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Henry Buck

The Official Alan Menken Thread

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The original Aladdin (Disc 4) is fascinating*. I dare say it would have been a superior film and score to the Disney-fied (heh) love story that developed after Ashman's death. "A Whole New World" is a great song, but there's something white bread-like about it. If only "Proud of Your Boy" had been retained.

* The unused songs on Disc 3 are interesting, but they don't have any vision to them. They're transition material between the original Aladdin and the final one.

By the way, Colin, it sounds like you're entering a "collector" phase. See my topic post in this thread for a listing of some of the extra score/song tracks on the Music Behind the Magic Set and where they fit in.

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I definitely agree that "Proud of Your Boy" is great, and I think "High Adventure" would have been really fun in full blown orchestration. And I really like the idea of having many "Arabian Nights" telling the story throughout. I am wracking my braind trying to find a way to make the final "Arabian Nights" fit somehow into the finale without getting rid of the choral ending. I am sure there is a way. I just gotta figure it out.

Interesting, most people will tell you that their favorite songs on Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast are "A Whole New World" and "Tale as Old As Time". I always thought they were too soft-pop radio oriented. They sound like attempts to make it onto the radio. The piano in both, especially "Tale As Old As Time", sounds very soft pop-ish. Of course, the lyrics, especially on "Tale As Old As Time", are brilliant, and I think are some of the best Ashman ever wrote. Just the whole song structure and orchestration sounds very pop-ish.

Thanks for those chronological listings. I had been looking for something like that.

Colin Thomson

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I thought I had heard somewhere that Robin Williams did the voice of the narrator at the beginning of Aladdin, but IMDB says "Bruce Adler... Narrator / Merchant (singing voice)". Does this mean that Robin Williams only did the speaking voice, or did he not have anything to do with the narrator? Thanks.

Colin Thomson

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At the risk of reopening closed conversational wounds, a couple of thoughts on this phenomenally gifted composer/tunesmith's career:

1. The Enchanted score has some entertaining moments (see the latter section of "Into the Well," as Giselle discovers her human form the first time...good on CD, PERFECT in the film). Even in its more mundane cues, you must appreciate that no one puts leitmotifs (or song melodies, which often function as leitmotifs in Menken scores) through their paces like Menken. (On an unrelated note, one of my favorite examples of this comes from the little-seen, much-maligned Home on the Range, which grafted solid songs onto a truly awful film. The first score cue on that soundtrack ingeniously translates the melody of the mournful Bonnie Raitt ballad into a jaunty Western clip-clop riff.) But as I was saying, Enchanted's songs were one of its greatest strengths--the film left me wanting more of them. And the score does a decent job translating them into underscore, albeit with almost zero original material. (One exception is the villain's rather simplistic motif, which dominates "Narissa Arrives" with soulless faux-Hunchback choralizing.)

2. Goldsmith's Mulan score is brilliant, but so different from the Menken style that I almost can't see comparing the two. To be honest, the Menken style probably would not have been as fitting for that film as for his others. But I don't know. Beyond that, their career trajectories have been so different that you might as well spend your time and keystrokes comparing Raphael and Rockwell.

3. I don't understand all the Hercules hate, especially from the Menken fans. It's no masterpiece, but it's got some witty screenwriting, the songs are decent, and the visual style is brilliant (watch some of the effects animation frame-by-frame to see what I mean).

In fact, I would argue that the real letdown with Hercules wasn't Menken; it was David Zippel and his lyrics. After Stephen Schwartz's unbridled brilliance on Pocahontas and Hunchback, lines like "WHOOOOAAA! There goes my ulcer!" were a heck of a cold shower. "Zero to Hero" is cleverly written, but other songs are full of filler. Even the soaring, melodic "Go the Distance" has styrofoam like "a great, warm welcome" and "I would go most anywhere to feel like I belong." Musically, the songs are excellent--listen to the chords on "A Star is Born," and try not to tap your reluctant masculine foot on "I Won't Say I'm in Love." It's the lyrics that disappoint.

4. I'd be curious to hear your takes on the songs in Home on the Range. Recall: I don't defend the film. But taken on their own, these are well worth your time. Glenn Slater is a lyricist to watch.

In short, Menken is unbeatable at his game. Whether you subordinate that game to film score composing as an art form is up to you. But show me another musical theatre composer, living or dead, who has as many catchy or touching melodies to his credit as Menken.

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It could be that we all just don't like black gospel music

please o please explain this comment :)

back on topic i think Hercules isn't a bad score, i honestly think it is far better than beauty and the beast IMO.

But i think Go the Distance is one of the best disney songs ever produced. its uplifting and has great orchestration, the reprise of the wierd menken-like fanfare close to the end could have not been included but besides that the song is great. I must say Pocahontas and Hunchback cannot be touched.

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It could be that we all just don't like black gospel music

please o please explain this comment :)

Someone asked why so many people around here don't like Hercules. That seemed like the best explanation, because (and I am not an authority on the subject) it seems to me that the music in Hercules is perhaps better then much black gospel music I have heard. I just don't choose to listen to it much, because that is not a style I appreciate. It doesn't mean it is a bad style, it is just not one I choose to listen to a great deal. Thus, many members here do not like Hercules.

Colin Thomson

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I don't know where I was when this thread started, but I'll stand up for all of Alan Menken's music pre-"Hercules." I agree that "Hunchback" is his most daring and ambitious work ever, but that doesn't dilute everything that came before it.

Yes, "Mermaid" was his first score, and for a first-timer, it's remarkable what he did. If you think about it, it was the only instrumental work that relied very little on the song score. Most of the underscore he wrote for future films leaned hevaily on the songs, which worked splendidly, but reeked a little of laziness.

That said, Alan Menken deserved all eight of his Oscars. "Mermaid," "Beast" and "Aladdin" likely won for the same reason "Fame won: the song score. But even if you ignore the song score of each film, the underscore in each is stupendous:

"Storm" and the finale in "Mermaid"

"The Wolf Attack" and "Transformation" in "Beast"

"The Cave of Wonders" in "Aladdin"

It is indeed a shame that he suffered the year of "Hunchback." I am certain the score would have won if the voters really took the time to listen to it.

Some people here may know of the letter Alan Menken wrote to me shortly after his loss in 1997. It's framed with my John Williams autographs.

I can't wait to hear what Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz cooked up for "Enchanted."

Took the words right out of my mouth. = ) I agree with all of this. I also agree, it's a shame he lost out at the oscars the year of HUNCHBACK.

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I just got the Broadway Beauty and the Beast album, and it really is nice. In fact, I think that "If I can't Love Her" would have even worked well in the original movie (which is about the highest compliment I can give a song). I love the way Menken put in bits from the beginning dailogue underscore, making it part of the song. Incredible. The rest of the additional material is nice, but not too much more. The finale with the singing and some "If I can't Love Her" mixed in is very nice. I also like having the instrumental interlude.

I am trying to figure out if there is a playlist that I can make that would be in film chronological order, but would also include a couple tracks from the broadway show. Because the Beast doesn't do much singing originally (only on "Something There"), I think that "If I can't Love Her" could fit fine, as well as the interlude. Still working on whether anything else would work with it or not.

Anyways, they did a good job overall of retaining the original feel while being creative and adding material.

And yes, I know I am late on getting this album, with how much of a Beauty and the Beast fan I am. Oh well, I have no defense.

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Menken's Tangled album is up for preorder.

I gotta say, my enthusiasm for this project was dashed considerably when Kristin Chenoweth was replaced with Mandy Moore. I've got nothing against Moore at all—she's great. But I was really looking forward to Kristin and Menken working together. (I'm not counting that disappointing Oscar performance of "That's How You Know" from Enchanted. Ugh.)

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From the Digital Bits today:

Meanwhile, retail sources have informed us that Disney is soon to announce the release of their hit animated film Tangled on Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo, Blu-ray/DVD Combo/Digital Copy and DVD (SRP $56.99, $44.99 and $35.99). Extras will include the original storybook openings, deleted scenes, extended song numbers and the Untangled: The Making of a Fairy Tale documentary.

Really curious what this means. Like, longer songs, but outside of the film?

To me, Tangled felt like a film that was embarrassed to have people singing in it. (And clearly Disney was too, since they never advertised it as a musical.) There's some almost great stuff in there, but much of it is too short. Now we can only imagine how it might have turned out had the film stayed on its original path.

ETA: I just realized that "When Will My Life Begin (Reprise 1)" was cut from the film, so that's probably one of them.

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To provide a very specific example of what you're talking about, there's one idea in "I've Got a Dream" that always annoys me. On the lyric "And I know one day love will reign supreme," I love the pitch change during the second syllable of "supreme." But the singers always hold it too short! To me that is a gorgeous moment, but it would be way more effective if it was held out.

Not sure if I agree with you for the enirety of the score, but that is one moment that always irked me. The extra features sound cool, but not enough to make me buy the DVD when it is released. Maybe it'll get an extended digital release or something.

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I found Tangled to be a surprisingly great flick, but I thought Menken's songs were a bit weak this time around. Will extending them help, or just bug me more?

Talking of "extensions"; what, if anything, did you think of what Barbara Streisand did to Stephen Sondheim's songs on "The Broadway Album"?

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To provide a very specific example of what you're talking about, there's one idea in "I've Got a Dream" that always annoys me. On the lyric "And I know one day love will reign supreme," I love the pitch change during the second syllable of "supreme." But the singers always hold it too short! To me that is a gorgeous moment, but it would be way more effective if it was held out.

Hmm... not sure if that's what they meant by "longer musical numbers."

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Okay, so...I'm not a huge Disney movie fan, but because I'm a huge Disneyland fan and because I grew up in the 90s, I've certainly been exposed to Menken's work during that time period, and I like it. I'm thinking it's time for me to finally buy some or all of his Disney output from the 90s, and I'm just wondering what recommendations you guys would have in terms of order and specific releases. I'm thinking of just going in chronological order, maybe two at a time - The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, then Aladdin and Pocahontas, then Hunchback and Hercules if I'm still in the mood. Is this a good plan? And which releases should I seek out in order to maximize the amount of material I get? Obviously, I'm interested in the scores in addition to the songs.

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I agree that the Music Behind the Magic set does not entirely cover the scores it presents. It includes some new material (ie a "Prologue" from B&B without narration), but a lot of the cues are replaced with demos or work tapes (ie "Kiss the Girl" is half demo, half final version).

If you can get all of them, then obviously that is preferable. However, if you need to prioritize then I suggest getting Hunchback and Pocahontas first, as I think they are easily Menken's best works.

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Thanks for the input! For now, I'm ordering The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast...the Music Behind the Magic set looks awesome, but I can wait for that one. I think I'll buy the others first.

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Hold on a sec - get the special edition release of Beauty and the Beast, for it includes the home video-only song "Human Again." Note that the newest extra tracks version actually doesn't include this. Instead, it just features a recording of the title song by Jordin Sparks. It's kind of cool, but, um... not the style you're probably looking for. From the Music Behind the Magic Set you can then add the score tracks "Wolf Attack" and "Transformation #2."

The only difference with The Little Mermaid is that the special edition features a second disc with lame pop singles. From Music Behind the Magic there's the unreleased score track "Sebastian and Triton." Everything else is demos.

And as for Aladdin, the special edition release includes two demo tracks, but these are available in Music Behind the Magic anyway. Get the OST, for it features "Arabian Nights" with its original, unaltered lyrics. Music Behind the Magic is a revelation: there's an entire alternate score in demos. You'd probably, however, be most interested in "Why Me?" and "Arabian Nights (Reprise)," for these tracks made it so far as to be recorded with the film cast and orchestra. Also, there's a recording of

, that, although with Clay Aiken rather than the voice of Aladdin, is quite beautiful and fits in nicely.

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Also, there's a recording of "Proud of Your Boy", that, although with Clay Aiken rather than the voice of Aladdin, is quite beautiful and fits in nicely.

Aiken's "Proud of Your Boy" is possibly the only "Cover by a Popular Artist on a Disney DVD" I actually like enough to put on a soundtrack.

In any event, what they said. You'll get a lot of mileage out of "Music Behind the Magic," but you'll still me missing a few things without the official OSTs. Then get Hunchback (genius, baring one absolutely terrible song), Pokey (rock solid, though they cut one of the best songs), and Hercules (which I adore but seems considerably less loved by everyone else).

EDIT: It's also worth noting that I probably listen to the alternate Aladdin more than the regular one. Love that barbershop! And also like DM, I'm a Disney parks nerd - my park audio archive dwarfs my Disney movie music.

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Oh good, Henry - those three were exactly what I'd ordered, haha. I'm glad I made the right choices. I'm sure I'll enjoy the box set eventually, too...I've heard bits of Menken's work tapes, and it's really a delight to listen to that sort of stuff. I'm very interested in the composition process.

By the way, I've had the pleasure of meeting a few people who've worked closely with Menken, and they say the way he composes is amazing. The music just sort of flows out of him, and you can hear him quickly trying out the different chord combinations and melodic contours till he finds the right one and immediately moves on. Thought that was pretty cool.

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By the by, if anyone is truly obsessive about having EVERYTHING related to these scores (that... would be me), Menken wrote lyrics to go with Jasmine's theme for the surprisingly great Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular at Disney's California Adventure, much in the same way he adapted themes for Beauty on Broadway. The song itself (entitled "To Be Free" on the CD) isn't his best work, but I'm warming up to it more with each listen.

BTW, speaking of Beauty on Broadway, it's a must-own, DM. Several new songs (with Tim Rice), expanded old songs (Gaston in particular is amazing), and the cast is stellar.

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Yeah, the Broadway recording is great. There's a lot of good instrumental stuff on it also.

Wow, I didn't know so many CDs existed for all these scores! I'm pretty lucky I picked the right ones too (good thing, because "Human Again" is fantastic)...

The Trout, I wonder, what is the bad song from Hunchback? "A Guy Like You" is the only one that's not quite on par with the others, I think, but it's not horrible IMO.

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I wonder, what is the bad song from Hunchback? "A Guy Like You" is the only one that's not quite on par with the others, I think, but it's not horrible IMO.

You nailed it. It's completely horrible, in MY opinion. Sticks out like a sore thumb on the CD just like does in the movie, completely ruining the mood of the film and bringing everything to a screeching halt. It's as if a b-grade Genie number from "Aladdin" got slipped into the soundtrack by mistake.

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Meh, what the heck...bought the Pocahontas OST, too. :D It was under $4 used...

Excellent purchase. Be sure to get a hold of "If I Never Knew You!" It was never released commercially, but it is out there...

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The OST only has the pop version of "If I Never Knew You." They later made a special edition of Pokey with the cut scene for that song inserted back into the film, and had the song recorded by the cast (like Human Again in Beauty). The cast version was never commercially released outside of the DVD itself. This is quite a shame, since the song is great and Menken weaved the tune throughout his score as Pocahontas and John Smith's love theme.

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The OST only has the pop version of "If I Never Knew You." They later made a special edition of Pokey with the cut scene for that song inserted back into the film, and had the song recorded by the cast (like Human Again in Beauty). The cast version was never commercially released outside of the DVD itself. This is quite a shame, since the song is great and Menken weaved the tune throughout his score as Pocahontas and John Smith's love theme.

Actually, it was recorded at the time, I believe. It was cut before release at Menken's suggestion, because he thought it would bore young viewers. (And though he was probably right, I think it was detrimental to the film overall.)

I made a :censored: of the song (and the reprise), so if anyone would like to have it... you know what to do. ;)

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I wonder, what is the bad song from Hunchback? "A Guy Like You" is the only one that's not quite on par with the others, I think, but it's not horrible IMO.

You nailed it. It's completely horrible, in MY opinion. Sticks out like a sore thumb on the CD just like does in the movie, completely ruining the mood of the film and bringing everything to a screeching halt. It's as if a b-grade Genie number from "Aladdin" got slipped into the soundtrack by mistake.

To each his own...I still enjoy it. Seems pretty classy to me. :) And it's funny to hear George Costanza sing.

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"Lord Menken Thread... RIIIIIIISE..."

So, I was bored yesterday, and I decided to breakdown every cue in "Pocahontas." Because why not, right? Here's a spreadsheet. It doesn't look as pretty imported into Google as it does on my computer, but whatever:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Agt4Fpzm9cVBdEQ2Y3p0N2p3R195OTJCNjhTcHl3OGc

Only about twenty minutes (from the theatrical cut) are missing from the OST. A lot of it is just 'mickey mousing' with the pet characters, wisely cut in my opinion. Some notable cues are missing, however: John Smith and Pocahontas spying on each other through the mist, the discussion about civilization that leads into "Colors of the Wind," and the aftermath of the skirmish leading to Smith's capture. Otherwise, most of the other cues cut are quite short, usually between thirty to forty-five seconds. Still, the entire score only adds up to 68 minutes and could easily fit onto a single CD, if Intrada or Disney were in the mood.

For the 10th Anniversary DVD, "If I Never Knew You" was cut back into the film and fits like a glove, though I'll admit that it does slow the narrative pace down a bit. It was never released on CD, but you can rip it cleanly from the DVD quite easily. For a great-sounding version without dialog: start with only the rear channels, then fade in the left and right front channels after around ten seconds (to eliminate some intro SFX). Then fade in the center channel when the singing starts. It should sound perfect. You'll wanna dial the center channel back out near the end. Additionally, you might wanna try stretching the final note digitally, for a smoother clean ending.

The song was subsequently reprised during "Farewell." It's dropped in at 2:42 of the album track and lasts for twenty-two seconds, at which point the album picks back up again. You can rip it clean fairly easily.

Finally, if you're a completist, there's several demo tracks on the DVD's bonus disc, including a couple entirely deleted songs.

And now I probably have proper work I could be doing. Yay.

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Great videos, thanks. I can listen to Alan Menken forever. And to see him play his own stuff is awesome (even though he's no great singer, of course, and also seems to rush through the songs).

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