Pride Lands Online


A review of
The Lion King: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

A bowl clattered in the kitchen.

"Corn flakes!" said Buddy.

"Orange juice!" said Renfield.

"Graham crackers!" said Holly.

Hmmm. That sounded like a respectable breakfast to my way of thinking. Which reminded me: I was a tad hungry. I wandered over to the kitchen to see if perhaps a stray graham cracker square might find its way in my direction. But what I saw upon arrival squelched my appetite immediately. The three forementioned ingredients had found their way into the same large bowl--and Buddy, gourmand extraordinare that he is, was noisily wolfing down the revolting concoction, much to the delight of his fascinated audience.

I spied Nora in the corner of the kitchen and sidled over to her. "So," I grinned, "this is your idea of a spectator sport?"

She chuckled softly and said, "I can't help it. It's fascinating to watch him, mostly for the same reason that a train wreck draws a crowd. I've never seen anybody eat the way Buddy does. I'll bet he'd drink motor oil sludge if it were poured into a glass."

I suspected she was right--though frankly, I didn't care to stick around and find out, especially when I saw the next culinary delight being prepared.

"Date-nut bread!" said Holly.

"Olive and pimento loaf!" said Buddy.

"Chocolate cake frosting!" said Renfield.

"And topped off with a sour pickle wedge!" said Nora.

"Hee hee! Bon appetit!" squealed Buddy in his best Julia Child voice as he munched away.

Ugh! Some things just don't go together, no matter how well they may stand alone. I decided to leave our budding James Beard wannabe to savor his strange noshes and go listen to some music. My choice was the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (OMPS) to The Lion King.

One sometimes hears of entities which are described as being "greater than the sum of their parts." (The Beatles, the movie Airplane, and French toast might be considered good examples of this). But the reverse is more often true; note what happens when candied fruit, alcoholic delights, and bakery standards combine to form the dreaded Christmas fruitcake--a food frequently more suitable for serving as masonry than as mouth-watering treat. In much the same way, The Lion King's OMPS manages to come across as a hodgepodge of high points which do not add up to a satisfying whole.

The CD clumps itself into three sections: songs lifted directly from the movie itself, background music from the film (at times reassembled slightly to allow for better musical flow), and pop studio versions of selections from the feature. There is no attempt made to blend the material from section to section; transitions are abrupt and musical approaches clash at times. Granted, the three styles exhibited here may be utterly exclusionary of each other. Those responsible for assembling track order on this CD likely realized the impossibility of any sort of integration here and opted upon the present solution as being the least objectionable. Regrettably, the album comes off as a less-than-smooth listening experience, almost as it it were three EP's chained together.

This is not to say that the album contains no pleasures--far from it, actually. Many selections here are highly effective on one level or another. In fact, enjoyment begins immediately here, with the movie's vibrant, gutsy version of the song "Circle of Life." Carmen Twillie's lead vocal is highly expressive, ranging from the quiet crooning of the opening lines to her full-throated, celebratory singing in the refrain. The film's rousing beginning serves as an equally punchy opener to the CD.

The movie's rendition of "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" follows next. This track is slick and bouncy, with an irresistable flippancy that manages to compensate for lyrics that veer from the punningly clever ("I'm brushing up on looking down") to the slightly strained ("Let's hear it in the herd and on the wing.").

The mildly Latin-flavored song "Be Prepared" is jam-packed with delightful production touches and gives lead vocalist Jeremy Irons a great chance to speak-sing in the best British tradition of Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady and David Tomlinson in Mary Poppins. He proves more than equal to the challenge, attacking his part with malevolent relish.

"Hakuna Matata" is a curious number, musically the least effective in the movie. The selection is highly fragmented and oddly paced, containing a bubbly chorus, a lengthy and rather functionless instrumental section, and a scattered verse that successively patches together a squarishly poppy opening fragment, a somewhat unmemorable rising stepwise melodic line, a quasi-operatic recitative snippet, and a gospel call-and-response closing. It's a laudably ambitious attempt on Elton John's part that doesn't quite work. The film's visual element adds much to this number; forced to stand on its own, the song is rather less effective.

As rendered in the movie, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is quite successful. Here, the track's sectional nature works because (unlike in "Hakuna Matata") the song's melodic approach is stylistically unified. Thus the opening and closing segments essentially function as readily perceivable variants on a general idea, not as disparate fragments. The main body of the song, ably sung by Sally Dworsky and Joseph Williams, is yearning and expressive, sporting a tune of wide pitch range. The outer sections (performed delightfully by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella) are by turns grouchy and touching, providing a telling frame to the song proper.

The next four selections, "This Land," "...To Die For," "Under the Stars," and "King of Pride Rock," are instrumental background music excerpts from the movie. They appear to have won much favor from aficionados of this CD, and if one is listening solely for moods and tunes, it is easy to see why. All four of these tracks strikingly delineate strongly focused temperaments (chilling in "...To Die For," contemplative in "Under the Stars," heroic and triumphant in "King of Pride Rock"). The orchestration is profoundly effective and the melodic material used is often very memorable. Yet there are clear problems here. Instrumental cuts such as these, especially ones with the large orchestral scoring used in these instances, will invariably suggest comparison to movements of classical music. Regrettably, for all their good points, these numbers fall short on such parameters as melodic development, structural tightness, and logical unfolding. Even classical composers known for their good tunes and loose sense of form, such as Schubert and Tchaikovsky, never composed works as organically scattered as these selections are. It is true that this music was originally written to underscore a movie, not stand alone as a set of integrated concert pieces--but while this music is extraordinarily capable as film backing (among the best I've ever heard, actually), the simple fact remains that it is presented on the CD as a series of independent compositions and therefore has to be judged here as such. And unfortunately, these selections do not successfully make the quantum leap from music-as-product to music-for-its-own-sake.

The CD concludes with three of the movie's songs presented in pop arrangements by their composer, Elton John. Far from being album filler, they are in fact quite listenable in their own right. "Circle of Life" is given a soaring, production-number treatment that proves to be extremely compelling. "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" is a delightfully jaunty toe-tapper shot through with noticeable 1950's style touches. Best of all is "Can You Feel the Love Tonight (End Title)," given here as an earnest, eloquent pop ballad. Lyrics in these selections are altered, often significantly, from the film versions, sometimes to clever effect ("It isn't just my right/Even my left will be divine"), other times less convincingly ("The monarchy is waiting to go zing.").

In summation, the OMPS to The Lion King contains a number of delightful and capable moments which add up to a strangely fragmented and only somewhat satisfying experience.

As the last warm strains of Elton John's closing number came to an end, I heard a noisy crash come from the kitchen.

"Come on, Buddy--just get the blender out, not the toaster oven!" said Holly.

"Here she is, dudes," chuckled Buddy, "the big-time magic carpet to making the primo smoothie. Name your poison and I'll drink it!"

"Vanilla ice cream!" said Nora.

"Hot dog relish!" said Holly.

"Anchovies!" said Buddy.

"Prunes!" said Renfield.

"Lard!" said Holly.

"Oysters!" said Nora.

"Maple syrup!" said Renfield.

"Onions!" said Buddy.

"Hot red peppers!" said Holly.

"Peanut butter!" said Renfield.

"And to top it all off--a raw egg and some beef liver!" said Buddy.

You know, Nora was right. There is a certain freak-show attraction to watching odious things. I couldn't resist seeing this little scenario played out to its conclusion. I peeked around the corner just in time to see a gruesomely-colored mixture being oozed from blender to glass. Buddy looked apprehensively at the gustatory nightmare before him and said, "Oh well--Hakuna Matata." He closed his eyes and drank deeply, almost draining the glass completely. For a second, there was no reaction--and then, everything happened all at once. Buddy's eyes began to cross and he made a horrendous face only a gargoyle could love. He then turned four shades of green, put a paw to his mouth, and made a hideous gagging sound. He finally made a rapid three-legged beeline to the bathroom and slammed the door shut. Retching sounds could be heard from within over the next several hours.

"Okay, folks," I said at last. "We've got lots of dishes to wash and food to put away. Let's get started." As I splashed bowls and plates in the soap suds, I realized again that while it is possible to put most anything together as a unit, it does not always guarantee a harmonious product. And while certainly not the disaster Buddy's smoothie was, The Lion King OMPS does leave something to be desired on that score.


(transcribed by David Cleary)

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

The Pride Lands Online Multi-Media Archive


Walt Disney Records
catalog number: 60858-7

List of songs

Circle of Life...To Die For
I Just Can't Wait to Be KingUnder the Stars
Be PreparedKing of Pride Rock
Hakuna MatataCircle of Life
Can You Feel the Love TonightI Just Can't Wait to Be King
This LandCan You Feel the Love Tonight (End Title)

All songs are copyright 1994 by Walt Disney Music Company/Wonderland Music Company. All selections are by Elton John and Tim Rice, except tracks 6, 7, 8, and 9, which are by Hans Zimmer.