Home on the Range

Alan Menken

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Home on the Range Review

by Heather Phares

Disney's Home on the Range, which chronicles the (mis)adventures of a group of animals trying to save their farm, is one of the studio's first big-screen animated features to have a heavily song-based soundtrack in several years. While the movies Pixar made with Disney featured one or two memorable songs apiece, they usually weren't intrinsic to the films' action in the way that they were in Disney films from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Tarzan. Home on the Range is a partial return to that style of soundtrack, and also the return of composer Alan Menken, who teams up this time with lyricist Glenn Slater. Menken and Slater take their cue from classic Western musicals like Oklahoma! and Paint Your Wagon as well as the spacious, sweeping feel of the scores from vintage Westerns. Home on the Range isn't as song-oriented as Aladdin or even Mulan were, but the songs that are here are quite enjoyable. k.d. lang lends some Western swing flair to "Little Patch of Heaven," which is the soundtrack's most charming song, although the chorus' "(You Ain't) Home on the Range" and Randy Quaid's "Yodel-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Ooo" are nearly as much fun. Bonnie Raitt's "Will the Sun Ever Shine Again" is Home on the Range's best ballad, a simple but heartfelt song that Raitt keeps simple and heartfelt. The same can't be said for Tim McGraw's "Wherever the Trail May Lead," which is slick and overblown in the way that too much contemporary country is, or for the Beu Sisters' "Anytime You Need a Friend," which has a glossy, teen pop production that goes against the grain of everything else on the album. Alan Menken's version of the song closes the album, and while it sounds unfinished, it's still an improvement over the Beu Sisters' rendition. Menken's score continues the soundtrack's Wild West theme, but sounds a little bland and faceless compared to the vocal tracks (although "Cows to the Rescue," which moves from subdued to cartoonish, is a notable exception). It may not be as consistently brilliant as Disney's soundtracks were in the late '80s and early '90s (to say nothing of the '40s and '50s), but Home on the Range is still a fun and well-made soundtrack that doesn't insult or bore its audience.

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