Pride Lands Online


A review of Rumble in the Jungle: a Tribute to the Music of "The Lion King"

Grrr! Buddy has been playing the "shadow game" with me all day. When I scratch my ear with my left foot, he scratches his. When I do a cat-style stretch and yawn to work the kinks out of my back, he does it too. When I say, "Gee, Buddy, I wonder what's for lunch?"--well, he repeats every blasted word I say! I've been doing my best to ignore him, but he's a real master at knowing how to get my dander up. I'd box his ears, but I don't think I'll want the shadow response to that action. Buddy, you fuzzy nutcase, I love you more than you can imagine--but sometimes, you're as annoying as a blaring car alarm at 2:30 in the morning.

Then, I get an idea. Let's see, uh, what's going on in the bathroom this afternoon, shall we? Maybe Dave has finally cleaned the sink? (Fat chance--it's more likely that the world has come to an end.) Oh good! Buddy's following me in, repeating every phrase I speak and aping every gesture I make. Then, I do a sudden dash for the door. I've caught Buddy totally flatfooted. A quick slam and fast twist of the paw locks the door.

"Hey, what the heck?" he says. Then, light dawns on Marblehead; I hear him gallop to the door and splat into it full face on. "Lemme out! Lemme out! Hey, I didn't mean to really fry your 'taters like that! Lemme out....pleeeeeeese?"

"No way, Little Mister Echo," I say as I stick my tongue out at the closed door in front of me.

"No way, Little Mister Echo," comes the saucy reply from behind the door. "And I bet my whiskers you just stuck your tongue out at me, too. So mwaaaaah!"

Arrrgh! Told you he can push all the right buttons with me. He knows me like Nick knows all the U.S. state capitals. Well, just for that, I'll leave ol' furbrain locked in there for a while--at least long enough for me to go listen to some music in peace.

What have we here on top of the CD player? There are lions on the cover. And the title looks promising: Rumble in the Jungle: a Tribute to the Music of "The Lion King." Wonder if it's any good? I put it on and listen.

Hmmmm. Well, some sage once said, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." If that's true, then this platter is shamelessly kissing the feet of TLK's Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (OMPS)--and darned near every other part of its anatomy. Sorry to say, we're not talking about a few simple borrowings or influences or even transcendence of an original model here (Igor Stravinsky's Pulcinella is a great example of the last of these). We're talking about people with absolutely nothing to say, who produced what Buddy would probably call "a cheesy knockoff," bringing nothing of consequence to the original and, adding insult to injury, purging all the vim and drive from the earlier model. A real vampire bat job, I'm afraid.

With the exception of the disc's last number, this CD is a shameless repeat of the English-language OMPS, down to item listing and track order. The Elton John/Tim Rice songs are in fact done almost exactly like the originals here. A new tune tacked onto the end of the CD constitutes the only nod towards semi-originality. Question--why bother doing such a slavish repeat at all? The best one can hope for here when creating a disc like this is to make a faithful copy of the original. But what's the point? All you really need to do is buy a copy of the Disney label soundtrack album; why settle for an imitation, no matter how exact it may be? This all reminds me of the unintentionally hilarious plot denouement in the Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers, where the young visual artist hero is recognized by all at the end of the film as being "a genius" solely because he has painted a carbon copy of an old masterpiece which no one but the artist can tell from its model. If that's indeed the measure of genius, well, all I can say is that there must be a bunch of MacArthur-Grant-worthy photocopy machines sitting out there in business offices throughout the world. Or perhaps the intention of this CD here is not benign at all; maybe this is a rip-off item akin to that of Good Times Videos' phony Pocahontas or Little Mermaid VCR tapes.

What's not to like here from a technical standpoint? Frankly, everything. To begin with, the smooth production values and meticulous arrangements of the OMPS are replaced by sleazy synthesizer-and-drums replicas of the scoring. And these synthesizers provide at best a pale and colorless approximation of the OMPS orchestration. The scoring timbre palette gotten here is surprisingly limited and the dynamic contrasts here are nearly non-existant. It all comes across as a stodgy spectrum of grays. To quote Gertrude Stein, "There's no there there."

The singing and voiceovers are frankly second-rate; in fact, there are likely no more than three people total doing all the vocals and speaking parts here (most all the male vocals sound like they are done by the same person and let's just say Mel Blanc he's not). The singers do not sustain long notes very well, either--a classic, telltale sign of little training and ability in vocalists. Lines are occasionally sung off-rhythm ("His carefree days with us are history" from "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is a good example). And words are sometimes garbled or mispronounced; offhand, I remember hearing "Zimba" (in "Be Prepared"), "Akuna Matara," and a laughably non-ballpark stab at the opening Zulu lines in "Circle of Life." There are some attempts made here at injecting a little verbal edge into the vocal numbers to enliven the sagging arrangements, but these punch-up attempts normally come out sounding forced, rather like trying to cram an elephant into a cookie jar.

And the one new track on the CD? It's called "Lion King of the Jungle," a little ditty penned by the hitherto unknown songwriting duo of Skeggs and Pugsley. Pugsley? (Have strength, Holly, have strength. No "Addams Family" jokes, no matter how tempting it may be.) This number proves to be an uptempo, uninspired Elton John-style tune with a square little melody and oddly confused lyrics. A few twists in the accompaniment are slightly reminiscent of the OMPS's "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" and a "Circle of Life"-inspired chant ("Chaki-am-a-waaaaay-ya-ma") pervades the song. It's all very forgettable, certainly not worth the price of the CD.

Perhaps the shabbiest thing on this album is the treatment given to the four Hans Zimmer instrumental tracks. All but the first of these are drastically cut and condensed versions of the OMPS selections. In a few spots, the chords used are wrongly transcribed from the original versions. And here as nowhere else, the flat, colorless timbre of the synthesizers used bleeds the music of badly needed energy and contrast. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that the numbers here may have been truncated because they simply would have been too monotonous if given in full and with this scoring.

Even the credits and liner information are sloppy and sketchily done. What credits, you may ask in looking at the sleeve and cover? Exactly. There are no musician names mentioned, no singers or voice actors credited, no editor identified. There are no lyrics given at all. Composer attributions are included here, but the four instrumental tracks, "This Land," "...To Die For," "Under the Stars," and "King of Pride Rock" are credited erroneously to Elton John. And the listed timings for tracks 7 through 12 are extremely wrong, in some cases more than two minutes shorter than listed--which would give a nasty surprise to any unsuspecting disc jockey fool enough to broadcast these selections.

The CD is released jointly by the EMI and Music for Pleasure labels. The Sex Pistols, a British punk group, once wrote a scathingly nasty song highly critical of the former company, and Kings Above know, if EMI sanctioned the release of this turkey, I'll be the first to agree with Johnny Rotten's opinion of them. As for the latter label, well, talk about false advertizing....

Gosh, this record is stunningly awful! I'd rather take my chances with Buddy. I head over to the bathroom door and turn the lock. Buddy peeks out from behind and grins sheepishly at me.

"Uhhh, hey sweetums--sorry I ticked ya off so royally before. Just bein' my usual wisenheimer self, y'know?" He gives me a big wet kiss on the nose--eeeyuck! His breath is bad all of a sudden!

"Hey, hot stuff," I say. "Let's go raid the fridge and get something to drink. I'm parched."

"Well actually, babycakes, I'm feeling mighty quenched right now," he says. "I had a long, cool drink out of the toilet bowl just before you popped open the door."

"BUDDY!" I groan. He's incorrigible, I tell you. But at least I'm finally free of brainless mimicry in both my music listening and my dealings with that silly sweetie of mine.


(transcribed by David Cleary)

Many thanks to Caspar McConville for providing a copy of the CD to hear.

{Submitted by Dave C.}
{HTML by Thumper}

The Pride Lands Online Multi-Media Archive


EMI/Music for Pleasure CD# MFP 6225 7243 8 52292 2 0

1. Circle of Life (John/Rice)
2. I Just Can't Wait to Be King (John/Rice)
3. Be Prepared (John/Rice)
4. Hakuna Matata (John/Rice)
5. Can You Feel the Love Tonight (John/Rice)
6. This Land (John) [sic]
7. ...To Die For (John) [sic]
8. Under the Stars (John) [sic]
9. King of Pride Rock (John) [sic]
10. Circle of Life (John/Rice)
11. I Just Can't Wait to Be King (John/Rice)
12. Can You Feel the Love Tonight (John/Rice)
13. Lion King of the Jungle (Skeggs/Pugsley)

All selections copyright (1994?--no date listed on CD) by Walt Disney Music Company/Wonderland, except "Lion King of the Jungle" copyright 1995 by BCI Music. CD released and copyright 1996.