The Jungle Book
Walt Disney Records, 1997
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/05/1998
Way back when I was little, I remember my father taking me to see "The Jungle Book" at the Lawrencewood Theatre as part of a double feature. The theatre is now a parking lot, and my memories of the movie are locked away in my brain in some region I don't know how to access.
But with the recent re-release of the movie on home video, it felt like it was time to listen to the original soundtrack of the movie - well, that, and the fact that Disney sent me the disc helped. And while I would question labelling the music as "jazz" - that would be more true with "The Aristocats" - the music on this one is quite enjoyable. However, this is a disc that is actually more for the adults than the kiddies.
The animated version of Rudyard Kipling's story is captured well in the music - you get a feeling of where the movie is going from the flow of the music. As "Colonel Hathi's March" kicks in, you can see the parade of elephants marching by in front of you. Likewise, as Sterling Holloway tries to charm the young Mowgli into a trap on "Trust In Me," you can almost see the python slithering his way into position.
This is the benefit of most Disney soundtracks: the music acts as kind of a storybook to the action, so even if you've never seen the movie or read the book, you have an idea as to what the action in the story is. The Jungle Book soundtrack is no exception to this. Especially entertaining is Louis Prima's job as the monkey king on "I Wanna Be Like You," a song which has the most jazzy feel to it, but would be hard to call jazz per se.
This soundtrack is fleshed out with the inclusion of two songs from the storybook album More Jungle Book, featuring the vocal talents of Phil Harris as Baloo the bear. In fact, if you weren't paying close attention, you might think these songs were in the original movie - the flow is seamless.
An interview with songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman is the first clue that The Jungle Book is not primarily a soundtrack marketed for the kiddies. It's an interesting historical piece, but one wonders if this shouldn't have been included on a separate disc, allowing the kids their fun, and the adults their own.
The only misfires on this disc, ironically, are two songs which were written for the first draft of the movie, then discarded by Walt Disney when he changed the script to be less dark. "Brothers All" and "The Song Of The Seeonee" are songs which sound more in line with early Disney movies, and definitely don't fit the mood of the rest of the album. In retrospect, you can't blame Disney for putting the kabosh on songs like these.
The Jungle Book soundtrack is sure to revive many memories for us grown kids, while allowing plenty of sing-along time for the true children, and is a great addition to the restored video. And while it must have been difficult for Disney Studios to decide who to market this disc towards, it might have been better had they actually made up their minds.