The onslaught of spring and summer soundtracks is hardly unexpected. What is surprising is the degree of surrealism in this year’s crop. Not only will you hear U2 salute Batman and Annie Lennox serenade the splashdown of a space mission; you’ll find the even more out-there vocal stylings of Kevin Kline, Mel Gibson, and former M*A*S*Her David Ogden Stiers!
The latter two are stars of Pocahontas. And within kiddie-music parameters, they do the job: Stiers bellows convincingly, and Gibson, as Capt. John Smith, sounds like — well, like an actor singing. As for the songs (by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz), they’re even more over-the-top Technicolor than your average Disney score — just by listening to the instrumentals, any child can tell exactly when the evil English settlers arrive in 1607 Virginia.
The album does make several blatant concessions to adults. ”If I Never Knew You” is a sappy old-school-VH1 duet by Jon Secada and Shanice. ”Colors of the Wind” — heard in two versions, one by Pocahontas‘ movie voice, Judy Kuhn, and a second, blowout rendition by Vanessa Williams — works so hard at being a Standard for the Ages that it practically gives itself a hernia. And kids, take note: The second half of the album is almost entirely orchestral instrumentals.
Say this for Pocahontas, though: At least the Disney score is entirely the work of two songwriters, rather than a grab bag of pop and rock tunes without any sort of unifying theme. C+