Anastasia [Music from the Motion Picture] by Original Soundtrack (Cassette, Oct-1997, Atlantic (Label)) Reviews
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Anastasia [Music from the Motion Picture] by Original Soundtrack (Cassette, Oct-1997, Atlantic (Label))

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The Anastasia Soundtrack Is a Melodious Celebration of Adventure and Romance

Feb 14, 2011
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:wonderful songs, Journey to the Past, Once Upon a December

Cons:Spanish version of Journey to the Past feels random and superfluous

The Bottom Line:

"One step at a time, one hope then another, who knows where this road may go?"

It’s a frosty Valentine’s Day in Erie, PA, the perfect excuse to pull out the soundtrack to one of my favorite wintry romances: Don Bluth’s Anastasia. My brother and I caught this underrated gem in the theater in high school, and it may just take pride of place as my favorite Bluth movie, though there are several others that I love as well. One of the big reasons I’m such a fan of Anastasia is the music, with songs by Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music) and a score by David Newman. I liked it so much that I not only bought the soundtrack, I got the sheet music too. It’s sweeping, melodious and adventurous, with just a dash of romance. A great way to start off my Valentine’s Day.

A Rumor in St. Petersburg - A lively opening number. This isn’t the first scene in the movie, but it’s the one that firmly sets us in a time a decade after the initial scene, during which villainous Rasputin launches an attack on the Romanovs, Russia’s royal family, in which most of them are killed. Princess Anastasia, a young girl, escapes but loses her memory. This song brings us up to speed in delightful fashion, with a whole city full of characters gossiping about the rumor that Anastasia might still be out there somewhere. This song gets a lot of exposition out of the way in a most entertaining manner, and it also introduces us to likable conmen Dmitri and Vladimir, who plan to find a girl who looks like Anastasia and go to Paris, where Anastasia’s grandmother has put out a reward for her return, to pass her off as the princess. Jonathan Dokuchitz voices slick young Dmitri instead of John Cusack, while Kelsey Grammer is one of the few voice actors in the movie who takes on his character’s singing role as well as speaking. I’m a big fan of Frasier and of Grammer in general, but he’s so effectively disguised his voice in a thick Russian accent here that I always half-forget it’s him. A wonderfully chaotic beginning that reminds me of such Disney greats as Beauty and the Beast’s Belle and Aladdin’s One Jump Ahead. “We’ll find a girl to play the part and teach her what to say, dress her up and take her to Paris. Imagine the reward her dear old Grandmama will pay! Who else could pull it off but you and me?”

Journey to the Past - I love this song, and as is almost always the case with these animated musicals that produce radio hits, I prefer the in-movie version. There’s such an air of wonder and anticipation, as well as trepidation, about it, and I can relate so well to that tug-of-war between a longing for adventure and a fear of leaving the familiar. The song reminds me a lot of I Have Confidence from The Sound of Music, and it’s one of my two favorites in the movie. The piano and violins evoke the snowflakes and wind that accompany her as she sets out. Liz Callaway, singing in place of Meg Ryan, voices Anastasia with a clear-throated exuberance and beauty that reminds me of Jodi Benson from The Little Mermaid. This is the moment during which the audience is meant to fall in love with the adult Anastasia, who goes by Anya and does not yet realize who she is. All she knows is that she yearns to belong to someone. An exhilarating track. “Heart, don’t fail me now. Courage, don’t desert me. Don’t turn back now that we’re here. People always say life is full of choices; no one ever mentions fear…”

Once Upon a December - Callaway has this one to herself as well, and it’s a whispery, awestruck waltz that is nothing short of haunting. Anastasia has returned to her childhood home and is catching snatches of memories, none of which make much sense to her. The song is an outgrowth of the lullaby she and her grandmother used to sing together, the song that played in the music box that she received on the night her life changed forever. It’s an utterly beautiful song that captures the sense that all of Anastasia’s childhood lies just beyond a veil, and dim glimpses are all she can see. It carries with it the hope that one day those memories might be recovered. Starts and ends quietly, with a crescendo in the middle as everything comes into focus for one shining moment before eluding her again. Gorgeous. “Far away, long ago, glowing dim as an ember, things my heart used to know, things it yearns to remember. And a song someone sings once upon a December…”

In the Dark of the Night - The big villain’s number. Jim Cummings, voice actor extraordinaire perhaps best known for replacing Sterling Holloway as the voice of Winnie the Pooh, is Christopher Lloyd’s singing counterpart as the evil, putrescent Rasputin. This is an appropriately dark and creepy song reminiscent of Gaston’s Kill the Beast from Beauty and the Beast and especially Scar’s Be Prepared from The Lion King. He’s plotting the destruction of the one person who foiled his perfect plan for the annihilation of the Romanovs. The sound is ominous, and Cummings’ delivers the lyrics with sadistic relish. “I was once the most mystical man in all Russia. When the royals betrayed me they made a mistake. My curse made each of them pay, but one little girl got away. Little Anya beware, Rasputin’s awake!”

Learn to Do It - This is a fun number that covers several hours or days during which Dmitri and Vladimir give Anastasia a crash course on how to be a Romanov. There’s a banter type of feel to this song as Vlad, Dmitri and Anya interrupt each other in their eagerness to instill and display knowledge. Definitely one of the most fun tracks. “Count Sergei.” “Wore a feathered hat.” “I hear he’s gotten very fat.” “And I recall his yellow cat…” “I don’t believe we told her that…”

Learn to Do It (Waltz Reprise) - The same basic melody as the last track returns in this gentle, much shorter reprise. Where the last one was energetic and a bit zany, this one is quiet, slow and romantic. It’s mostly instrumental as Dmitri shows Anya how to dance to prepare her for the possibility of a formal ball in Paris. As Vlad watches, it’s painfully obvious to him that this tender moment was the only catalyst these spitfires needed to realize that they have fallen in love – and that could wreak major havoc on their perfect plan. A nice little showcase for Kelsey Grammer. “Vlad, how could you do this? How will we get through this? I never should have let them dance…”

Paris Holds the Key (to Your Heart) - Another very lively song that gets the whole city involved, but in this case we’re in France instead of Russia. It’s basically an exuberant celebration of French culture led by Bernadette Peters as Vlad’s old flame Sophie, with a moment at the end for some quiet reflection by Dmitri, who has just realized that Anya actually is Anastasia and suddenly doesn’t find the idea of a hefty cash reward all that attractive. I don’t get that into the more raucous parts of the song, but I really like Dmitri’s lines, which show how much he’s changed over the course of this journey. “Paris holds the key to her past. Yes, Princess, you’ve come home at last. No more pretend; you’ll be gone, that’s the end.”

At the Beginning - This radio-ready end-credits song is performed by Donna Lewis and Richard Marx. It’s a nice follow-up to Journey to the Past as it reflects Anastasia and Dmitri’s desire to embark on a new journey together. I’m not a huge fan of Lewis’s voice, but I do like this song, and I think it’s nice that one more song was written to give us a sort of epilogue to the movie. Of course, it’s a great stand-alone too. “No one told me I was going to find you. Unexpected what you did to my heart. When I lost hope, you were there to remind me this Is the start.”

Journey to the Past (Aaliyah) - I considered this song pretty superfluous at the time, but even though I prefer the movie version, there’s something very poignant about listening to this song now, since Aaliyah, the promising young singer who performed it, died in a tragic accident a few short years later. She puts a funky vibe on it and sings beautifully; this arrangement is a little repetitive, but it’s still a nice track.

Once Upon a December (Deana Carter) - This song scarcely changes from the movie version. It’s a little less dynamic, and the most prominent instrument is a mandolin, played by Jerry McPherson. I love his instrumental work here, and that’s the main reason to listen to this, though Carter does a nice job with the vocals too.

Prologue - This mostly-instrumental track captures the sense of majesty in the Romanov court, along with the tenderness between Anastasia and her grandmother. We get to hear Angela Lansbury, who, unlike Kelsey Grammer, is immediately recognizable despite her Russian accent, as well as Lacey Chabert as the young Anastasia, singing a snippet of Once Upon a December together before the tone turns dire with the appearance of Rasputin.

Speaking of Sophie - A bright, sunshiny instrumental track heavy on the woodwinds that evokes the giddiness of Vlad’s recollections of his long-ago love. Just a very cheerful, sweet track that puts me in mind of a picnic in the park.

The Nightmare - The creepiest of the instrumental tracks, it’s half blissful dream and half torturous nightmare. The chorus of voices adds to the eeriness, and the full orchestral backing captures the frightening flavor of a storm at sea.

Kidnap and Reunion - Starts off a bit perilous but blossoms into one of the loveliest tracks on the album, with a hope-filled melody peeking out hesitatingly as Anastasia’s memory finally begins flooding back and her incredulous grandmother begins to think that this might actually be the little girl she lost so long ago. It concludes with a reprise of Once Upon a December, with Lansbury and Callaway this time. Probably my favorite instrumental track, along with Reminiscing with Grandma, which almost feels like a continuation. Lovely and stirring, it incorporates Journey to the Past and feels mysterious and familiar all at once. Finale also feels mostly like an outgrowth of these two scenes as we get the impression that her journey has come full circle and she is home at last but has gained something valuable in the journey as well as the destination. A joyous conclusion.

Viaje Tiempo Atras (Journey to the Past) - You know, this song would make more sense if it was in Russian, or even French. But a Spanish version of Journey to the Past seems pretty random, not to mention superfluous, since it’s the third version of this song on the soundtrack, not counting the song’s appearances in the instrumental tracks. Thalia does a nice job with the vocals here, it just seems like a rather odd choice.

But I really do love this album, especially the first eight tracks. Another plus is that the liner notes include stills from the movie, along with the lyrics to the songs. It’s very attractively packaged. Anastasia is a story of self-discovery and learning that sometimes it takes another person to help you become yourself as fully as possible. A touching tale and stirring music for Valentine’s Day or any day.

This review is part of my Tales to Warm Your Mind Write-Off.

Recommend this product? Yes

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Producers include: Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, David Newman, Trevor Horn, Emelio Estefan Jr.Engineers include: John Kurlander, Danny Wallin, Stephe...
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