Prime Cuts: Hello Hello, Love is a Garden, Your Song
Romeo and Juliet re-told within the context of garden gnomes? On a cursory level, it may sound bizarre but it works. Executively produced by Sir Elton John with a cadre of superstar voices, this 3-D animation is a love story between two gnomes coming from two feudal families. Unlike the Shakespearean's original, "Gnomeo and Juliet' ends not with a tragedy. Rather, with a gratifying storyline and lots of witty lines, it tells of how these star-crossed lovers not only secured their love together but also cemented the cracks between the two families. Also, contributory to the success of the movie is the soundtrack. Since it was Sir Elton who forked out the money for the movie, it's natural that the knighted musician was largely responsible for the disc. Despite its wonderful songs, the CD is a strange affair. Unlike with "The Lion King" and "Adia," Elton John has not written an album choke full of new songs for the movie. Rather, the soundtrack itself is more or less a mixed bag consisting only of 2 newly composed Elton John songs, one remake, 6 older Elton John songs, 4 instrumentals from famed composer James Newton Howard, and tagged at the end the Disney favourite "The Tiki Tiki Tki Room."
While the ideas of some movie songs are only tangent to the movie's storyline, the two new songs emanated so organically out of the story that they really brought out the romanticism of the story. As romance blossoms between Gnomeo and Juliet in the garden "Love Builds a Garden" sets the perfect setting. Never one to give concession to today's meaningless beats and skimpy melodic line, "Love Builds a Garden" is a gorgeous classic Elton-John ballad with his signature glam-rock piano riffs. It certainly is ranked high up there with some of Elton's best ballads such as "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and "Sacrifice." More anthemic and on a slightly paced up tempo is the other new entry "Hello Hello." Though Lady GaGa sang with Sir Elton in the movie, the album version only finds the piano man alone. Nevertheless, "Hello Hello" captures the innocence, the naivety and the sweetness of destined lovers meeting for the first time. This is what romance really sounds like in song!
Of the older Elton John songs, "Crocodile Rock" is newly re-recorded; this time it is revamped as a duet with Nelly Furtado. With an electronic dance whistles and a Hawaiian Hula ambiance, there is a party-like feel to this remake that is just addictive. The same can be said about "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room." The rest of the Elton John songs are lifted straight out of his back catalogue. This may be disappointing if you already own these songs. Nevertheless, "Your Song" is still one best specimen of what magnificent song writing is about. The intricate attention paid to the visual aspect of its lyrics, the way the song elicits so much emotion, and Elton John's sturdy delivery all point to the classic nature of this masterpiece. The same ges for "Rocket Man"--the marriage of the fine use of imagery and thoughtful melodic developments are just works of art.
James Newton Howard who has written film scores for movies such as "I Am Legend," "Peter Pan" and the forthcoming "Green Lantern" shows his finesse here again. Rather than forcing his ideas onto the movie score, on "Dandelions' he takes snippets of some of Elton John's songs and piece them together into a seamless romantic masterpiece so befitting of the movie. Never one to put you to sleep, using various tempos and arrangements he brings out the excitement of "Bernie and the Bunnies" while he goes lushfully amorous on the title cut "Gnomeo and Juliet."Other than the dearth of more new songs, this soundtrack is one of the reasons why capering garden gnomes can be such a big draw.