Semi-Conducted is a live album released by The Arrogant Worms in 2003. It is a concert recording of the Worms' concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and contains most of the songs from said performance. (The DVD, Three Worms and an Orchestra, contains the entire concert.)
- Big Fat Road Manager
- Canada's Really Big
- Rocks and Trees
- Log In To You
- I Am Cow
- The Last Saskatchewan Pirate
- Gaelic Song
- Me Like Hockey
- Carrot Juice is Murder
- Billy the Theme Park Shark
- Celine Dion
- We Are the Beaver
Track by track
The overture is a treat for longtime Worms fans, as the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (conducted by David Hoyt) performs excerpts from classic songs such as "Dangerous," "I Am Cow" and "Rocks and Trees." The full orchestra is put to good use and delivers a taste of what's to come. Towards the end, Worm Trevor Strong hits the stage in the guise of the Worms' road manager, admonishing the orchestra for playing so loudly during the soundcheck and paving the way for...
Big Fat Road Manager was originally released in 1994. It is the ultimate tribute to a road manager of massive girth and reflects his many responsibilities, such as blocking the door when tax collectors show up. The first full piece of the evening also contains the first of a number of references to classical pieces -- Liszt's Hungarian Dance No. 5. The original version ends with "But if he can come to terms/He will manage The Arrogant Worms." The symphonic version pokes fun at a labour dispute the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra was undergoing at the time with "But if he will listen to me/He will manage the symphony." The joke went over well.
Canada is Really Big, originally released in 1997, is what the Worms refer to as "Canada's national anthem. That, uh, that we wrote." The symphonic version is very true to the original, complete with the trumpet "charge" riff at the appropriate moments. It's very regal and moving. No, really.
In one of the few tracks on the album that actually include the inter-song banter for which the Worms are famous, the band explains how big the opportunity to perform with the ESO is for them and that they'd wanted to make the night special. The best way to do this, they said, was to find a "great Canadian guest star" to sing Rocks and Trees with them. But, alas, "we couldn't find a great Canadian guest star. We asked everybody and they all turned us down." Rather than let the opportunity pass by, they invite Trevor's mom on stage to be their Great Canadian Guest Star. The track also involves audience participation, sections and one of the more clever classical music references. Just before the word "water" comes up, the orchestra quotes Handel's Water Music. And there was much laughter and applause.
Log In To You begins, as described here, with the sound of a dial-up modem. The string section handles that tall order astoundingly well. Then Chris Patterson sings about finding love on the internet in the style of a 1990s arena rock power ballad. It's one of those things you have to hear to fully understand.
I Am Cow is one of the Worms' most popular songs and the orchestra's mere introduction is enough to elicit applause from the receptive audience. This track is not much different from the album version, apart from the fact that there's an orchestra providing the music as opposed to a solitary pipe organ.
When Aaron Copland wrote Fanfare for the Common Man, he was clearly thinking of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. A tribute to the human spirit. The idea of a farmer casting off the shackles of everyday life and becoming a pirate was probably not on his mind, but the orchestra begins The Last Saskatchewan Pirate with an excerpt from the piece anyhow. The Worms' first (and arguably biggest) hit is given the full orchestral treatment, complete with huge string parts.
One of the other few tracks that include inter-song banter is Gaelic Song, wherein the Worms explain that they were inspired by the Celtic culture's resurgence in the arts world -- but also point out that while on tour in Cape Breton, they heard more Procol Harem than anything else. Gaelic Song is written in "mock Gaelic." It's funny.
The concert resumes after intermission with Me Like Hockey, which is (seriously) written in caveman-speak. It is, ironically, about hockey. After all, "TV soccer not that hot. You play bad and you get shot." The song's orchestration involves mostly percussion, and something about a garbage can lid. But that bit of banter is on the DVD, not the album.
The ultimate protest song (or not), Carrot Juice is Murder is also given the ESO treatment. Partway through the song, Chris breaks out a lighter and audience members wind up doing the same. "Come on, kids! You've got matches!"
Dangerous is the tale of all the things the narrator would do for his love if he wasn't such a wuss. Unlike most Worms' songs, where vocal duties are shared equally between the three, this is Trevor Strong's baby. Mike and Chris sing backup, but Trevor sustains a high note for 27 seconds at the end. Classical music references include Flight of the Bumblebee (at a lyric referencing killer bees) and Chopin's Funeral March.
Billy the Theme Park Shark also includes orchestral music references -- it begins with a quote from the Jaws theme. (What were you expecting?) The song is the story of a shark captured and then transferred to a theme park, where his main task is "jumping at a killer that's suspended overhead." Oh Billy, the theme park shark. "He looks just like a killer, but he's too well fed."
Though the Worms may not have been able to secure a great Canadian guest star, Celine Dion makes an appearance. Or not. They actually just wrote a song about her from the point of view of an obsessed, stalker-like fan. I'm not spoiling this one for anybody. Just listen to it.
The last "official" song from the concert (there was an encore, but it's not on this album) is We Are the Beaver, a loving tribute to Canada's famous mascot. This is the only song on the album to involve the Worms more than it does the orchestra, though the ESO does come in towards the end. And yes, there are puns aplenty. "The beaver always gives a dam," after all. In a touching nod to official bilingualism, Mike and Chris sing "Nous sommes le castor" towards the end.
Entire songs were left off the album for reasons known only unto God (and, uh, to the Worms). Those include Proud to be a Banker, Mounted Animal Nature Trail and Jesus's Brother Bob, which the Worms performed as an encore.
The entire concert was broadcast as a television special and released as a DVD, witty banter in tact. Also of note was that after Trevor's mom performed Rocks and Trees with the band, she insisted on taking a photo of them with ESO conductor David Hoyt. And there was much laughter.
The Worms performed wearing tuxedos with bowties in their respective Worm colours (Trevor is red, Chris is blue and Mike is green), as well as matching sneakers. Snazzy.
One of the main criticisms Worms fans have of this concert involves the instrumentation. Mike plays guitar at most Worms concert, and this is no exception, but as one fan so eloquently stated on a listserv, "why would you be playing guitar when there's an orchestra behind you?" Timing issues between the band and the orchestra have also been cited as criticisms.
Otherwise, this is one of the Worms' most popular -- and, perhaps, best -- albums.