August 2006

Various Artists - Cars: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Disney-Pixar 61349-7
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Suburban sprawl and the car culture fueled Disney theme parks after World War II, as isolated nuclear families prowled the roadscape for amusements clever enough for Mom and Dad and innocent enough for Dick and Jane. It can’t be entirely an accident that in Disney-Pixar’s new movie Cars, its "characters," animated autos, battle mounting threats to today’s economy.

Also hitching a ride with the autofest, rock‘n’roll sang of cars and hitting the road in pursuit of dreams. So Cars is an elaborate hymn to Disney, the car, and the holy rock, its verses at times favoring marketing decisions over musical value. The soundtrack wheels out with Sheryl Crow’s rhythmic "Real Gone" and makes pit stops staffed by three generations -- Hank Williams’s "My Heart Would Know" for grandparents minding the kids by the VCR.

Chuck Berry and John Mayer each take "Route 66." And country fans won’t languish curbside waiting for Hank: Brad Paisley takes the wheel a couple of times. Moms who find Rascal Flatts’ metal-ish "Life Is a Highway" bumpy might enjoy James Taylor’s soothing performance of Randy Newman’s "Our Town." Newman is the road hog, though. The award-winning movie-score veteran captures moods and plot turns through the use of orchestral arrangements, speeding and braking tempos, and paved and off-road textures.

Shifting from 11 consecutive song tracks to Newman’s instrumental compositions for the final nine feels like a speed bump, but passengers won’t feel stuck in second gear as the orchestra often hits overdrive and the score’s Rolls-like sound is crisply recorded. Most kids won’t screech, "When will we beeee there?!"