Walt Disney Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Ah, mid-may in the nation's breadbasket. The signs of summer's yearly approach are quickly coming upon us, including the buzz over certain upcoming movies. (No, not Star Wars: The Phantom Menace; we covered that yesterday.) Yes, we're talking about the annual release from the minds of the animation department at Walt Disney; this year, our treat for the senses is Tarzan.

But unlike other years, this film breaks from the traditional mold of an animated musical. Instead of having the characters break into song to emphasize certain aspects of the movie, Tarzan works with what I can only call "mood" pieces - that is, songs written to enhance the action but not to overshadow it. It's a bold step, but is it one that works? We'll talk about that momentarily.

For the film (which I haven't seen yet - heck, it isn't even out yet), Phil Collins was recruited to write the music and assist with the film score. This isn't too big of a stretch for Collins; over the course of his last few albums (both solo and with Genesis), he's added more of a tribal beat to his music, so selecting him to write music for my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Tarzan is a natural.

But what struck me quickly about the music for Tarzan is that this hardly sounds like your typical Disney outing. For that matter, there really doesn't sound like there's a lot of music in this film at all. There are four different flavors of the track "Two Worlds" - the hit single, the original, the reprise, and the finale - as well as two each of "Trashin' The Camp" and "You'll Be In My Heart". That accounts for over half of the 14 selections on this soundtrack.

While we're on the subject, the duet between Collins and pop singing group of the month 'N Sync - one of the versions of "Trashin' The Camp" - really is a wasted pairing. I would have much rather heard Collins and 'N Sync tackle "Two Worlds" or "You'll Be In My Heart" instead of a track that, lyrically, doesn't have a whole lot to offer.

The four selections featuring music from the film's score, as with many recent releases from the Disney camp, are incredible instrumentations. Collins does add drums to these, but at least he is able to blend in with the Mark Mancina-composed works well. On these tracks like "The Gorillas" and "A Wondrous Place," the highlight is on the orchestra, and rightfully so.

And, if taken on their own, the tracks performed by Collins are decent enough efforts staying on track with what Collins has been putting out recently. "Two Worlds" is a great single, though "You'll Be In My Heart" - a nice track - just isn't the greatest ballad that Collins has ever written.

So, the grand question remains: Does a soundtrack without the traditional Disney musical theme work? And the answer is... well, I don't know. Unlike other soundtracks, I'm not able to ascertain what is happening in the film just by following the tome of the music; this, in and of itself, isn't a bad thing. But Tarzan feels less and less like a Disney soundtrack and more like another Collins solo effort, only without much variety to choose from.

This isn't to say the music is bad; it's just something that I haven't gotten used to. I hope to see the film in due time; maybe things will come into focus more after that. Until then, I'd have to call Tarzan a good effort, but mildly disappointing.

Rating: B-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Walt Disney Records, and is used for informational purposes only.