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Advance Review of the PRINCE OF EGYPT score and song cd!!!

I've been listening to the music on the Desktop Screensaver from PRINCE OF EGYPT that you can get at the official site, and have been quite aggravated at not being able to hear... the rest of the music. But apparently the cds have arrived early in Japan, and now... well here's the first review that I have seen...

REVIEW: PRINCE OF EGYPT -- THE MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK

Hey Harry. I recently got hold of the finished Prince Of Egypt soundtrack CD, due in US record stores November 17th. I've been pretty curious about what kind of music they'd go with for this movie, as Katzenberg is often keen on letting music set the emotional and dramatic tone of the whole movie (remember the classic music-driven opening of The Lion King). Comprising 19 tracks (76 minutes of music in total), thankfully I'm happy to report that the CD is an extremely breathtaking mix of lyrical, beautiful Stephen Schwartz songs and dark Hans "attack!!!" Zimmer orchestral tracks. Here's a track by track rundown.

1. "When You Believe", performed by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.

This is the central, vocal theme in Prince of Egypt (think Aladdin's 'A Whole New World', or The Lion King's 'Circle of Life') and it appears in numerous places throughout the movie. This opening track is not the movie version, but the 'chart remix' sung as a duet by two pop divas Carey and Houston. Despite that, it's actually pretty decent -- although not a patch on the original version used in the film. Very sweeping, catchy chorus (you heard it in the POE trailer) and a fairly predictable number 1 chart hit for later this year.

2. "Deliver Us", performed by Ofra Haza and Eden Riegel.

The 7-minute epic that opens the movie, this amazingly dramatic track switches between a chanting male chorus from the slaves, and hardcore drum-laden orchestral score from Zimmer (think Crimson Tide in Egypt). Half way through it cuts into Yocheved and young Miriam's wonderfully beautiful "River o River" theme (also heard in the trailer), before exploding back into the male slave chorus. Awesome, awesome stuff. Every cue is really spot on -- your imagination will wild thinking of the animation that must accompany this!

3. "The Reprimand" (orchestral), composed by Hans Zimmer.

A low-key orchestral, quite eastern (almost 'The English Patient'-ish) theme that turns playful towards the end. Very, very evocative and catchy. One thing that's especially notable about all the music in Prince of Egypt, is that even incidental filler cues are very, very beautiful and memorable in their own right. There are 5 second cues all over where you keep thinking "they could have expanded that melody into a whole song!" but that never appear again anywhere in the music. Obviously, a lot of work has gone into making "every note count".

4. "Following Tzipporah" (orchestral), composed by Hans Zimmer.

A very short, 1 minute orchestral track, seemingly with no purpose other than to introduce....

5. "All I Ever Wanted (with Queen's reprise)", performed by Amick Byram and Linda Dee Shayne.

Now this is truly something else. Absolutely the most brilliant song in the movie, a dark, foreboding, tragic and extremely adult track sung by Moses as his heritage is dramatically shown to him via torchlight, as the hieroglyphics come to life. It's crime they only used this musical cue for one relatively short track in the movie. Brilliant, brilliant stuff indeed, and one of the best songs I've ever heard in an animated musical.

6. "Goodbye Brother", vocals by Ofra Haza.

Using the term 'vocals' in the loosest possible terms here, this is a low, mystical, very Gabriel Yared inspired orchestral track with some chick-wailing-sadly-in-the-desert style vocals thrown in for good measure. But didn't I hear this track in The English Patient? Which isn't entirely a bad thing...

7. "Through Heaven's Eyes", performed by Brian Stokes Mitchell.

Here we have Jethro singing an up-key track about how "gold in the desert sand is worth less than a cool fresh spring". No shit, Jethro. Bizarre "lai-lai-lai-LAI!" chorus rounds this song off, probably one of the least memorable in the movie.

8. "The Burning Bush" (orchestral), composed by Hans Zimmer.

Another very soulful, swelling cue (think 'The Mission') that signals some "strangers unite and stare open-mouthed at something wondrous" moment in the movie. It could well have something to do with a miracle of sorts, um, a burning bush maybe... but don't quote me.

9. "Playing With The Big Boys", performed by Steve Martin and Martin Short.

This is "the bad guy song" of the movie (think 'Be Prepared' from The Lion King). It starts off excellently, with lots of dark whispered chants "sokar... anubis... reshpu... nepthys..." getting faster and faster, set to a low drumming and with generally extremely creepy effect indeed. Really works very well -- small children beware. Then I'm sad to say it rather goes to shit, as Hotep and Huy (Short and Martin) over-dramatise their singing lines and the melody sinks into the semi-banal. Ah well, there's always....

10. "Cry", vocals by Ofra Haza.

Sullen, beautiful and tragic (could someone's first-born have just bought it?) this is the first of a fantastic run-on of 4 orchestral tracks that tell an obviously key turning part in the story.

11. "Rally", (orchestral) composed by Hans Zimmer.

Short, effective 45 second intro track that builds the tragedy of "Cry" towards a slow, brooding vengeful mood, exploding into....

12. "The Plagues", performed by Ralph Fiennes and Amick Byram.

'God kicks ass', with Zimmer orchestral music to match, as the (breathtakingly animated) plagues devastate Egypt. This *fantastically* adult and dramatic track changes into song half way through, with Moses lamenting his impending maelstrom ("this was my home/all this pain and devastation/how it tortures me inside/all these innocent people suffer/from your stubbornness and pride"). The song culminates with the classic, booming "Let my people go!" line from Moses.

13. "Death of the First Born", composed by Hans Zimmer.

Dark, rather tragic, but short (30 second) cue which leads directly into the key song of the movie...

14. "When You Believe", performed by Michelle Pfeiffer and Sally Dworsky.

Well this is the one, the main theme from The Prince of Egypt.... and it's a bit of a knockout. Miles, MILES better than the Celine Dion effort from That Other Movie, this starts as a gentle duet between Miriam and Tzipporah, before shifting gear into a fast-paced Hebrew chant ("A-shi-ra-la-do-nai-ga-oh-ga-oh!"). Er, ok. However the song climaxes in completely spectacular fashion with what sounds like the entire population of Earth singing the chorus, 15 John Williams string orchestras and 10 Zimmer deep drum-laden ensembles all coming together to pump out the main theme. It's seriously, seriously epic and (to be honest) pretty damn affecting. Bear in mind that this is all set to animation in the movie. Bold stuff. The song's ending melds directly into...

15. "Red Sea", composed by Hans Zimmer.

Utter madness ensues in this the last orchestral 'film' track on the CD, as the exiles of Egypt finally believe, oceans part, armies are destroyed, and music returns to bonkers drum-laden epic Zimmerness, and one of the most visceral scenes in movie history is born. Brilliant, thumping, sweeping stuff.

16. "Through Heaven's Eyes", performed by K-Ci (?) and JoJo (?!)

The 'End Credits Song', this is a chart remix of the earlier movie version sung by Jethro. It starts promisingly, nice and middle-eastern and understated, hopefully giving people a chance to get out of the movie hall before the horrible, R&B-style crooning from K-Ci and Jojo kicks in after about 30 seconds. Not a terribly strong song even in the movie, and this remix certainly can't save it. This seems to be a bit of a 'covering all the demographics' track. Hmm.

17. "River Lullaby", performed by Amy Grant.

Ah, this is much, much better. A short, very sweet, and very worthy-to-the-original remix of the "River O River" theme sung earlier in the movie by Yocheved and Young Miriam. It's terrible when soundtrack producers always take great themes from animated musicals and create a nasty, over-produced, generic pop track out of them with no semblance to the original tune. Don't undervalue the public's taste. But "River Lullaby" is a step in the right direction.

18. "Humanity", a charity track performed by just about everyone involved.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the movie Prince of Egypt at all. It's an utterly banal, generic, pop tune tacked onto the CD, seeking to lecture us with such biting, original verses as "one people one planet/don't take your brother for granted/na na na na.../shake a hand and make a friend/let the love begin/na na na..." Despite honourable intentions (proceeds from this single will go to charity) I'm sorry to say that there's no way in hell this song is going anywhere in the charts, so little good will that do I'm afraid.

19. "I Will Get There", a cappella performed by Boyz II Men.

Uh, ditto track 18. Nothing to do with the movie whatsoever. This being a movie site, it doesn't deserve coverage.

So that's it, the Official Prince of Egypt Soundtrack CD, to be hitting US stores November 17th. Despite some seriously dreary pop chart remixes tacked onto the end, don't miss this for the actual in-movie tracks -- an absolutely fantastic array of unusually dramatic, powerful, and above all -- beautiful music. No annoying whiney-sidekick themes, no "and now, back to the kids movie" type comedic breaks in the score, just bold, epic, tragic, lyrical music that (encouragingly) speaks volumes about the dramatic intentions of Katzenberg et al. Roll on December 18th.

Written by...

Rameses

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 7, 1998, 9:34 p.m. CST

    Songs....

    by The Prankster

    I'm glad to hear that SOMEONE thinks the songs are OK. Personally, that's the element I'm dreading the most. Songs work in fairy tale settings like Lion King and Beauty And The Beast, and comedy musicals like Aladdin and Hercules. They don't work in animated films that purport to take themselves seriously. These songs will have to be DAMN good or they'll really drag the picture down, which is a shame, because all the other elements look like they're falling into place. I'm especially worried about that "playing with the big boys" crap...sounds like Disney formula all the way. Oh well, at least Whitney and Mariah aren't in the actual movie....

  • Nov. 8, 1998, 1:08 a.m. CST

    GREAT REVIEW!!

    by geof

    Very thought out and done nicely. Thanks! More posts like this please!

  • Nov. 8, 1998, 8:55 p.m. CST

    PoE soundtrack clips available from their website /w URLs!!

    by neuracnu

    In the breif time that I was able to browse the PoE web site (over a T1, on a fast machine /w IE4 running full screen.. UBER-FUCKING AWSOME), I did see that there were sound bytes from a few songs linked there, I believe with Real Audio. I'm a really big fan of the orignal Lion King soundtrack, and all I can say is that this fellow is right on about the "Deliver Us" piece.. it sent chills down my spine.

  • Nov. 8, 1998, 9:06 p.m. CST

    Re: PoE soundtrack clips available from their website /w URLs!!

    by neuracnu

    Whoops. You might like those URLs, wouldn't you . . . (and they are in .WAV format) Track 1: 'When You Believe' http://www.prince-of-egypt.com/common/music/songs/believe.wav Track 2: 'Deliver Us' http://www.prince-of-egypt.com/common/music/songs/deliverus_en.wav Track 19: 'I Will Get There' (A Cappella) http://www.prince-of-egypt.com/common/music/songs/getthere.wav Now, there also appear to be two more listings of albums here: one as "Inspirational Songs", which includes a lot of Christian rock (Carmen, DC Talk, etc), as well "Nashville Artists". I'll be intrested in hearing 'em all. Neu out.

  • Nov. 9, 1998, 1:28 a.m. CST

    I WANT THIS CD NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    by Kyrn

    yup......those are the same tracks that were on the officialpage, but these copies sounded better. I read the lyrics to the songs there. I wish I could hear the evil guy song, just to see how they do the listing of the all the egyptian gods. <br> <br> Is it me or does Tzippporah look just like Pocohontas? Go look at the offical site, it's really nice and there's lots of pictures.

  • Nov. 10, 1998, 1:17 p.m. CST

    I beg to differ

    by bobcat

    Here are my comments on the songs. Deliver Us: This has got to be the best track on the CD. It opens with a melancholy trumpet solo like