The Disney Standards
Asking sandpapery Steve Tyrell to record an entire album of Disney movie anthems seems rather like choosing Rocky Balboa to narrate Bambi. Yet the mixed marriage of hailstorm-voiced Tyrell and sunshiny arrangements of kiddie pop tunes proves a surprisingly blessed one. The disc’s appeal can be credited to Tyrell’s good taste in both material and musical companions. Among the latter are smooth-jazz pin-up boy Chris Botti, contributing an appropriately soft and mellow trumpet solo to “When You Wish Upon a Star,” saxophonist Dave Koz, adding an equally tender touch to Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be in My Heart” and Dr. John, joining Tyrell for what can only be described as a pull-all-the-stops rasp-off on “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”
Among the 14 tunes, Tyrell has wisely sidestepped the more cloying entries from the Disney catalog (nothing, for instance, from the sugary Sherman Brothers), focusing instead on top-drawer fare from Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke (the warmly caressing “Bella Notte” and hip-smart “He’s a Tramp” from Lady and the Tramp), Randy Newman (the razzle-dazzle, aforementioned “Friend” and the gorgeously reflective “When She Loved Me”), Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (the delightfully effervescent “Kiss the Girl” and, freed from Celine Dion’s overproduced clutches, the gently affirmative title track from Beauty and the Beast). Fold in a few of the requisite pop-culture touchstones (“Cruella De Vil,” “The Bare Necessities”) and it all adds up to a clever exercise in jazz-brushed nostalgia.