Sunday, 3 April 2011

Score Review: Beauty And The Beast (Alan Menken)

Rescue it from an angry French mob... If you wish to own the peak of Disney musical magic, bar none.

Leave it holed up in the west wing... Actually, just don't.

Today, I'm going to review a rather different type of score to the usual stuff found here. Beauty And The Beast by Alan Menken, will be the first Disney musical score on this site, and for very good reason. Back when I was a young, young boy, my sister owned the film on VHS and after having to watch it about a hundred times in a week, I neglected to watch it again until only a few weeks ago. It was only then that I realised how unique it is compared to other Disney works, maintaining a surprisingly dark atmosphere for the majority of the film. This is reflected flawlessly in the score, and Menken's magical musical flavour and Howard Ashman's wordplay in the songs will be often repeated, but never bettered, in a literal flood of Disney musicals to follow.

Comparing Disney musicals of the early 90's to those of the late 90's is almost exactly the same as comparing the original Star Wars trilogy to the prequels. In both scenarios, the films entirely lose their magic through selling out the integrity of the stories (and songs in Disney's case) by replacing genuinely funny lines with silly pantomime-like antics designed to appeal only to children. In fact, the Beauty And The Beast film and score can quite easily be compared to Empire Strikes Back, due to it being the middle film of a grand trilogy (betwixt Little Mermaid and Aladdin) that is not only the darkest, but also the funniest, of the three.

The songs on this release are the undoubted highlight. Disney obviously also believes this to be the case,  piling all of the songs at the front of the disc, rather than leaving them interspersed with the rest of the score. This is not to say that the score isn't very good, as it's actually one of Menken's best, but the songs are of such a high quality that they overshadow everything else.

It's almost impossible to pick highlights, whether from the songs or score, due to the constant quality on show throughout. However, for me anyway, not much can beat the musical and lyrical genius of Belle and Gaston and their respective reprises. The two greatest character pieces in Disneys canon, these tracks introduce the story and style of the film staggeringly well, showing brilliant lyrical detail and hilarity, as well as giving a sublime showcase for Menken's talents.

I don't believe much more can be said about this score, as I'm sure the majority of you are already aware of it's brilliance. Beauty And The Beast makes some of the best use of theme and lyrics in Disney's history and is a worthy addition to anyone's collection, even those who are generally turned off by anything even remotely Disney-related.

Although, I do have a small negative opinion about this CD. I hate hate HATE the single version of the title song, being as sickeningly corporate and cheesy as it is. However, this can be easily fixed by making a copy of the original one (sung by the teapot) and sticking it at the back.

Rating: 10

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