 'SpongeBob' has been around long enough that he's past the fad stage, so we wanted to make an album that might hold up the same way. We had no interest in steering this toward current trends in pop music -- (we) wanted it to celebrate the kinds of music we really love, whether that was Tex-Mex or garage rock or (the Beach Boys') 'Pet Sounds.' It's a kind of painless musical primer for kids."

Adds Paley, "I really like the idea that somewhere down the line, a kid might hear 'Pet Sounds' or a Ramones album and think, 'Hey, that sounds like my old "SpongeBob" record!'"
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