Return To Pride Rock

Various Artists

Walt Disney Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/29/1998

Movie sequels are always a risky gamble. Studios want to maintain the integrity of the first film and capture some of its past glories while forging a new path for the new work and not wanting to seem like it's copying the first effort note-for-note.

In the same vein, soundtracks fall under the same weight as the films do. In the case of Disney's The Lion King, the soundtrack was one of the company's best in a long time, thanks in no small part to the contributions of Elton John (I have yet to get tired of hearing "Circle Of Life") and Tim Rice. Neither of them contributed to the upcoming straight-to-video release The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, but the true hero of the music is still present on the pseudo-soundtrack my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Return To Pride Rock.

This disc, while featuring a lot of the music from the film (which I have not pre-screened), is not truly a soundtrack, as it encompasses music "inspired" by the film, some of which has been previously released on other albums. But if the music isn't in the film, you could have fooled me, for the overall sound is seamless.

So, who is the "hero" of the music, if it isn't John or Rice? His name is Lebo M; his contributions to the music helped make the original soundtrack and the Broadway soundtrack so memorable. His performances on Return To Pride Rock are simply incredible, from the opening track "He Lives In You" to his cover of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". The rhythms and natural flow that Lebo M brings to the songs on this album make sure that everything sounds like the story is a natural progression from where the film left off.

Despite this, I do still miss the contributions of John and Rice; this disc lacks the one song that people will be singing for months to come, something that quite a few Disney soundtracks of recent years have contained. Does Return To Pride Rock suffer greatly because of their absence? No, but it does provide the songwriters with a rather large uphill battle.

Fortunately, they are up to the challenge, for the most part. The track "Upendi" (sung primarily by Robert Guillaume) and "We Are One" are strong followups to tracks like "Hakuna Matata" from the original Lion King film, while "Love Will Find A Way" - aw, who am I kidding, this song is going to be the next big "first dance" song at weddings, I know it. Listen closely to it, and you'll understand why. (Some of the songs also capture the evil a little too well, like "My Lullaby," a track that is not for the kiddies.)

Songs like "We Are One" (the version sung by Angelique Kidjo) and some of the additional Lebo M contributions on the second half of the disc are tracks you won't hear in the film - at least, this is what I'm led to believe from the liner notes. Two words: Too bad.

Return To Pride Rock is an admirable follow-up effort to The Lion King, and while it doesn't have the star power that the first soundtrack did, this one holds its own quite well.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Walt Disney Records, and is used for informational purposes only.