The Disney Album
Walt Disney Records, 2001
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/11/2002
On the surface, Michael Crawford seems to be the obvious choice to cover a collection of classic songs from the Walt Disney library. After all, Crawford is the voice who gave life to the title character in The Phantom Of The Opera.
Two reasons stand out in my mind. First, Crawford may have a beautiful voice for theater (more on that in just a moment), but on many of these tracks, it almost sounds like he's giving a rote performance. He almost speaks his way through songs like "Colors Of The Wind"; on others like "You'll Be In My Heart," he almost sounds like a lounge singer. And I'm sorry, but nobody - let me repeat that, nobody - should be allowed to sing "When She Loved Me" other than Sarah McLachlan.
That kind of leads to the second reason why The Disney Album doesn't work. Crawford has extremely big shoes to fill - and seeing that Crawford selected almost entirely a lineup of recent songs from the Disney catalog, he's fighting people's memories of these selections. I don't know about you, gentle reader - whoops, went into a "Miss Manners" trance there - but I still remember performances from such artists as Kenny Loggins, Vanessa Williams and Phil Collins. Crawford's heart may have been in the right place when he chose these songs, but he doesn't do the original singers any service.
The two lone highlights on The Disney Album, not surprisingly, are songs that are unfamiliar to the pop world. Crawford's take on "Baby Mine" from Dumbo is absolutely heart-rendering - of course, being a new father again, I admit there may be an additional emotional yank on my heartstrings each time I hear this song. The other great track is "I Know The Truth," from the Broadway show Aida. Crawford's true strength is in material written for the big stage, and he proves it on this selection.
Crawford's talents and successes are well known, but The Disney Album has too many phantoms of the original artists to allow Crawford any chance of making the material his own. That, plus a pretty standard performance from Crawford, makes this disc a major disappointment.