The Lion King Legacy Collection release launches Walt Disney Records’ new line of nostalgic CDs honoring the company’s greatest films. Packed with more than two hours of tunes and instrumental tracks from Hans Zimmer, Elton John, and Tim Rice, the debut of this album signifies the positive potential of The Legacy Collection.
Before diving into the score, it is worth noting that the lush new artwork by Lorelay Bove. Producer Don Hahn‘s linear notes, lyrics from each of the songs, and other pieces of art from the film are featured in the nice-looking booklet that accompanies the CDs.
1. Circle of Life/Nants’ Ingonyama: Easily the most recognizable song from The Lion King is the musical piece that begins the epic tale. The improved sound quality here, compared to previous releases, works to enhance the resonance of the bass and vocals by Carmen Twillie.
2. Didn’t Your Mother Tell You Not To Play With Your Food: The most playfully worded track on the CD contrasts the ironic harshness of Scar’s malicious behavior within the film. It’s a somewhat forgettable track with jazz undertones and an experiment-like vibe with its weird arrangements.
3. We Are All Connected: Zimmer’s work shines in this track. The dramatic, undeniably heavy tone complements the “life lessons” section of the movie instilled to Simba from Mufasa.
4. Hyenas In The Pride Land: Danger is imminent within this more mystical track.
5. I Just Can’t Wait To Be King: Joyful and effervescent, Simba’s song that envisions ruling the kingdom has made many an adult smile and bounce around. Listen for yourself as you catch the song in the Disney Movies YouTube channel video below.
6. Elephant Graveyard: The peril seeps through the scratching of the stringed instruments. Interestingly, certain sounds at around the 2:00 mark resemble the quirkiness of Randy Newman’s James and the Giant Peach soundtrack.
7. I Was Just Trying To Be Brave: Mufasa comes to Simba’s aid by saving him from the nefarious hyenas. Themes from the third track are reinforced here, trumped by the magnificent chorus that comes into the scene.
8. Be Prepared: Vicious Scar incites his troop of hyenas to imagine a kingdom with him as ruthless ruler by sharing his cunning and disturbing plans. The most enlightening part is when the trio of dimwit dogs shout “No king, no king, la, la, la, la, la, la.” This remains one of the film’s funniest lines.
9. Simba, It’s To Die For: Brief, but momentous, this 48-second track sets up the following scary setpiece.
10. Stampede: Run for your life, Mufasa! It seems that every instrument is thrown into the mix of this frenzied track that raises the stakes and likewise the quality of one of Zimmer’s best scores.
11. Mufasa Dies: If the name of the track is not enough to make you swell with tears, then the saddening orchestration will do the trick.
12. If You Ever Come Back We’ll Kill You: Once again a familiar, yet different theme from earlier in the film returns, but this time to transition the film from quite dark to diverging into wacky with the entrance of Timon and Pumbaa.
13. Bowling for Buzzards: Here’s another short track, but this comedic piece does little to further the story.
14. Hakuna Matata: As unforgettable as the Oscar-nominated song is, I would argue that it verges on the edge of irritating after listening to more than half of the four-minute song. Sometimes succinct is stellar, and the least appealing of Elton John’s and Tim Rice’s five songs is sadly the longest.
15. We Gotta Bone To Pick With You: Could Danny Elfman have lent his signature weird musical elements into Zimmer’s score? Though not true, it sure sounds like it after listening to this peculiar track, seemingly straight out of Tim Burton’s head.
16. Kings of the Past: This nostalgic piece finds Simba recalling the life he left behind. Likewise, the luscious Lion King medley, earlier in the picture set to scenes involving Simba and Mufasa, is one most anyone can recognize. Here the music becomes intertwined with drumming and some beautiful African instrumentation.
17. Nala, Is It Really You?: Poor Timon and Pumbaa must watch out for grown-up Nala, apparently a threat until Simba enters. The tense rhythm steers toward enchanting to match the mood of when these lovely lions reunite.
18. Can You Feel The Love Tonight: While I would claim this Oscar-winning song is not superior to the monumental “Circle of Life,” the romantic exchange between Simba and Nala deserves praise for its seamless integration of African rhythms – and also the insertion of Timon’s and Pumbaa’s amusing commentary.
19. Remember Who You Are: Enter Rafiki. The tribal rhythms reappear with the emergence of the sage mandrill, who reminds Simba of how he is always connected with his father. The vibe constantly changes from peaceful to rousing, but always with a sense of direction toward enrapturing its listeners.
20. This Is My Home: The tribal themes are far from minimalistic in this grand track, complete with chanting and more of those identifiable wind instruments. The heaviness stems from the scene in which Simba reclaims Pride Rock. The Hakuna Matata pair add some much-needed levity with their “hula song,” which closes the three-minute piece.
21. The Rightful King: Ready for one of the lengthiest scores you will ever find on a Disney release? This substantial track, almost 12 minutes long, covers the entire climax of The Lion King. Whereas the original 1994 CD contained parts of this track, it was a mere six minutes in comparison. This dynamic and intense track captures the gravity of the fierce finale, a must-listen for sure.
1. The Morning Report: Originally omitted from the 1994 theatrical release, this brief ditty featuring Zazu, Simba, and Mufasa would be later incorporated into the 2002 IMAX re-release. It has some zip and colorful flavor, but feels somewhat unnecessary.
2. Warthog Rhapsody: Upon listening to this bumbling duet between the warthog and meerkat, you can detect that “Hakuna Matata” emerged from this cut tune. Nathan Lane (Timon) and Ernie Sabella (Pumbaa) add pep and zazz to this delightfully fun tune.
3. We Are All Connected (Score Demo): A demo is just that, an early version of a piece later implemented in the finished product. This possesses many elements of what we later hear in the film and specifically in the complete track on Disc 1, most notably in the later section.
4. I Was Just Trying To Be Brave (Score Demo): This demo seems to incorporate more of the chorus, but is otherwise quite similar to the final track.
5. Stampede (Score Demo): Only some minor instrumentation changes to various sections seem to differentiate this from the iconic stampede score, but arguably the track used in the film is cleaner than the demo.
6. Mufasa Dies (Score Demo): No matter what state in which you listen to the most depressing melody, its poignancy carries through effortlessly.
7. This Is My Home (Score Demo): This track is another example of the demo not quite living up to its eventual refinement, but this was necessary to craft the fantastic finished product.
8. The Rightful King (Score Demo): A phenomenal piece of score, for sure, but its efficacy would prove stronger if broken into multiple tracks.
9. Circle of Life (Instrumental Demo): Seeking a new way to experience Elton John’s renowned song? Hans Zimmer’s instrumental demo does a solid job in conveying the emotion without any words.
10. Circle of Life: Remember a time when adult contemporary artists spun their own versions of Disney songs? Those were the days when Olivia Newton-John offered a rendition of “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid. Elton John opted to sing several of the songs he crafted for The Lion King, including its title tune.
11. I Just Can’t Wait To Be King: Picture Elvis Presley and Kenny Loggins collaborating. The result of that odd pairing might be Elton John’s take on his own exuberant piece from The Lion King, an uninhibited and fanciful version that greatly differs from the movie version.
12. Can You Feel The Love Tonight (End Title): John’s breathless rendition may vary from what we hear when the lions rendezvous, yet it still captures the “love.”
A promising launch title to the Walt Disney Records Legacy Collection, this two-disc CD that coincides with The Lion King‘s 20th anniversary offers a couple of hours of powerhouse music listening. I am sure other installments to the collection will follow Lion King‘s lead and provide the same breadth of content and quality.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom.