Disney’s latest movie, Brother Bear, has been widely regarded as something of a return to form after the disappointment of Lilo And Snitch. That winning Disney formula of cuddly animals, a feelgood story and lots of bland moralising neatly transfers to the soundtrack, with Phil Collins, apparently Disney’s new composer of choice, the perfect artist to deliver a score that punches at least some of the right emotional buttons.
As was the case with Tarzan, Collins’ previous Disney score, his skills as a pop craftsman are perfectly in synch with Disney’s requirements for a soundtrack that’s just about memorable but, at the same time, not too intrusive. The music works perfectly well in the context of the film, less so when listened to in isolation, but the same could be said of most soundtracks. Only very few – 2001: A Space Odyssey and Apocalypse Now spring immediately to mind – can be appreciated in their own right.
Long gone are those pre-video days, when soundtracks were bought as souvenirs and reminders of a much-loved film. Now you’re lucky if there are any tracks on the soundtrack that actually appear in the movie, something that can’t be said of Disney, where just about everything you hear on the CD actually appears in the film.
Look Through My Eyes kicks off this particular soundtrack with a suitably uplifting, almost revivalist song, with one of those wonderfully meaningless Disney messages: “Everything changes, you’ll be amazed what you find.” The only mystery is why this wasn’t chosen as the film’s theme tune rather than the rather lacklustre No Way Out, which is the kind of rather maudlin ballad that Collins has made his own. Bewilderingly, it appears in two versions, one two minutes longer than the other.
Welcome also appears in two, rather different, versions, one by the ubiquitous Collins, the other featuring The Blind Boys Of Alabama, who turn the song into another of their Gospel-inflected knees-ups.
It’s also an inspired, imaginative choice to feature the ethereal Bulgarian Women’s Choir on Transformation, their muscular massed voices sending a genuine chill down the spine at one of the film’s pivotal moments. The Collins version of the same song, needless to say, is pretty forgettable, as is the sound of Tina Turner emoting on Great Spirits, the kind of high-octane belter she could, and by the sounds of it, probably does deliver in her sleep.
Rather more successful is Three Brothers, Collins attempt at an orchestrated instrumental that, by and large, works pretty well, and suggests a new direction in Collins’ career.
An album, then, that admirers of the movie, and Phil Collins, will need in their collection. Everyone else should approach with caution.