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Paul's CD Bin

Paul's CD Bin

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Welcome to the first step in a new direction for me -- the debut of Paul Schnebelen, music reviewer! (First Napster, now this ... hasn't the music industry got enough problems?) Today's column is the first of what I hope will become a regular feature on JimHillMedia.com called "Paul's CD Bin," where I'll be reviewing new Disney-related CDs as well as looking back at some of the bits of musical magic that Disney's previously released.

Before I get started with the reviews, let's dispense with the obvious questions -- why a music review column and why me? Well, the reason I'm starting this feature is that although there are plenty of places you can find out about Disney music and there are also plenty of places that review Disney movie, TV, and DVD releases, there aren't a lot of places where you can find reviews of Disney music. Let's face it, folks, you're not going to see reviews of the latest "Disneyland Official Album" in the pages of "Rolling Stone". I thought I'd take a shot at letting Disney music fans know what's out there and whether it's worth picking up.

As for what qualifies me to be a music critic, I ... uh ... well, I listen to a lot of Disney music and Jim's letting me write a column. Okay, so I don't have much in the way of credentials, but that's never stopped a lot of media critics from stating their opinions. (Insert the name of your least favorite movie critic here.) Let's get started!

Our first victim... uh, I mean, the first CD we'll be reviewing today... is a special musical tribute to everybody's favorite mouse -- one that's not available at your local record store. Not to worry, folks, I'm not going to ask you to get anything that gets you in trouble with the RIAA. In honor of Mickey's 75th birthday, Walt Disney Records and Hallmark have released a CD called "Hallmark Celebrates 75 Years with Mickey," a collection of songs related to the Mouse.

Although the album mainly focuses on music from the children's albums, there's a little bit from many periods in Mickey's musical career; the album's selections range from the "Steamboat Willie" recording of "Turkey in the Straw" to "Yankee Doodle Mickey" from last year's "Sing Along With Mickey and Pals" album.

I never realized how many different musical genres the character albums released by Walt Disney Records have covered until I gave this CD a listen; this is one musically diverse Mouse, folks. Like your Disney music with a country twang? There's Minnie singing her heart out on "Mickey's The Mouse For Me." Is disco more your style? Put on your leisure suit and dance the night away to "Disco Mickey Mouse." If you're more of a traditionalist or you're just stuck in the 50's, the album features the "Mickey Mouse Club March" and the "Mickey Mouse Club Alma Mater." Kudos to Randy Thornton for putting together a compilation that gives you a good feel for what musical mayhem Mickey and pals have been up to over the years.

The best part of this album is that you can pick it up for free if you're in the mood to buy some Hallmark ornaments; the stores are currently offering the album as a bonus gift with the purchase of 3 ornaments. (The CD is marked for retail sale at $15.95, but you may be able to get it much cheaper -- my local Hallmark store had them for about 5 bucks apiece. I guess Mickey's not exactly burning up the Billboard charts these days. ) Get your Christmas shopping done a little early and pick up a copy.

Paul's CD Bin Rating: 3 1/2 Mouse Ears out of 5.

Several years back, Walt Disney Records released a series of about 12 albums called "Disney's Greatest Hits;" the series did a pretty good job of putting a good selection of music from Disney movies, TV shows, and theme parks, but I guess the series starting getting a little too unwieldy, so last year Disney released a two-volume collection of its most famous music called "Disney's Greatest." As you might expect when you take a music catalog as large and diverse as Disney's and try to cut it down to two albums with 20 songs apiece, there were a lot of songs that people consider Disney classics that didn't make it onto the CDs. Apparently, Disney heard the grumbling of the music fans, because Disney has released "Disney's Greatest, Volume 3."

Although the CD adds some songs that definitely rank among the best that the Company has released, you have to wonder about some of the choices made here. "I'll Try" from "Return to Neverland" is one of Disney's greatest? "He Lives in You" from "Rhythm of the Pridelands"? And not to take anything away from Jim Cummings in "The Tigger Movie," but how could you put "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers" on a greatest hits album and not use the recording done by the original voice of Tigger, Paul Winchell?

Overall, though, the CD has a lot more hits than misses. in addition to some great songs that there wasn't room for on the first two volumes like "Part of Your World" and "A Spoonful of Sugar," there are some songs that were pretty good but weren't the songs most people instantly think of, like "Pink Elephants on Parade" from "Dumbo."

The "Disney's Greatest" collection would make a great gift for someone who's a fan of the "magical music of the Mouse" (and yes, I stole that from another website) or a great general introduction for someone who's not all that familiar with Disney music. "Disney's Greatest Volume 3" isn't perfect, but it's a very good addition to the collection. Here's hoping that eventually see a "Disney's Greatest, Volume 4" -- there's a lot more great music in the Disney vaults!

Paul's CD Bin Rating: 4 1/2 Mouse Ears out of 5.

Our next CD up for review isn't really Disney, but since you can find the stars of this CD at Disney theme parks, there's sort of a tie-in to the Mouse! It's hard to believe, but it's been more than 25 years since Jim Henson brought us an inspired bit of zaniness called "The Muppet Show," featuring our old friend from "Sesame Street" Kermit the Frog and new friends like Miss Piggy, Gonzo the Great, and Fozzie Bear.

In honor of this anniversary, Rhino Records and the Jim Henson Company have released "The Muppet Show: The 25th Anniversary Collection - Music Mayhem and More!" Rhino and Henson have done a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of the show on this compilation of music and skits from "The Muppet Show" and the 6 Muppet motion pictures.

Both casual fans of the Muppets and folks that can recite skits from "The Muppet Show" verbatim should enjoy this CD; there's a nice selection of old favorites, plus a few fun songs that you might not be that familiar with. I'm glad to see that a lot of my favorite songs from "The Muppet Movie" are finally available again, and it was a lot of fun to listen to songs from some of the Muppet films I either missed or I haven't seen for a while. And good luck trying to get the song "Mahna Mahna" out of your head for the rest of the day after you've heard it on this CD!

If you enjoy the Muppets, this is a CD you'll want to have in your collection - don't wait 25 years to get yourself a copy.

Paul's CD Bin Rating: 4 Frog Legs out of 5.

The final recording I'll be reviewing isn't generally available, but I want to get the word out about this recording because I think something like it really should be released. A few years ago, Randy Thronton at Walt Disney Records took on an ambitious project called "Operation Lazarus," where classic Disney recordings were brought out of the vault and were restored so they could be re-released. As part of his presentation for the 1998 Official Disneyana Convention, Randy provided the ConventionEars a cassette of some recordings that received the "Lazarus" treatment, and someone was kind enough to give me a copy.

This cassette is a real treat, folks. The sound quality on the recordings is absolutely wonderful; it's obvious that some real care was put into the restoration project, and if the recordings don't sound as good as they did on the day they were recorded it certainly wasn't for lack of trying. The cassette contains some rarities that, alas, still haven't been released by Walt Disney Records. The tracks include a recording of the soundtrack for General Electric's Progressland from the 1964-65 New York World's Fair that makes you want to lay down a shag carpet in the living room and start mixing martinis, a rendition of "the Headless Horseman by Thurl Ravenscroft that either had to be an inspiration for "Grim Grinning Ghosts" at least encouraged the Imagineers to get Thurl to sing it, the title music from "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" and "Song of the South," and even musical performances featuring Louis Prima, Paul Frees as Professor Ludwig von Drake, and Clarence "Ducky" Nash as Donald. I've been having a wonderful time listening to it.

So why am I reviewing a cassette that's really hard to come by? Because I think that Disney fans deserve to hear more of what "Operation Lazarus" has wrought. I suspect that one of the main reasons that many of the tracks on the "Lazarus" cassette (and many classic Disney recordings) haven't been re-released is that the powers that be at the Company don't consider the music to be commercially viable. I'd love to see the Company give it a shot, though -- even if only as a compilation CD that contains the "Lazarus" cassette tracks plus a few more recordings. Granted, the CD might never go double platinum, but I think there'd be enough interest from Disneyphiles out there that Walt Disney Records might be encouraged to restore and release more of the classic recordings, either in their original album formats or as compilation CD sets like the "Disney's Greatest" CDs or "Walt Disney Treasures" DVDs. Here's hoping, anyway. Keep your fingers crossed, folks -- maybe someday soon we'll all be able to give this music a listen.

Paul's CD Bin Rating: 4 ½ Mouse Ears out of 5.

Well, that'll do it for this look through "Paul's CD Bin!" If you have any suggestions as to CDs you'd like to see reviewed or you have any comments (I wonder if my next column will be titled "Paul, You Ignorant ***!"), please e-mail me at [email protected] or post them to the JimHillMedia discussion boards.

Thanks for reading!

Marathon Training Update: Today I am a racer! After 6 weeks of training walks with the Ventura Roadrunners, I participated in my first race, a 5K walk, last Sunday. The distance of the race didn't seem like it'd be a big deal -- 5 kilometers is about 3.1 miles, and the last couple of weeks I've been going at least that far on my training walks -- but the prospect of running a really-for-real race seemed a little daunting. My fears appeared to be justified when the starter's gun went off and I watched a whole bunch of runners take off and disappear around the corner while I was just getting started with my walking.

Once I finally put the other racers out of my mind and concentrated on my own walking pace, I did pretty well. I finished the race in 40 minutes; that may not sound really fast, but that was a personal best for me, since that represents a pace that's a minute per mile faster than my usual walking time. Walking a race was a blast -- I loved all the cheers and support from people I passed as a walked the race. I'm supposed to be walking a 10K race in a couple of weeks, and this race is going to have a lot more people participating than the 5K I was in -- that should be really interesting! Things are looking pretty good so far -- hopefully, I'll keep doing well and I'll keep from getting hurt, and I'll be ready for the Los Angeles Marathon in March.

I'll keep you posted as to how things are going.

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