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For Walt Disney Records, The Legacy Continues…

Review by Todd Sokolove

As planned by Walt Disney Records, the studio’s vaults have been explored for utmost audio archival treasures.  Continuing off the label’s first release in the Legacy Collection, The Lion King, three outstanding deluxe edition soundtracks have hit stores:  Mary Poppins, Sleeping Beauty and most recently The Little Mermaid.

If you’re a fan of any or all of the three Disney classics, you’ll want to grab these essential releases, if not add them to your holiday wish list.

Whereas the Legacy Collection’s Lion King release packed in a ton of instrumental tracks never-before-available commercially from Disney, Walt Disney Records has compiled together a lot of previously released tracks in regards to their new “Legacy Collection” Mary Poppins soundtrack.

This is hardly the first “collector’s edition” of the soundtrack, which has been celebrated pretty much since it’s original vinyl release in 1964.  It has, however, come a long way in terms of sound and completeness.

The exhausting 3 disc new release combines every bit of the original score with songs from the film, but also compiles the many deleted songs that never made the cut into the final project.   The tracks are ordered perfectly pleasant in every way, alternating demo versions with recent new recordings of the “lost chords” for the second bonus disc.

For true collectors though, this Legacy Collection wouldn’t have been complete without the inclusion of the truly legendary audio recordings of the story meetings.  These were of course the basis of last year’s hit film Saving Mr. Banks, and are a sometimes jarring fly-on-the-wall experience that puts you right in the thick of disagreements between P.L. Travers and the filmmakers.  All of these moments are, smartly, confined to the third disc of the release.  Though they’ve been released in the past on other Mary Poppins “collector edition” soundtracks, having everything together in one (beautifully packaged) collection (with its clearest audio yet) justifies any repurchase.

Walt Disney Records’s third release, and second most recent is a two-disc edition of Sleeping Beauty.

Easily my favorite score, after Bambi, this Legacy Collection coincide’s with the film’s 55th anniversary (and was timed perfectly to the Maleficent DVD and Digital release).

Again, the film’s soundtrack has undergone transformation over the years, with the two previous versions on CD pretty much getting the entire score and songs to disc in beautifully remastered completion.  You’ll find the first disc in this new release identical to those previous releases.

The second disc makes the release worth getting, however.  It contains deleted songs and demos accompanied by some new recordings to complete the experience.  The never before heard tracks are fascinating, but the completist approach Walt Disney Records has applied here will tickle Disneyland Record collectors pink.  As a bonus, two rare cuts from the soundtrack to The Parent Trap which are themed off the animated film are included.

I’ve always considered the full soundtrack, with its variations on Tchaikovsky’s ballet, to be one of the Disney studio’s most technically interesting scores.  This definitive edition, again in a beautiful package with newly commissioned artwork from Lorelay Bové, goes on the top shelf.

Most recent to the Legacy Collection, and bound to be one of their best-selling, is the two-disc edition of The Little Mermaid.

Again, many of the tracks have been released or made available previously, both on compilations or anniversary editions.  Like The Lion King, disc one is an extremely thorough version of the complete instrumental score with songs.  Running at an hour and eleven minutes, it’s a enhanced experience that will make you truly appreciate how groundbreaking the animated film was for the studio.  It is also a long time coming from Walt Disney Records.

As much of the original demos and work tapes were released on Disney Record’s excellent Howard Ashman/Alan Menken boxed set The Music Behind the Magic disc two focuses on bringing some alternate demo tracks and rare synth editions.

While it’s great to hear the creative process, disc two feels sparse.  A more complete release would have gathered all of the demos and work tapes. I would have loved to hear the single versions of Under the Sea released to promote the film at the time of its release.  I seem to recall Hollywood Records remixing the tune on a 12″ once the soundtrack became massive hit.  That, plus some of the covers of tracks, like Soul II Soul’s version of Kiss the Girl would have been fun archival additions to make this release more definitive.

Additional releases in The Legacy Collection from Walt Disney Records are schedule to include:

• Fantasia, January 3, 2015
• Pinocchio, February 3, 2015
• Toy Story, March 17, 2015
• Disneyland, April 7, 2015 
 Lady and the Tramp, May 12, 2015
• Pocahontas, June 23, 2015 
• The Aristocats, August 14, 2015
• Cinderella, August 14, 2015

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