Review: In the Key of Disney [CD], Brian Wilson

In recent years I have, since collecting most of the Disney music I love, developed a peripheral love of Disney music *covers*. There’s a lot of it out there, but I have an allergic reaction to AutoTune, so most of the pop covers that Disney themselves puts out do not appeal to me.

Now as I said, there is no shortage of artists covering Disney music, and by no means have I heard all of it – some Dave Brubeck, the Kenny Ball CD I reviewed earlier, and a few bits and pieces here and there. That’s about it. I don’t even know where to start, so I recently asked for recommendations based on my musical tastes – other than the aforementioned aversion to AutoTune I like most anything so long as it’s creative and sincere.

So one friend recommended Brian Wilson’s “In the Key of Disney”. I sampled a few songs on YouTube and knew we had a hit, and a couple of weeks ago I bought the CD.

Cover art for In the Key of Disney

Cover art for In the Key of Disney

Now you know Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. I know, that goes without saying, but just in case you were like “Oh, that name is familiar, who IS it?” or you’re twelve or under, I thought I’d mention that. Wilson is an amazing songwriter. His understand of harmonies is intuitive. His lyrics are sometimes, uh, a bit shallow… but his music? Genius!

The song choices are a mixup of contemporary – some from Pixar movies, even – and the usual classics. So we’ve got a whole range like “You’ve Got a Friend In Me” to “Stay Awake” from Mary Poppins and plenty in between. Okay, I know 1995 is not THAT recent but it’s still interesting to me that he chose Pixar themes to include here. 🙂 And there is a song from “Toy Story 3” on the CD so there.

The really nice thing is that Brian Wilson is a songwriter unafraid to reinvent the sound of a song, so he doesn’t only cover them, he really remakes them. The songs are noticeably in his style, and in some cases it’s not only a great match, it is an improvement. For instance, “Colors of the Wind” – I’m not saying the original song is bad, but I *love* his version. It’s laid back, the beat actually makes the lyrics stand out more, and it keeps the earthy messages of the original. It’s a simplified version, because the original has a technically complicated arrangement. But I like it for its simplicity.

A personal favourite of mine is “Baby Mine”, which is just as sweet as the version in “Dumbo”. This song has been my daughter’s lullaby since she was an infant and she still asks for it each night (she’s seven now). She loves this version as much as I do. The movie version has an almost melancholy feel, appropriate for the scene it is in; this version is instead comforting and warm. The harmonies added into this version are lovely. (I’m also pleased that he stuck “Stay Awake” on here too, because that one is my 4-year-old son’s lullaby, haha)

One more really nifty track is the mix of “Yo-Ho (A Pirates’ Life For Me)”, “Heigh-Ho”, and “Whistle While You Work”. And even though everyone, everywhere, EVER does their own version of “When You Wish Upon A Star”, I’d be disappointed if Brian Wilson didn’t include his own take on it. And it’s as good as expected. 🙂

I will admit to one thing: Brian Wilson is not, at this stage in his life, a strong singer. I like the sound of his voice, for several reasons – it’s appealingly real, for one thing (did I mention I hate AutoTune?), and for another there’s just a lot of sincerity to it. But if you prefer trained singers and pretty voices, his voice may not appeal to you. For quite some time I mistakenly thought that Brian Wilson did not actually sing with the Beach Boys, he just did all the behind the scenes work on the songs, but that’s been pointed out to me that it’s a mistake (and I’m just updating this blog post now, a month later, to correct my misconception).  He was indeed a lead vocalist of the group, but the vocals on this album are not up to par with the Beach Boys’ hey-day.  Regardless, I actually consider his vocals a strength of the album, but your mileage may vary. 😉

You can buy the album on Amazon.com here; the Amazon Exclusive includes a digital download and an extra track on the physical CD. You can sample some of the songs on YouTube, too, the way I did. Enjoy!

Advertisements

Top 5: Sherman Brothers Songs

Richard Sherman was a guest at the 2013 D23 Expo and gave a concert with Alan Menken on Saturday (and how I’d loved to have seen that!); in honour of that, and just in recognition of how wonderful are so many of the songs he wrote with his brother Robert, this week’s Top 5 list is all about Sherman Brothers music.  Now, there’s a  good lot of it, and it’s hard for me to rank it into just the five best.  I’ll admit: I have a predilection for the music that’s played in the theme parks.  Not that all of it is my favourite, but considering that they’ve written a lot more for movies than for the theme parks, my list is kind of park-music-heavy.

You’ll survive. ;D

#5: The Best Time of Your Life

AKA, Carousel of Progress theme #2.  Written after “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow”, when GE requested that the message in Carousel of Progress be a bit more on the lines of “Buy things NOW! Not tomorrow, NOW!!”  This song personifies a lot of what I like about the Sherman Brothers music, which is their ability to take a direct message (like WHEE! Capitalism!) and make an actual great song out of it.  When you hear this song, do you feel like you’re being urged to go out and buy things, or do you just feel like the world is a kind of happy place?  It’s not exactly inspired, but it gets the message across without hitting you over the head with it.  With the Sherman Brothers, the goal is first to write a SONG, and if there’s a message to it it is – usually – couched pretty deeply within it.

#4: The Tigger Song

The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers!

The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers!

You know, “The wonderful thing about Tiggers/Is Tiggers are wonderful things!”  This song is so much FUN.  All the songs in “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” are good, but this one is exactly what its subject presents himself as: fast and silly, flouncy, bouncy, and fun-fun-fun-fun-FUN.  I commend them for having written a song that automatically makes me feel like bouncing in my chair when I hear it.  Again, what a great skill, to be able to write music for a subject that is undeniably a song first, but also completely presents what it is about.

#3: A Spoonful of Sugar

Is there anyone more practically perfect than Julie Andrews? I ASK YOU.

Is there anyone more practically perfect than Julie Andrews? I ASK YOU.

Actually, I feel that all the music in “Mary Poppins” is inspired.  It’s all clever, the lyrics are amazing, the melodies are beautiful.  It was hard to choose what song should be on this list.  And I very nearly wanted “Feed the Birds”, because that song has so much going for it… beautiful, meaningful, and again the message is very subtle.  But why did I go with Spoonful of Sugar instead then?  I’ll tell you: because this song has a wonderful simple complexity to it.  It’s tricky while still being easy to sing and to remember.  It creeps into your head and you don’t realize that it’s got that middle section that plays off itself.  The other thing I like about this song is that it’s really a quintessential Sherman Brothers song…  You can tell this, because there are a few other songs they’ve written with the same sort of jolly marching song sound.  “Step in the Right Direction” from Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a good example.

#2: One Little Spark

AKA the Figment/Journey Into Imagination song!  The more I hear this song, the more I like it.  It’s just catchier and catchier and catchier every time.  Part of that is certainly the voices performing it, but it’s really a great tune too, evidenced by how often it shows up in Disney World’s musical “legacy”.  Even just the music behind the melody, supporting it, is full of whimsy and cleverness.  I think there is a reason this song has wormed its way into the hearts of so many people, and Figment and the Dreamfinder are only part of it.  (Click here for a picture I REALLY wanted to put here, but it’s copyrighted, but you just HAVE to see it on Tom Bricker’s Flickr page!)

#1: Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

I found this on Tumblr but couldn't find a source. If it's yours pls. contact me and I'll either credit you or remove it if you want.  It's freaking awesome and I want you to have credit.

I found this on Tumblr but couldn’t find a source. If it’s yours pls. contact me and I’ll either credit you or remove it if you want. It’s freaking awesome and I want you to have credit.

Well, and there it is.  I kind of fell in love with this song the first time I went on the Carousel of Progress, and it really hasn’t diminished any over the past however many years.  I taught it to my kids, I sing it whenever I can.  Amusingly to me, it’s one of the “jolly marching” songs like Spoonful of Sugar.  I love that this was the original song, then was removed for my #5 choice, then came back.  I love that Walt had Robert and Richard come and perform it in the video to GE to get more funding.  I love that it was based on “WALT has a dream, and that’s the start”.  And I just love the message, that we can do whatever we put our mind to, and all it takes is time, and the future is guaranteed to be optimistic, better and better.

The sheer volume of the songs that the Sherman Brothers have contributed to Disney’s musical legacy is staggering, and this is a small sample.  There’s a good chance that ANYTHING you say “You forgot such-and-such!” I’ll say “I didn’t forget it, I love that one!” But I only had five possible slots.  So there we go. 😉

What’s your favourite Sherman Brothers tune?  Leave a comment and let’s reminisce!

Just a dream away!

Just a dream away!

V24 Radio: Themed Disney Parks Music

So what do I use this blog for, exactly, you may wonder?  Given that it’s all over the place really?

 

Well, I use it to talk about things I like to talk about, share things I think are worth sharing, and above all to fansquee about Disney World.

 

In that vein, this topic fits into all those categories!  You could also put it into another category, which is “free advertising”, but I don’t intend it for that… I just like to talk about stuff I like. 🙂  And one thing I’ve discovered lately that I like a lot is V24 Radio.  I listen to a lot of streaming Disney Park channels on Live365.com.  A LOT.  I’m not going to say I’m an expert, because by this point I’ve picked out a few presets that I stick with and there are probably some new ones I have never heard of, but I’ll take a moment to namedrop a few: I love MouseWorld Radio, Sorceror Radio, Mouse House Radio, and Radio Buena Vista among others.

 

V24 Radio is a new station with the slogan “Where your vacation continues”, because yes – the V stands for Vacation – and they cover a lot of park music, resort music, some Universal music, and so on.  Then they also have some live shows that are hosted by several different DJs with music in between spoken Disney news updates. They take requests sometimes on Twitter.  But what I really like most is that they have themed shows, like today’s Valentines show playing at 11 am, 4pm, and 8pm, or the ride-throughs of various attractions on Fridays.  (Tomorrow is the Haunted Mansion. GUESS WHO IS A BIG HM FREAK that’s right it’s me.)

 

So, just putting this link out here with a big “thumbs-up” from me!  Anything worth liking is worth sharing, Disney fans!  Check them out!  (I’d love to put a graphic in here but… I don’t have permission from V24Radio and don’t want to step on toes.)