Walt Disney Records - Spring 2006 CD Roundup
Ten new Disney albums reviewed, including High School Musical, Bambi II, and The Shaggy Dog soundtracks
As usual, the latest output from Disney's music branch ties in directly with projects being released in other channels, be they home video (new DTV midquel Bambi II, the recently-revisited Lady and the Tramp, and the latest Baby Einstein volume), television (the Disney Channel's record-breaking High School Musical plus 3-year staples "That's So Raven" and "JoJo's Circus"), or theaters (Tim Allen's new take on The Shaggy Dog). In addition, there is DEVO 2.0, an unexpected project band with some cross-generational appeal; Musical Missions, which rockets the Disney Channel/Baby Einstein collaboration "Little Einsteins" onto a third format (another step in a carefully-constructed preschool empire); and Steve Tyrell's The Disney Standards, the latest in a line of mainstream music-meets-the-Mouse albums. Once again, there is something for everyone and this ten-review Roundup will help listeners of all ages (or in the case of tots, their parents) separate the wheat from the chaff and pinpoint the audio discs worth repeat spinnings.
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JoJo's Circus - Songs From Under the Big Top!
JoJo's Circus - Songs From Under the Big Top! | Baby Einstein: Meet the Orchestra | High School Musical: Soundtrack
Bambi II: Soundtrack | Lady and the Tramp and Friends | Steve Tyrell - The Disney Standards | That's So Raven Too!
The Shaggy Dog: Original Soundtrack | DEVO 2.0 - DEV2.O | Little Einsteins: Musical Missions
Running Time: 34 minutes / Release Date: December 20, 2005 / SRP: $12.98
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JoJo's Circus - Songs From Under the Big Top!
|1) "JoJo's Circus" Theme Song
2) Brush Your Teeth
3) The Stretching Song
4) Walk Like an Elephant
5) Pat Your Tummy and Rub Your Nose
6) Rum Tum Tum
7) Monkey See Monkey Do
8) Jump for Joy
9) Flap Quack
10) Balance and Pedal
11) Tap on Somebody's Shoulder
12) Gum Drop Song
13) Stuck to You
14) "Spotlight Moment" Theme Song
15) Cannonball JoJo
|16) Take a Bow
17) Stop Drop and Roll
19) The Rainbow Dance
20) Wash Your Hair
23) Mirror Mirror
24) Pop the Balloons
25) Hoop Jump
26) Laugh and Clap
27) Messy Mess
28) Jump Swish Shimmy
30) Go to Sleep
In its 2½ years on the air, "JoJo's Circus" has established itself as one of the better offerings found in Playhouse Disney, the Disney Channel's preschooler-friendly morning/daytime programming block. One of the traits which distinguishes the colorful claymation series is its encouragement of physical activity from viewers and one way it achieves this is with songs that call for singing along, dancing and movement. This element of music is all that can be satisfactorily carried over onto an audio CD, which leaves the show's storytelling prowess and vibrant world largely to one's imagination here. Nevertheless, the 30 tracks presented here are bound to stimulate some kind of response in even the most vegetative of children. The songs are energetic, fast-moving, and never longer than 85 seconds. Though they span a number of musical genres, almost all are delivered in JoJo's high girly voice, which makes the album inevitably repetitive in ways that the show is not. Running as long as one and a half episodes, this compilation is likely to test parental patience. If younger ones aren't worn out halfway in, then guardians will probably be wishing JoJo sang "Go to Sleep" and wrapped things up a bit sooner than she does. All that means is that the album is apt to be broken up; its multiple-sittings nature makes it a solid value for the price. Speaking of values, our clown protagonist imparts some good ones to young ones, emphasizing hygiene and other important developmental habits. Songs From Under the Big Top! is the second soundtrack the series has received in just under two years. Fortunately, only five of the tunes are repeated and they are among "JoJo's" staples (such as the theme song). New highlights include a vocal version of the "what you learned today" Spotlight Moment theme and the definitive dental anthem, "Brush Your Teeth" (Little Lion).
UD Rating: ¼ out of 5
Baby Einstein: Meet the Orchestra
Running Time: 42 minutes / Release Date: December 20, 2005 / SRP: $6.98
|1) "Opening Prelude"
2) "The Brass Section"
3) "The Woodwind Section"
4) "The String Section"
6) "Piano and Guitar"
7) "The Orchestra - 'Ode to Joy,' Beethoven"
8) "Guess What the Animals Are Playing"
9) "Solo: Waltz D in Flat, Op 64 No. 1 - 'Minute Waltz,' Chopin - Piano"
10) "Duo: Invention #4 In D Minor, Bach - Violin and Cello"
|11) "Trio: Trio #1 in D Minor, Op 49, Medelssohn - Violin, Cello, and Piano"
12) "Quartet: 'When the Saints Go Marching In' - Trumpet, Clarinet, Bass, and Drums"
13) "Quintet: Rondeau, Mouret"
14) "Octet: Wind Serenade No. 12 in C Minor, K.388. Movement 4, Mozart"
15) "Chamber Orchestra: Serenade for Strings in G 'Eine Kleine Nachrmusik' K, 525, Movement 1, Mozart"
16) Soloist with Orchestra: Concerto for Horn in Eb, K. 495, Movement 3, Mozart - French Horn
17) Orchestra: Overture to William Tell, Rossini
The newest Baby Einstein CD is essentially a complete soundtrack of the line's latest DVD release: Meet the Orchestra - First Instruments. The Einstein series typically earns high marks for its noble and practical efforts toward the culturing of children at an early age and the Orchestra release proved to be an especially useful one. So what good is a CD that essentially provides the same aural experience while deleting the video track? Well, there's no question that the DVD is the wiser investment, and that it alone can suffice, but the CD (which came two and a half months sooner and at a third of the DVD's cost) plays out a bit like a game of audio flash cards and could help your children identify with the sound of different instruments while in the car. Divided into two sections, the first part samples individual instruments while the second half delivers excerpts from notable orchestral pieces. The CD can't stand in for an actual classical music album, and those looking for a soothing release like that can find one for a price tag as low as this "Einstein" CD's is. At such a low price, parents may consider this a worthwhile compliment to the Orchestra DVD, but hardly a necessity.
UD Rating: ¾ out of 5
High School Musical: Soundtrack
Running Time: 38 minutes / Release Date: January 10, 2006 / SRP: $12.98
|1) "Start of Something New"
2) "Get'cha Head in the Game"
3) "What I've Been Looking For"
4) "What I've Been Looking For (Reprise)"
5) "Stick to the Status Quo"
6) "When There Was Me and You"
|7) "Bop to the Top"
8) "Breaking Free"
9) "We're All in This Together"
10) "I Can't Take My Eyes Off of You"
11) "Get'cha Head in the Game" - B5
12) "Start of Something New" (Karaoke Instrumental)
13) "Breaking Free" (Karaoke Instrumental)
The Disney Channel's High School Musical made TV movie history this year when its soundtrack produced sales numbers in the millions and topped the mainstream charts, something musicals aren't often known to do. One need only listen to one or two tracks from the soundtrack to understand why. The showy, pop-infused melodies provide a new recipe for tantalizing the tween taste-bud. Two duets, "Start of Something New" and the movie's signature song, "Breaking Free," stand out as the most radio-friendly tunes and two of the most likable on the CD. Joining them are the basketball beat-driven "Get'cha Head in the Game" (the song used in most of the Disney Channel's promotions) and the obligatory ensemble number, "Stick to the Status Quo." The other songs won't be as pleasing for those unfamiliar with the movie, but its fans will be glad to have quirky but humorous cuts like "What I've Been Looking For" included.
The first of three bonus tracks is a dreadful cover of "Get'cha Head in the Game" by pseudo hip-hop group B5 that can be considered the album's lone sour spot. It's followed by two instrumental versions (enhanced with CD+G technology for those with karaoke machines) of the film's lead duets, which are nice inclusions, but will probably invite most to make use of their "skip" button. Each track is credited to the character name that delivers it, as the vocals are sometimes coming from the stars and sometimes from behind-the-scenes talent. The performances, like the songs, are very much in the mold of a typical pop song, but are capably delivered by each cast member nonetheless. The CD packs a mean punch in the bass department and delivers top-notch sound quality. Helpfully, the lyrics to all the songs are printed in the liner notes.
A collection of feel-good dance numbers and a few less-corny-than-expected ballads, the High School Musical soundtrack isn't to be taken too seriously, but deserves credit as a witty indictment of peer pressure that introduces the medium of the musical to a new audience and offers them a good time.
UD Rating: out of 5
Bambi II: A Collection of New and Classic Bambi Music
Running Time: 33 minutes / Release Date: February 7, 2006 / SRP: $12.98
|1) "There Is Life" - Alison Krauss
2) "First Sign of Spring" - Michelle Lewis
3) "Through Your Eyes" - Martina McBride
4) "The Healing of a Heart" - Anthony Callea
5) "Snow Flakes in the Forest" - Score
6) "Bambi's Dream" - Score
7) "Being Brave (Part 1)" - Score
|8) "Being Brave (Part 2)" - Score
9) "Bambi and the Great Prince/End Credit Suite" - Score
10) Bonus Track: "Sing the Day" - Anika Noni Rose, Harrison Chad, Marcus Carl Franklin, Leon Thomas and Chorus
11) "Main Title (Love Is a Song") - Bambi
12) "Little April Shower" - Bambi
13) "Let's Sing a Gay Little Spring Song" - Bambi
If the first four vocal tracks which open this album weren't already married in my mind to the visuals and end credits of Bambi II, they might not leave me with such a bad taste. But they are, and like the "midquel" they were penned for, they reflect the uneasy merging of one of Walt Disney's earliest and greatest animated masterpieces with the sterile, direct-for-video productions of DisneyToon Studios that rarely can be lauded as anything beyond "inoffensive." Bambi II can't even earn that type of acclaim because as well-meaning as it may be, it still amounts to mild blasphemy. At best, these new lyric tracks deliver a catchy melody (Alison Krauss's opener "There Is Life"). But even when they do -- whether it's the shrill ponderings of Michelle Lewis, the croonings of country songstress Martina McBride, or the gospel-sounding end credits tune by Australian Idol runner-up Anthony Callea -- they suffer from numbingly heavy-handed prose meant to accompany eye-roll-inducing father/son bonding montages or nature animation that really doesn't need contemporary-sounding song. Moving into the five short tracks of Bruce Broughton's score, you might expect some of the understated qualities which make the original Bambi so beautiful. Instead, you just get as much a recurring instrumental motif of "Love is a Song" and what sound like direct lifts from Frank Churchill's score to the predecessor as you do genuinely sensible underscoring. The bonus track "Sing the Day" is in the mold of the other songs from the movie, but it was deleted in favor of Broughton's "Being Brave" cues - what does that tell you? The final three tracks succeed at what everything else about Bambi II tries: to hark back to the original Bambi. That's because they are directly taken from the 1942 film, the one that didn't need a holographic slipcover or a limited 60-day window of availability to garner high praise and pull the heart-strings of moviegoers of all ages. Even if you consider Bambi an all-time classic like most do, you might be at a loss to defend its sporadic, erratic, old-fashioned songs. Nevertheless, they're the most interesting numbers on this underwhelming disc.
UD Rating: out of 5
Lady and the Tramp and Friends
Running Time: 33 minutes / Release Date: February 7, 2006 / SRP: $6.98
|1) He's a Tramp
2) The Siamese Cat Song
3) Bella Notte
4) Kiss the Girl
|5) Something There
6) La La Lu
7) Dear Heart
8) Hero of the Story
9) Peace on Earth
Rather than a reissue of Lady and the Tramp's complete instrumental-heavy soundtrack, Walt Disney Records opted to go the lighter route in conjunction with the film's so-called "50th Anniversary Edition" Platinum DVD re-release. What that means is you get the five most memorable lyric tracks from the movie, nicely presented and true to their original forms. You also get four unrelated tracks constituting the "and Friends" part of the title. Two of those are fine songs from The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, typical of Disney's late '80s/early '90s renaissance music. The other two inclusions (called "Dear Heart" and "Hero of the Story") are out of left field, and both offer stylistic and thematic departures. Their origins require more research than is merited ("Dear Heart" also turned up on last fall's Cinderella and Friends album) and they don't offer anything the target audience (youngsters) will connect or want to sing along with. With the low sub-$7 price tag, catchy but shallow packaging (there's little more than a disc against a holographic back), and inconsistent song selection, this CD seems far more aimed at impulse buying than at collectors, who will likely already have the noteworthy tracks on other albums. To put it in iTunes terms, you're basically paying $1 for each movie track and getting the two oddities for free. Most other Disney albums work out better in your favor and provide a more satisfying sampling of the studio's more timeless anthems.
UD Rating: ½ out of 5
Steve Tyrell - The Disney Standards
Running Time: 47 minutes / Release Date: February 28, 2006 / SRP: $18.98
|1) "When You Wish Upon a Star" (Featuring Chris Botti)
2) "Kiss the Girl"
3) "You've Got a Friend In Me" (Duet with Dr. John)
4) "Bella Notte"
5) "Ev'rybody Wants To Be a Cat"
6) "Beauty and the Beast"
7) "He's a Tramp"
|8) "You'll Be in My Heart" (Featuring Dave Koz)
9) "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes"
10) "When She Loved Me"
11) "The Bare Necessities"
12) "Once Upon a Dream"
13) "Cruella De Vil"
14) "Baby Mine"
Bonus Music Video: "Bella Notte"
When Cinderella's Platinum Edition DVD hit the market last fall, Walt Disney Records took advantage of a golden tie-in opportunity by releasing The Disney Songbook, a pop-piano project by renowned musician Jim Brickman that offered an impressive roster of Disney hits. With the newest Platinum DVD, Lady and the Tramp, WDR is back at it again. This time it's The Disney Standards by Steve Tyrell, and though Sleeping Beauty's Aurora appears on the cover, two of the 14 tracks and the lone music video (included on both this CD and Lady's DVD) come from Lady and the Tramp. The other twelve come from sources that range from Pinocchio to The Aristocats to Toy Story 2.
Tyrell has been a prominent figure on the jazz scene for the last two decades, his voice very much that of a crooner's. The Disney Standards isn't likely to stand out as one of his finer works. From start to end, it's an enjoyable production and makes for easy listening. None of the tracks are memorable or unique enough, however, to stick with the listener after even a few play-throughs have concluded. The best tracks are those that feature Tyrell staying true to his swing jazz roots: "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat," "He's a Tramp," "Once Upon a Dream," "The Bare Necessities," and "Cruella De Vil." The others favor pop, twang, and in the case of "Kiss the Girl," a pseudo-calypso sound that all produce rather bland results.
It's not that The Disney Standards is an utter disappointment. In fact, it comes recommended to those who are looking for the perfect background music for their next Disney-themed get-together. Less unique or inspired, though, it doesn't live up to Brickman's similar release and unfortunately isn't guaranteed to please even jazz fans.
UD Rating: out of 5
That's So Raven Too!
Running Time: 49 minutes / Release Date: March 7, 2006 / SRP: $18.98
|1) "Some Call It Magic" - Raven-Symoné
2) "Friends" - Raven-Symoné and Anneliese van der Pol
3) "Little by Little" - Raven-Symoné and Orlando Brown
4) "Jump In" - Raven-Symoné
5) "She's No You (Remix)" - Jesse McCartney
6) "Walking on Sunshine" - Aly & AJ
7) "Let's Groove" - B5
|8) "Let's Stick Together" - Raven-Symoné, Anneliese van der Pol, Kyle Massey
9) "A Day in the Sun" - Anneliese van der Pol
10) "I Can See Clearly Now" - Everlife
11) "Will It Go Round in Circles" - Orlando Brown
12) "This is My Time (Remix)" - Raven-Symoné
13) "Respect" - Aretha Franklin
14) "Supernatural (Too! Mix)" - Raven-Symoné
15) "Some Call It Magic (B.F.F. Mix)" - Raven-Symoné
That's So Raven Too! is the hit Disney Channel Original Series' second soundtrack CD, featuring a collection of songs mostly performed by the show cast. Usually sung in character, the lyrics are insufferably immature and the music itself is every bit as unsophisticated. Content to match basic beat patterns with simple rhymes and not much else, the album serves up one dull track after another. Raven-Symoné obviously has a voice and her two chief co-stars aren't bad either, but these songs are hardly a showcase for their talent.
Raven Too also ventures outside the cast to bring in three covers of bona fide pop hits that oversimplify each, rendering them unworthy of a listen. A few remixes of previous Raven songs (including the third of "Supernatural") are included too, all of them in the same unfortunate mold of the other Raven productions included here. The standout tracks are a remix to Jesse McCartney's "She's No You" (still inferior to the radio release) and Aretha Franklin's "Respect," which is the only track truly deserving any.
UD Rating: out of 5
Music From and Inspired by The Shaggy Dog
Running Time: 53 minutes / Release Date: March 14, 2006 / SRP: $18.98
|1) "Big Dog" - Akon
2) "Man's Best Friend" - C Brown
3) "Atomic Dog" - George Clinton
4) "Every Dog Has Its Day" - Jaja Biggs
5) "Somethin' About You" - The Doghouse Biscuit Band
6) "Woof! There It Is" - Kevin Mathurin
7) "It's a Dog" - Kyle Massey
8) "Tibet" - Score
|9) "First Signs" - Score
10) "Transformation" - Score
11) "Magic Lab" - Score
12) "Breaking Through" - Score
13) "Kozak Gets a Tail" - Score
14) "Meditation" - Score
15) "Escpaing the Lab" - Score
16) "To The Rescue" - Score
17) "Family Time" - Score
Rather than asking Alan Menken's uncharacteristically forgettable score to stand on its own, The Shaggy Dog's soundtrack summons seven canine-themed vocal tracks to contribute to its full slate. Only one of these actually made it into the film: Akon's end credits tune "Big Dog", which has a modern dance/electronic flair, but otherwise harks back to the old live action Disney tradition by musically recounting this loose remake's plot in a silly but fun way. The rest of the music "inspired by" the film largely infuses reggae and hip hop into the mix, which seems a bit out of place for a Tim Allen-headed suburban domestic comedy and an odd way to open the album. Standing out from the unremarkable unfeatured lot (which includes Kevin Mathurin's shaggy dog reworking of Tag Team's lone hit "Whoomp! (There It Is)" and a "song" performed by Kyle Massey, the fourth "That's So Raven" cast member to moonlight as a pop star) is George Clinton's funky "Atomic Dog" which accompanied the movie's trailer and TV spots. As for Menken's instrumentations, which comprise a bit more than half of the album, they are typically as familiar and predictable as most of the movie's gags, but not displeasing except for the occasions when they waver into saccharinity. Given what past Menken/Disney collaborations (The Little Mermaid, Newsies, Aladdin, Pocahontas and so on...) have led us to expect, the composer's work here can be classified as a mild disappointment. Menken completists (if such a thing exists) can track down this CD for just a few bucks in the second-hand market and disregard the first half, while verbal-only music fans can do the opposite. Either way, this okay soundtrack will leave most only semi-satisfied.
UD Rating: out of 5
DEVO 2.0 - DEV2.O
Running Time: 35 minutes (CD), 87 Minutes (DVD) / Release Date: March 14, 2006 / SRP: $18.98
|1) "That's Good"
2) "Peek A Boo"
3) "Whip It"
4) "Boy U Want"
5) "Uncontrollable Urge"
|7) "The Winner"
8) "Big Mess"
9) "Jerkin' Back 'N Forth"
10) "Through Being Cool"
11) "Freedom of Choice"
12) "Beautiful World"
One must bend his or her mind in strange and unusual ways to fathom how DEVO 2.0, a new musical project from Disney, came to be. As the name of the band and album implies, this CD offers new life for the weird New Wave group which found popularity in the late '70s and early '80s. Here, five children, aged 10-13, assume the various roles and cover twelve of DEVO's songs, including some of the best-known singles like "That's Good", "Peek a Boo", and "Whip It" (tracks 1-3). These new takes on cult favorites remain fairly faithful and the short tracks present the simple, catchy rhythms that define DEVO better than any devolution theory could. Nonetheless, some lyrics have been changed and "Girl U Want" has become "Boy U Want" to reflect the fact that the lead singer is named Nicole. Even with a female vocalist, the songs don't sound remarkably different, though modern sensibilities have dictated that the electronic/synth nature of DEVO's sound has been toned down a bit. Of course, the obvious question is: if the material is apt to present to today's children, why not buy them DEVO Greatest Hits, a 15-year-old compilation which holds nine of the songs covered here in their original form plus seven other fondly-remembered anthems? But then, if this is bringing DEVO to the in-need-of-guidance Radio Disney demographic, clearly has the approval of the original band (original band member Gerald V. Casale is credited with conception and direction), and may encourage tweens to check out an iconic band they might have otherwise missed, what's wrong with that? Those who were among the original DEVO fans quite possibly now have a tween or more of their own, and probably won't mind sharing something from their adolescence with their children, as oddly amused as they may be by the reinvention. Other diehard DEVO lovers may object to the kiddiefication of their fave, but I say enjoy it for what it is. Or don't and pretend it never happened. Just don't expect this type of thing to go away; DEV2.O launches Disney Sound, a new label planning a series of "remaking the band" projects. Next up: The Go-Gos. For now, our lips are sealed. DEVO 2.0's aren't, though. They're currently in the midst of a ten-school tour throughout the East Coast.
Sweetening the value of this standard-priced CD is the inclusion of a DVD holding 87 minutes of content. The main menu features the five kids of DEVO 2.0 jumping around in the holes of a chunk of Swiss cheese and that image aptly sets the mood for this bright and bold disc. The main attraction may be nine music videos (27:15), which feature busy visuals and severe lip synching. Under the heading "We are DEVO 2.0", one finds 10 minutes of interviews in which we hear the young band members express their thoughts on DEVO, their plans to make this world a better place (ah, "world peace"), their goals and interests, and their favorite songs from the album. Also in this section, a photo gallery holds about 20 stills of each DEVO 2.0 band member (most against computerized blue and black backgrounds) plus another 14 as a group.
Three additional listings are classified as bonus features. "Why DEV2.O?" (5:37) is a tidy featurette culled largely and neatly from the other material on the DVD which explains how the kids band was formed. The best part about it is the first 90 seconds, which showcase excerpts from the imaginative and unusual DEVO music videos. (It also interestingly provides a glimpse of 2.0 performing "Girl U Want", an exclusive to Target stores' copies, as opposed to the reworded and retitled version which appears elsewhere). "Original De-evolutionists" (18:28) finds Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, two of the Kent State art students who helped found DEVO, separately having fun with the lightweight interview questions lobbed by their youthful counterparts about the original band's formation and the musicians' pasts. Finally, "DEV2.O Animations" (24:20) offers eight instrumental versions of the album's songs set to the surreal Flash-like animations which appear on screens behind the performers in the music videos. The press release states it best, when it touts this section's use of "neon dinosaurs, pandas in sombreros, and anthropomorphic potatoes." "Whip It", for instance, features a mechanical device whipping cream atop various objects, many supported by the trademark Devo energy domes (the official name for the inverse flowerpot hats), through a psychedelic maze of fluctuating colors. Oh boy! Epilpetics probably will want to proceed with caution.
UD Rating: ¾ out of 5
Disney's Little Einsteins: Musical Missions
Running Time: 37 minutes / Release Date: March 28, 2006 / SRP: $12.98
|1) The Little Einsteins Theme Song
2) Mission & Blast Off
MUSICAL MISSION: The Birthday Balloons (Music: "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
3) Space Needle
MUSICAL MISSION: Rocket Safari (Music: "Flight of the Bumblebee" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)
7) Rescue Rocket
|MUSICAL MISSION: Pirate's Treasure (Music: "Carmen Suite #1 by Georges Bizet)
8) Big Wave
10) Get the Treasure
MUSICAL MISSION: The Golden Pyramid (Music: "Hungarian Dance #5" by Johannes Brahms)
12) The Great Sphynx & The Golden Pyramid Song
13) The Golden Pyramid - The Open Up Song
14. Curtain Call
|Voice Cast: Jesse Schwartz (Leo), Natalia Wojcik (Annie), Aiden Pompey (Quincy), Erica Huang (June), Beth Anne Garrison (Narrator)|
It makes sense that the Little Einsteins franchise would follow in its cousin Baby Einstein's footsteps to the world of audio CDs. With this "edutaining" album's release, the preschooler-oriented titular property becomes tougher to define. It originated on Disney DVD last summer in the feature-length Our
Big Huge Adventure, which has remained among Amazon.com's Top 100 Selling discs in the months since. It has been aided, no doubt, by Playhouse Disney's #1-rated half-hour morning series, which is the most prominent entry of the canon. Like the show, this activity-based CD seeks to sneak learning into a generally entertaining experience. The four "musical missions" take the tiny, ethnically-diverse foursome and their versatile ship Rocket to various ends of the earth: Antarctica, Egyptian pyramids, the bottom of the sea, even Seattle. Each of the missions poses a dilemma for the protagonists and you, the listener, and each is set to a famous piece of classical music which is repeatedly weaved into the play-by-play. (Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik sets the melody for "I love balloons / I love / I love / balloons", for instance.) Rather than summoning the archaic radio drama format, the album not only calls for active listener participation but it provides a glossy 18-page booklet for your youngster to follow along (a narrator helps) and use the five sheets of reusable picture clings (does the word "colorforms" ring a bell?) to depict the events they hear. The eighteen clings provide story elements and two versions of each character and are sure to provide fun even without the accompanying CD playing back. As "Little Einsteins" aims for an audience slightly older than Baby Einsteins, the lessons administered (with a fair amount of subtlety) are accordingly more sophisticated. Concepts proposed often deal with music ("staccato" and "crescendo" are among the repeated words), but the diverse settings ensure some geographical learning (or at least interest-piquing) too. The target audience may be limited and the album's appeal short-lived, but even when their products come across as transparently manufactured, one can't really object to the intentions at the heart of the Baby Einstein philosophy. Those intentions are more than effectively carried out here.
UD Rating: out of 5
Roundup posted March 30, 2006. CD reviews written by Aaron and Luke.
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