UltimateDisney.com Presents:
Walt Disney Records - Back to School 2005 CD Roundup

Nine new albums reviewed, including Island Favorites, Mary Poppins London Cast, DisneyRemixMania and The Disney Songbook

As days grow shorter, young ones return to school, with their summer memories of vacations, ice cream, and sweat taking a back seat to the things they'll learn, the usefulness of which they'll probably not acknowledge. Fortunately, for kids and teens, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the afternoons, evenings, and weekends and a fair number of them may turn to the entertainment industry to keep them amused. To that end, this fall (like others in recent memory), movie studios, record labels, and television networks kick into high gear and offer many and various entities to keep spirits high for all demographics. Popcorn blockbusters give way to serious dramas and holiday blockbusters, primetime reruns submit to the return of favorite series, and the number of new releases in home entertainment mediums amplifies in expectation of the traditionally profitable "Q4." In layman's terms, there's more "stuff" for you to buy. Just as Buena Vista Home Entertainment has begun the boom with a mix of repackagings and long-awaited releases, Walt Disney Records has done the same with the Disney studio's massive and growing library of audio selections.

Oftentimes, the video and music branches are in tune, and that is the case this fall, with coinciding DVD and CD releases featuring Lilo & Stitch 2, the Disney Princesses, and Cinderella. Walt Disney Records also aims to appeal to the tween market which makes up a majority of Disney Channel viewership, with its offerings of DisneyRemixMania (the latest volume of the pop Disney cover series) and a Karaoke disc for rising Channel regular Jesse McCartney. With wider appeal is the Original London Cast Recording soundtrack for Disney's latest movie-to-stage musical, Mary Poppins. Finally, for the youngest of audiences, there is Baby Einstein: Lullabies and Sweet Dreams, for those who subscribe to the philosophy that there is no minimum age when it comes to "edutainment". As is true for the constant stream of Disney DVDs, UltimateDisney.com has you covered in the aural department too, with reliable reviews of the nine newest albums released by Walt Disney Records this season.

Click to jump to an individual review:
Lilo & Stitch: Island Favorites (featuring songs from Lilo & Stitch 2) | Baby Einstein: Lullabies and Sweet Dreams
Mary Poppins: Original London Cast Recording | Cinderella and Friends | Disney's Karaoke Series: Disney Princess Volume 2
Artist Karaoke Series: Jesse McCartney | DisneyRemixMania | Jim Brickman - The Disney Songbook | Cinderella: Read-Along

Lilo & Stitch Island Favorites - Featuring Songs From Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch

Running Time: 32 minutes / Release Date: August 30, 2005 / SRP: $12.98

Track Listing:
1) "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride" - Jump5
2) "A Little Less Conversation (Junkie XL Remix)" - Elvis Presley
3) "He Mele No Lilo" - Mark Keali'l Ho'omalu and Kamehameha Schools Children's Chorus
4) "The Old Hawaiian Way" - The Big Kahuna
5) "I Need Your Love Tonight" - Elvis Presley
6) "My Little Grass Shack" - Lisa Loeb
7) "Rubberneckin'" - Elvis Presley
8) "Pineapple Princess"- Annette Funicello
9) "Lahaina" - The Volcanoes
10) "Rock-A-Hula Baby" - Collin Ray and The Jordanaires
11) "Always" - Dennis and David Kamakahi
12) "Aloha 'Oe" - Tia Carerre
13) "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride" - Mark Keali'l Ho'omalu and Kamehameha Schools Children's Chorus

Rather than giving the apt sequel Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch its own brief soundtrack, Disney has retooled Lilo & Stitch Island Favorites, the original film's spin-off album released in the fall of 2002. While this new incarnation of the title holds the same number of tracks as before, five tunes have been replaced with songs from the recently-released direct-to-video (DTV) follow-up, including three by Elvis Presley. Gone are Jessica Simpson's "Love Me Tender", Harry Belafonte's "Island in the Sun", Presley's "Blue Hawaii", Nilsson's "Coconut", and "We Make a Rainbow" by the Hawaiian children's chorus employed repeatedly for the first film.

Among the new additions are Jump5's loud but somewhat catchy pop rock cover of "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride" and the soothing "Always", Glitch's lone original song penned by the sequel's co-screenwriter Alexa Junge and Broadway veteran Jeanine Tesori. The three new Elvis inclusions, all prominently featured in Glitch montages, are a pleasantly upbeat mix scattered throughout the disc. The remaining tracks ported over fulfill the "Island Favorites" part with a diverse, but mostly winning tropical sound. They include from the predecessor, film-opener "He Mele No Lilo" and an unfortunately shortened, teched-up remix of "Coaster Ride", both performed by Mark Keali'l Ho'omalu and the Kamehameha Schools Children's Chorus. Among the hits carried over: Annette Funicello's old-fashioned "Pineapple Princess"; among its misses: the dull lullabye "Aloha 'Oe" performed by Tia Carerre (the voice of Nani).

On its own merits, this second rendition of Island Favorites is a mixed bag that is mostly on-the-mark. Those who enjoyed the DTV sequel's Elvis-centric musical sensibilities and missed out on the CD in its debut appearance should not hesitate to pick this up. As an additional incentive, the reformatting process has also knocked $6 off the suggested retail price, making this a better value for the running time.

UD Rating: ˝ out of 5

Buy Lilo & Stitch Island Favorites: Featuring Songs From Lilo & Stitch 2 on CD from Amazon.com

Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch DVD Review

Baby Einstein: Lullabies and Sweet Dreams

Running Time: 15 minutes / Release Date: August 30, 2005 / SRP: $6.98

Lullabies and Sweet Dreams takes the same approach that Baby Einstein DVD volumes have. The result is something we are told is thoroughly researched to be effective, but what on the surface appears to be minimalist edutainment for the youngest of audiences. The CD comes with a 20-page hardcover "board book", allowing listeners to follow along with the disc's eight atmospheric poems which take them from The Savannah to Arctic Places, from The Beach to The City. Many of the lullabies' verses introduce words that the listed target demographic ("9 months and up") will surely neither know nor question. Each rhyming composition is followed by a practical activity directed by narrator/Baby Einstein founder Julie Aigner-Clark. After this, four mellow renditions of some of the classical melodies that accompany the poems play, providing eight minutes of muted excerpts from Mozart, Brahms, Pachelbel, and Dvorak. Surprisingly, no one receives credit for the arrangements provided, the titles of the works are hidden away on the last page, and other background music from Beethoven and Chopin goes entirely unmentioned. Overall, this very simple album may leave you unsure of its usefulness, but its low retail price (in spite of the elaborate Blisterpack) can perhaps justify its extremely brief running time. Needless to say, the millions of parents who have turned to Baby Einstein in the past to aid in the development of their young ones will probably again throw their support to potential stimulation with little effort required.

UD Rating: ˝ out of 5

Buy Baby Einstein: Lullabies and Sweet Dreams on CD from Amazon.com

Related Reviews: Baby Einstein: Meet the Orchestra CDBaby Einstein: Playdate Fun CD


Mary Poppins: Original London Cast Recording

Running Time: 72 minutes / Release Date: September 13, 2005 / SRP: $18.98

Track Listing:
1) "Prologue / Chim Chim Cher-ee"
2) "Cherry Tree Lane" Part 1
3) "The Perfect Nanny"
4) "Cherry Tree Lane" Part 2
5) "Practically Perfect"
6) "Jolly Holiday"
7) "Cherry Tree Lane" (Reprise) / "Being Mrs. Banks" / "Jolly Holiday" (Reprise)
8) "A Spoonful of Sugar"
9) "Feed the Birds"
10) "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"
11) "Temper, Temper"
12) "Chim Chim Cher-ee" (Rooftop duet)
13) "Entr'actre: Run Away"
14) "Brimstone and Treacle" Part 1
15) "Let's Go Fly a Kite"
16) "Good for Nothing" / "Being Mrs. Banks" (Reprise)
17) "Brimstone and Treacle" Part 2
18) "Step in Time"
19) "A Man Has Dreams" / "A Spoonful of Sugar" (Reprise)
20) "Anything Can Happen"
21) "A Spoonful of Sugar" (Reprise) / "A Shooting Star"

The first thing that comes to mind during the opening track of Mary Poppins: Original London Cast Recording is that it is a wonderful hybrid of both one of Walt Disney's greatest live action films and a showstopping Broadway musical. This feeling continues more or less while listening to the entire CD, although it is not surprising that the strongest musical moments come from the original Sherman brothers masterpieces. The new songs written by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe are capable enough, but don't have the same lasting power. Disappointingly left out of the new stage version is the song "Sister Suffragette" as well as the entire bank sequence. Instead we have a new scene which features Miss Andrews, Mr. Banks' (not very nice) childhood nanny, who sings the song "Brimstone and Treacle", an obvious counterpart to the classic "A Spoonful of Sugar". The cast members seem well-suited to their parts. Laura Michelle Kay as Mary Poppins does her best to make the role her own (trying to live up to the high standards of Julie Andrews' portrayal is sure to be challenging for the most talented of performers), while Gavin Lee pulls off Bert's Cockney accent quite well. Jane and Michael Banks (perfomed on this disc by Charlotte Spencer and Harry Stott, although it seems that at least 5 pairs of children alternate performances from night to night) seem a little too polished in their vocals and certainly lack the modest charm of Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber. Nonetheless, this inspired recording is sure to please fans of both the original 1964 classic and the P.L. Travers stories.

UD Rating: ˝ out of 5

Buy Mary Poppins: Original London Cast Recording on CD from Amazon.com
Read UD's Mary Poppins: 40th Anniversary Edition DVD Review


Cinderella and Friends

Running Time: 24 minutes / Release Date: September 13, 2005 / SRP: $6.98

Track Listing:
1) "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes"
2) "The Work Song" (Cinderelly)
3) "Bibbbidi-Bobbidi-Boo"
4) "Dear Heart"
5) "I Think I'd Be Perfect For You"
6) "Every Girl Can Be a Princess"
7) "Part of Your World"
8) "Part of the Heart of the Sky"
9) "If You Can Dream"

Cinderella and Friends is the epitome of an unnecessary movie tie-in. It opens with a rendition of "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" by an uncredited singer who is most definitely not Ilene Woods. The highlight of this CD (which isn't saying too much) follows with the film versions of both "The Work Song" and "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo." This concludes the Cinderella portion of the title. Included among the "and Friends" is The Little Mermaid's "Part of Your World", which sounds convincingly enough like the original Jodi Benson recording. (Who can really know for sure, considering that none of the performing vocalists are credited, nor are the writers, as liner notes are a complete no-show.) Naturally, the fairly new (and equally unnecessary) Disney Princess dance ballad "If You Can Dream" shows up here, along with the nearly-enjoyable, yet not-quite-right "Every Girl Can Be a Princess." The remaining songs, "Dear Heart" and "I Think I'd Be Perfect for You", are hardly worth mentioning and seem more appropriate as deleted songs from a made-for-video production than anything else. In spite of the tempting low price, anyone in the market for some Disney Princess/Cinderella-related music would be much better off choosing from the many other options, especially as the strongest songs on this set are available on a great deal of them.

UD Rating: out of 5

Buy Cinderella and Friends on CD from Amazon.com

Related Reviews: Cinderella: Platinum EditionDisney Princess Sing Along Songs: Volume 2 DVD

Disney's Karaoke Series: Disney Princess Volume 2

Running Time: 38 minutes / Release Date: September 13, 2005 / SRP: $9.98

Track Listing:
Instrumental Versions:
1) "So This is Love"
2) "If You Can Dream"
3) "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo"
4) "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)"
5) "Every Girl Can Be a Princess"
6) "A Whole New World"
7) "I Wonder"
8) "Once Upon a Dream"
Vocal Versions:
9) "So This is Love"
10) "If You Can Dream"
11) "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo"
12) "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)"
13) "Every Girl Can Be a Princess"
14) "A Whole New World"
15) "I Wonder"
16) "Once Upon a Dream"

This CD is aimed directly at those (mostly children with the occasional odd adult) who have grown up singing with the Disney Princesses and would like a chance to BE a princess -- that is, sing the princess songs without having to compete with another voice. Karaoke tracks have come a long way since the days when mechanical tinny strains droned out any possible melody. The tracks presented here are not quite of the same caliber as the original recordings, but they do sound close. As this is the second Disney Princess karaoke output, the selections are quite slim, the highlights being Cinderella's "So This is Love," Hercules' "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)", and Sleeping Beauty's "Once Upon a Dream." All of the sample vocals are sung by different artists than in the original recordings, except for the relatively new "If You Can Dream" and "Every Girl Can Be A Princess," both of which retain their same background tracks for the karaoke versions. For those looking to start their Disney Princess Karaoke collection, the first volume contains a more essential selection of songs. For aspiring singers who already have Volume One and are looking for something new, this new title is just the thing to ensure further karaoke enjoyment.

UD Rating: ˝ out of 5

Buy Disney's Karaoke Series: Disney Princess Volume 2 on CD from Amazon.com / Buy Disney's Karaoke Series: Disney Princess (Vol. 1)
Read UD's Interview with Disney Princess Musician / Former Mouseketeer Don Grady


Artist Karaoke Series: Jesse McCartney

Running Time: 29 minutes / Release Date: September 27, 2005 / SRP: $9.98

Track Listing:
1) "Beautiful Soul"
2) "She's Not You"
3) "Because You Live"
4) "Good Life"
5) "Best Day of My Life"
6) "What's Your Name"
7) "Get Your Shine On"
8) "That Was Then"

Hollywood Records recording artist Jesse McCartney is pop music's most recent star and the latest Artist Karaoke Series installment puts eight of his most-known songs in the spotlight accordingly. McCartney has a good singing voice, but the only place you'll hear it here is in the background vocals. Six of the eight songs concern the singer's romantic feelings, while the other two are feel-good tunes about disposition. "What's Your Name?" would probably fair better by not having its lyrics exposed so prominently, but it's catchy nonetheless. The others are all thoroughly enjoyable for what they are. Those with a karaoke machine will want to make use of the CD+G technology that puts lyrics and other graphics on a TV screen and cues the singer on when to belt out the next note. For those without that device, the disc will play just like any other and the lyrics are printed in the liner notes. Pop songs through and through, these tracks are well suited for karaoke and as such this disc will please the 'tween' demographic it targets and karaoke enthusiasts alike.

UD Rating: out of 5

Buy Artist Karaoke Series: Jesse McCartney on CD from Amazon.com

DisneyRemixMania

Running Time: 48 minutes / Release Date: September 27, 2005 / SRP: $18.98

Track Listing:
1) "The Second Star to the Right" (Lost Boys Remix) - Jesse McCartney
2) "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" (Grrl Power Remix) - The Cheetah Girls
3) "Under the Sea" (Reggae Remix) - Raven-Symoné
4) "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride" (Mahalo Remix) - Jump5
5) "It's a Small World" (Shorty Remix) - Baha Men
6) "I Wan'na Be Like You" (Monkey C Remix) - Smash Mouth
7) "The Siamese Cat Song" (Cat-Scratch Remix) - Hilary and Haylie Duff
8) "Colors of the Wind" (Soul Sister Remix) - Ashanti featuring Lil' Sis Shi Shi
9) "Circle of Life" (All-Star Remix) - Disney Channel Stars
10) "The Bare Necessities" (Jungle Boogie Remix) - Bowling for Soup
11) "Part of Your World" (C-Girl Rock Remix) - Skye Sweetnam
12) "True to Your Heart" (China Doll Remix) - Raven-Symoné
13) "Strangers Like Me" (Jungle Rock Remix) - Everlife
14) "Cruella De Vil" (DJ Skribble Spot Remix) - Lalaine
15) "DJ Skribble Megamix"

After three volumes of DisneyMania, a collection of popular Disney songs re-imagined in new styles, Walt Disney Records has selected 14 of the 44 songs covered so far and heavily remixed them for the newest project in the line, DisneyRemixMania. Unfortunately, the album employs the same bland, tech-heavy sound for most of the remixes, resulting in the kind of music you might hear in a raucous dance club... if dance clubs played Disney music. Yet while none of the songs offer improvements on their previous incarnations, a few have managed to survive the slaughter that most fall prey to. These tend to be the ones in which the backgrounds don't drown out the singing, like "Circle of Life" and "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride", or the one with a more distinct sound: "Cruella de Vil." Unfortunately, Lalaine's vocals spoil the music just like they did the first go-round. The final track, a "megamix" of sorts, celebrates the fact that Raven-Symoné (hey look, her last name's back) has already appeared on this CD three times by mixing some of her performances together for one last hoorah, and throws in the Lalaine blunder for good measure. Other than that, there's nothing new here, save for a few added lines of dialogue in Smash Mouth's "I Wan'na Be Like You." I'm proof that being a fan of the previous DisneyMania releases doesn't ensure that you will enjoy this one. Mediocre song selection and a narrow of view of what constitutes "remix" makes this project, which had a lot of potential, an utter disappointment. Take a look at the first three DisneyManias, but unless you're a diehard completist or really want the miniature artist poster inside, give this one a pass.

UD Rating: ˝ out of 5

Buy DisneyRemixMania on CD from Amazon.com / Read UD's Disneymania 3 CD Review / Read UD's Disneymania 2 CD Review

Jim Brickman - The Disney Songbook

Running Time: 44 minutes / Release Date: October 4, 2005 / SRP: $18.98

Track Listing:
1) "Beauty and the Beast"
2) "Mary Poppins Medley" (Chim Chim Cher-ee, Feed the Birds, Let's Go Fly a Kite, Stay Awake, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious)
3) "Cruella De Vil"
4) "Beautiful" (featuring Wayne Brady)
5) "Reflection"
6) "When I See an Elephant Fly" (featuring Josh Gracin)
7) "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah"
8) "Baby Mine" (featuring Kassie DePaiva)
9) "Can You Feel the Love Tonight"
10) "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" (featuring Kimberly Locke)
11) "Some Day My Prince Will Come"
12) "I'm Amazed" (featuring Lila McCann)
13) "When You Wish Upon a Star"

To commemorate the DVD debut of Cinderella this fall, pop piano sensation Jim Brickman's latest release is The Disney Songbook. A departure from the original compositions that comprise his repertoire to date, the new album allows him to pay tribute to the Disney legacy that has meant much to his life and career. The instrumental takes on classics such as "Beauty and the Beast," the lead track, and "When You Wish Upon a Star," the finale, are stately and graceful. Meanwhile, "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" is a little peppier, "Cruella De Vil" exudes a jazz vibe, and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" offers a refreshingly unique rendition of an oft-covered song with a more lavish production and just a touch of ethnicity.

The album isn't just Jim, though. In typical Brickman fashion, several celebrity collaborations are lined up on the record. From Dumbo, there's "When I See an Elephant Fly" with country star Josh Gracin, and Kassie DePaiva (of the long-running ABC soap "One Life to Live") lends her voice to "Baby Mine." Kimberley Locke sings on "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes," marking not only the second time that Locke, Brickman, and Disney have collaborated (see Disney Wishes!), but also the second time Locke has recorded this song (yes, the two renditions sound quite similar). There are two original Cinderella tributes too. "Beautiful," Prince Charming's love song to his princess, comes to life with the help of comedian (and apparently talented vocalist) Wayne Brady. Lila McCann joins in for the third, "I'm Amazed," a song that captures Cinderella's rapture over the events of her newfound fairy tale life. The stand-out track is a piano-only Mary Poppins medley, combining five of that film's most memorable performances into one impressive arrangement.

The Disney Songbook successfully conjures some nostalgia in its listeners with not only the familiar favorites, but also the new performances. Fans of the performer and of the music alike will appreciate the soothing beauty of each performance. Suitable for both relaxation and concentrated admiration, Brickman's piano stylings are conveyed here in a way that is consistently pleasing and never overstated.

UD Rating: ˝ out of 5

Buy The Disney Songbook on CD from Amazon.com / Read UltimateDisney.com's Interview with Jim Brickman


Buy Jim Brickman at the Magic Kingdom: The Disney Songbook DVD from Amazon.com

Read UD's Jim Brickman at the Magic Kingdom DVD Review

Read UD's CD Review of Steve Tyrell - The Disney Standards
Read UD's DVD Review of Cinderella: Platinum Edition

Cinderella: Read-Along

Running Time: 13 minutes / Release Date: October 4, 2005 / SRP: $5.98

Voice Cast: Jennifer Hale (Cinderella), Susanne Blakeslee (Stepmother), Gina Tuttle (Anastasia), Russi Taylor (Drizella and Fairy Godmother),Corey Burton (Jaq/Gus),Andre Stojka (King), Prince Charming (Jess Harnell), Rob Paulsen (Grand Duke)

There aren't many people who don't have fond memories of a certain book-and-tape (or for others, book-and-record) set that they listened to as a child. For me, it was a story featuring the Disney park attraction "It's A Small World." Nowadays, records and tapes have been replaced by CDs,although the format still remains much the same. The ever-present narrator begins the story by giving simple instructions - those who are at the stages of learning to read are invited to follow along, while the younger crowd might prefer to merely look at the pictures. The most important rule is that when the bells chime, it is time to turn the page.

The new Cinderella read-along, released alongside the much-anticipated Platinum Edition of the same name, follows this same general outline. And as normally happens, the narrator tells the familar tale while character voices fill in for the dialogue. Though majority of the speaking stems directly from the movie itself, these lines have been re-recorded using, for the most part, the same actors who provided the voices for Cinderella II: Dreams Come True. While this group of performers does a commendable job of re-enacting every single inflection of their predecessors, it doesn't make much sense why the original voice recordings were not used instead. Another disappointment is that although the entire story is set to music, none of the score even remotely resembles any of the original songs. The books provided in such sets are never of the best quality, but this particular paperback seems a little too small and the pages a bit too flimsy and shiny. Because of these setbacks, one easily feels cheated out of what could have been a rather enjoyable 13 minutes or so of read-along fun. Nevertheless, at a 5.98 selling price, one can't expect princess-perfect quality, and the entire experience isn't all bad (especially for little ones who generally aren't as critical about these things). Even so, I might recommend letting the price go down just a dollar or two more before making this purchase.

UD Rating: ˝ out of 5

Buy Cinderella: Read-Along on CD from Amazon.com / Read UD's Cinderella: Platinum Edition DVD Review

CD reviews written by Renata, Aaron, and Luke.

Roundup posted October 7, 2005.

Related Links:

Disney Princess Sing Along Songs: Volume 2 - Enchanted Tea Party DVD Review
UltimateDisney.com's Top 100 Songs Countdown - Summer 2004
Coming to Theaters: Upcoming Disney MoviesUD's Latest ReviewsDisney DVD Review Index

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