Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Little Mermaid Legacy Collection (illustrated by Lorely Bove)
[Source: Amazon.ca]
There's not much more positive praise that can be said about the music in The Little Mermaid. The Oscar winning score includes the famous, calypso flavored 'Under the Sea', the serene 'Kiss the Girl' and the gorgeous and wistful 'Part of Your World'. Duo Alan Menken and Howard Ashman hit gold when they produced these melodies, and for the first time the entire score has been released on CD in this wonderful edition to honour the film's 25th anniversary. 

What clearly separates this release from previous editions of The Little Mermaid? Firstly, the packaging is just gorgeous - with Lorelay Bove's exceptional art style gracing the pages, her contributions perfectly encapsulates the mood and texture of the film, my favourites being the front and back covers. I am continually impressed by her contributions and am very keen to see what else the rest of the series looks like. Her illusions are peppered over a series of insightful essays from composer Alan Menken, co-director John Musker, in addition to greetings from President of Walt Disney Music Chris Montan and an in-depth analysis from Music Editor David Watts. There are also lyrics for each song (which the exception of 'Poor Unfortunate Souls (Repise'), original concept images, renders and shots of the film. All up, this is the most luxurious and lovingly presented edition of The Little Mermaid you'll ever encounter.

The album clocks in at around 72 minutes and considering the length of the film that's a good indication that all of the score is included. If anything's missing, I couldn't tell you what's not there off the top of my head - even the solo cues that Eric plays on his flute are here. Nitpicks are some of the song titles are a bit lacking in creativity ('Intro Ariel', 'Intro Ursula' . . . seriously, the score is unreleased for twenty five years and you can name it whatever you want . . .) and it's erroneously listed that Pat Carroll performs the reprise of 'Poor Unfortunate Souls' (which is actually performed by Jodi Benson). The thing that really kills the perfection of this edition is the absolutely baffling editing choices. If we're measuring volume in terms of iPods at full volume, the whole score is mixed extremely quietly. There's a couple of instances where there are new instrumental cues which have literally just been tacked onto the track that succeeds it rather than engineer a seamless fusion of the two. 

The worst and jaw-droppingly unprofessional moment is the track 'Happy Ending', which closes the album and the movie with the sacred Disney chorus reprising. For some reason, the final verse (from 2:30) is presented as an instrumental before the identical cue from a couple of seconds before fades up (2:35) and the instrumental fades abruptly out and the track with the Disney chorus fades up (2:40). It sounds wrong, it isn't how the score is presented in the movie, and the editing is pathetic. People literally got paid hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to revisit and remaster this edition and for a multi-billion dollar not to pick up on this blaring error it's embarrassing That paired with the mis-credit of Carroll is enough to pull this album off the shelves and warrant a re-release to fix these errors. 

There's no inclusion of 'One Dance' the deleted song that was recorded by Jodi Benson but cut due to complexity of animating it, nor is there the demo of 'Silence is Golden' which was the first draft for the villain's song. While these songs have been released elsewhere, it's a little disappointing that they're not included here to make it the one-stop Little Mermaid release. Other omissions are the slightly extended 'Main Titles' heard over the credits, and the instrumental of 'Under the Sea'. I can live without these additions, but considering the treatment of the demos in The Lion King - if they're not going to be included here, I suppose they'll never see the light of day.

The second disk is replete with a pile of demos, worktapes and synth mock-ups performed by the composers themselves. This is included as a sentimental token - you're not going to crank this at a party or listen to it in the car, but for enthusiasts it's a wonderful thing to own. The most lovely inclusion of the booklet is the forward from Alan Menken, who talks about his first gig scoring film, the process behind it, and his thoughts on the tough time he and his writing partner Howard Ashman were facing during the process. It's truly melancholic, but extremely moving, to read through his words and then hear this CD of he and Ashman putting their heart and soul into bringing to life one of the most treasured scores of all time. I hope that Beauty and the Beast is honoured in the same way. 

If you don't yet own The Little Mermaid, this is the best edition of the soundtrack that's available, containing gorgeous illustrations, lyrics and essays in beautiful packaging, all the songs and a complete, un-released score. There are some disappointing omissions and the editing is more unprofessional that previous releases, so if you own a copy already I can't say I'd recommend this upgrade for people who've owned the score. If you are a completist however, and love The Little Mermaid, this edition is equipped with the bonus disk of Ashman and Menken so it'll be well worth it. Too bad about the screw ups on the final track, other than that it's a great purchase. 

'The Legacy Collection: The Little Mermaid' is available from the online Disney Music Emporium and on Amazon.com. Available on physical CD and digital download.

1 comment:

  1. Your reviews are always wonderful fun and extremely useful ... Thanks from Tsavorite in Texas.