The Prince of EgyptMusic from the Original Motion Picture...

CD Reviews

November 19, 1998|By J.D. Considine Blues Elvin Bishop

The Prince of Egypt

Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Dreamworks 50041)

Nashville (Dreamworks 50045)

Inspirational (Dreamworks 50050)

They don't make musicals like they used to.

Especially not cartoon musicals. Ever since Disney hit it big with "Beauty and the Beast" - the soundtrack to which augmented the original voice-actor versions of the big songs with pop star remakes - Hollywood has understood that what works on-screen doesn't necessarily translate to radio and MTV.

Even so, the separation between soundtrack and pop album has never been as pronounced as it is with "The Prince of Egypt." For this project - an ambitious, animated retelling of the story of Moses - the Dreamworks production team has generated three separate albums.

First, there's "Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack," which features actual songs from the film; then there's "The Prince of Egypt - Nashville," an album of country songs inspired by the film; and also "The Prince of Egypt - Inspirational," which puts a gospel-music spin on the story.

Why three albums? Marketing considerations seem the most likely culprit.

Obviously, an Old Testament tale like this has immediate appeal religious listeners of many stripes, but translating that into specific musical terms isn't quite as easy in a nation as diverse as this. By splitting the project between country and gospel music, "The Prince of Egypt" can appeal to both sides of the Bible Belt.

Of the two, the "Inspirational" album clearly has the most sizzle. Between Shirley Caesar's sanctified "Moses the Deliverer" and Kirk Franklin's rap-tinged "Let My People Go," the album has soul to spare. And with Take 6's silken harmonies on "Destiny" and the melodic ingenuity of "Everything In Between" by Jars of Clay, it also has more than its share of pop appeal.

There are also some great moments on the "Nashville" edition. Alison Krauss' "I Give You to His Heart" is uplifting in every sense of the term, while Faith Hill's "Somewhere Down the Road" is almost as catchy as "This Kiss" - and much better sung. Unfortunately, such highlights don't quite make up for the abundance of mediocrity on the album, from Wynonna's overblown "Freedom" to Charlie Daniels' bombastic "Could It Be Me."

Nor is the soundtrack itself any more consistent. Sure, the Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey duet on the title tune is a little cheesy, but it's still stirringly melodic (and wonderfully well-sung). And there are some strong songs from "Godspell" composer Stephen Schwartz, most notably "Through Heaven's Eyes."

But the contrast between Broadway-style production numbers and MTV-oriented pop tunes like K-Ci & Jo Jo's version of "Through Heaven's Eyes" is too jarring, making the album seem divided against itself. Could it be they should have cut a fourth album?

Original soundtrack: **

Nashville: **

Inspirational: **1/2

The Skin I'm In (ALCD 4859)

Bluesman Elvin Bishop has come a long way since his days as a 1960s guitar-slinger in Paul Butterfield's band and the Southern-fried boogie of his 1970s recordings. "The Skin I'm In" finds the singer-guitarist in an amiable mood, offering a dozen party-time tracks on which Bishop refuses to take himself - or the blues - too seriously. "Right Now Is the Hour" romps along, kicked into gear by fat, funky horns and ringing guitar. "That Train Is Gone" is a rollicking, Allmanesque charger. And "Slow Down" is a good-humored look at the joys and drawbacks of middle age. The highlight may be "Long Shadows," a slow blues that's backlit by Norton Buffalo's subtle, mournful harmonica, a hint of what lingers when the party candles burn low. ***

Mark Bomster

Children's

Teletubbies

The Album (Kid Rhino/Ragdoll 75620)

Unless you're the parent of a toddler, odds are you either don't know the Teletubbies or don't know what to make of this peculiar kid-vid phenomenon. Nor is "Teletubbies: The Album" likely to help. If anything, this 14-song collection from the popular children's show will leave you even more puzzled by the appeal of these brightly-colored, elf-like creatures. Mixing infantile gurgling with New-Agey instrumentals, much of the album sounds like perfect (if perfectly boring) nursery fare. Things pick up a bit with the danceably daft "Teletubbies Say 'Eh-oh!' " (which was an actual British pop hit), but on the whole, if you're over 4 1/2, you're probably too old for this. **

J.D. Considine

Jazz

Jacky Terrasson Trio

Alive (Blue Note 7243 8 59651)

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