The Phantom Tollbooth

Prince of Egypt: Soundtrack, Inspirational, and Nashville
Artist: Various
Label: DreamWorks (Word UK)
Length: 19 tracks/76.10 minutes
DreamWorks's Prince of Egypt has become one of the most successful non-Disney animated films of all time, and at the same time generated a great deal of discussion in Christian circles due to its inspiration lying in the biblical narrative of Moses. The three tie-in albums, the first of which contains material from the film and the latter two contain songs inspired by or connected with the film, have been getting a lot of publicity in the Christian music market place. Unfortunately, much of it is unwarranted.
Film soundtrack albums vary widely. This particular volume has opted to include atmospheric music from the film along with the major songs and an added extra, "Humanity," a collaboration between all those involved in the musical side of the film. While the music was effective when accompanying dazzling animation, much of it tends towards tedium when presented in CD form; performances are technically excellent but don't stand up on their own. Indeed, there is nothing particularly remarkable about them at all, and I, for one, would have favored a more ethnic-feel to the soundtrack, reflecting Egyptian and Hebrew cultures more strongly. The lyrics tend towards a warm, reassuring feel with lines like "There can be miracles/When you believe." This suggests a light approach to faith, which while attempting to please both general listeners and the theologians advising the filmmakers, probably leaves the latter group somewhat disappointed.
The tie-in albums offer little relief from the tedium. There are a couple of good tracks on both, but they also tend towards a light-weight, feel-good approach to faith and freedom. Jars of Clay probably offers the standout track on the Inspirational album; the others offer good performances but fail to really engage the listener. The Nashville album is somewhat more noticeable but not much. Again it seems that better albums would have been produced if the example of Peter Gabriel's Passion album tie-in with The Last Temptation of Christ had been followed with some traditional elements from the cultures in question being weaved in with the visual imagery. Of all people, Carman is the only one who attempts to show some Hebrew influence to his music, but his showmanship is too strong and Hebrew-lounge doesn't have much to commend it.
Disappointing given the excellent visual side to the film, these soundtracks seem to struggle under too much marketing. The CCM interest is certainly there, with many Christian names among the collaborators, but I, for one, would have settled for less of these names if it meant more interesting
By James Stewart (2/01/99)