Walt Disney Records’ Legacy Collection’s excellent streak of soundtracks continues with its August 2014 release that commemorated the 50th anniversary of Mary Poppins, considered by many critics as one of Walt Disney’s greatest achievements. Its Oscar-winning song, “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” and the other cheerful tunes and score are as ingrained in our minds as Julie Andrews‘ and Dick Van Dyke‘s unforgettable performances.
This new CD set remarkably integrates nearly every musical element of the film possible across three packed discs. The Legacy Collection: Mary Poppins is even sweeter than a spoonful of sugar.
As opposed to detailing every single track — there are around 50 to listen to on the first two discs alone — in addition to an additional set of a few dozen meeting excerpt tracks featuring Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers and the Sherman brothers on the third disc, I will give my overview thoughts on the CDs.
Disc 1 will prove most accessible to most anyone who chooses to pick up this second entry in Disney’s Legacy Collection. Containing nearly every snippet of the score, as well each of the songs, all remastered and “practically perfect in every way,” this gives the full Mary Poppins audio experience. The three-minute overture, akin to a few other tracks, compiles several key musical moments in a very digestible format. Though not standout songs when we think of Mary Poppins, pieces like Glynis Johns’ feminist and orderly “Sister Suffragette” and Ed Wynn’s silly “I Love To Laugh” sound as great and peppy as they did a half-century ago. Time stands still when you listen to what Robert Sherman and Richard M. Sherman crafted. Of course, these songs reflect a long-gone era and lack a contemporary feel, but they capture what Disney music does best: entertain.
No longer must your familiarity with “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and other songs be limited to the edited versions. Here we obtain the full tracks that contain the surrounding score. Want to hear a “Jolly Holiday” reprise? The Legacy Collection: Mary Poppins has that covered. The amount of content on the first disc does not necessarily overwhelm with its quantity, as everyone can find something worthwhile. Yes, most who purchase this soundtrack are pure Disney or Mary Poppins fans, so they will undeniably assign the greatest amount of criticism. Most luckily, though, I could not find anything wrong or askew with Disc 1. If Mary Poppins ranks high on your favorite films list, or even registers on your radar as a “solid” musical, the first disc makes this release a must.
The second disc offers eight “pre-demos,” all performed by Richard M. Sherman, with a few of them accompanied by Robert Sherman. Certainly these cater to the Disney fans who know these song lyrics just by hearing the pieces. These may not appeal to general listeners, but they provide insight into the musical songwriting process by hearing these early renditions. The entertainment value here depends on your level of enjoyment in listening to craftsmanship in progress. As a fan of the Shermans’ work, I found the tracks quite revealing in how they developed the signature songs. A few of these were featured in the deluxe edition of the Saving Mr. Banks soundtrack, so if you were to purchase this Mary Poppins album solely for that reason, this would not prove necessary. However, there are many reasons to add this to your music collection.
For one, “The Lost Chords of Mary Poppins” unveil the songs that did not make the final cut. Here they receive some notice. Sometimes removed pieces eventually find their way in Disney’s Broadway adaptations. However, these tunes failed to head to the stage. Kate Higgins’ performance of “Mary Poppins Melody” is quite theatrical and snippy, much like how Juliana Hansen’s version of “The Right Side” seems it would belong on the Great White Way. I appreciate how we can hear both the Sherman demo version, as well as a newer recording of the same piece. Some pieces, such as “The North Pole Polka,” seem as out-of-place as most anything you can find in a Tim Burton film. According to the liner notes, this song was revised for Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but was cut from that movie, too. Yet for every oddity, we hear the occasional beauty. “The Eyes of Love” represents just that. Interestingly, as those informative liner notes indicate, Andrews felt the tone did not match the Poppins character. Fair enough.
The true Disney fans show themselves if they sit down to hear around 45 minutes of songwriting discussions, as well as two vintage tracks that give context to the making of the movie. Remember at the end of Saving Mr. Banks when we obtained an actual taste of how Travers interacted with the Shermans and Don DaGradi? That was just a morsel in comparison to Disc 3. The intimate recordings show Travers’ irascible and acute personality, which Emma Thompson captured magnificently in the 2013 movie. Quite dramatic, Travers played a major part in shaping the evolution of the music. Thankfully, the calm DaGradi and polite Sherman brothers maintained the original musical vision while accounting for her feedback. The 17-minute “Hollywood Spotlight Microphone” evokes an old radio show, as essentially this is what this 1960s-era piece represents. Andrews, Van Dyke, the Shermans, and Irwin Kostal, the film’s musical director, participate in this entertaining exchange. Meanwhile, the final reminiscence track serves as a conversation between Richard M. Sherman and the late Robert Sherman.
Other elements beyond the three hours of music and conversations add further value to The Legacy Collection: Mary Poppins. The illustrations by artists from The Walt Disney Studios, accompanied by descriptions of the development of these songs and demos in the 20 pages of liner notes, allow for more context on the creation of the pieces. The liner notes feature tons of trivia bits and compelling musical observations. The content is as much interesting as it is informative.
If you don’t already love Mary Poppins, you likely would not have even started to read this review. The Legacy Collection: Mary Poppins, even more comprehensive than the excellent Lion King entry, encapsulates why we regard these remastered soundtracks. Without a doubt, memories of the movie, familiarity with the music, and adoration of fine musical composition factor into our feelings about a soundtrack. I adore both Mary Poppins the film and the songs/score that garnered numerous awards. Listening to this collection represents a jolly musical experience.
You can pick up The Legacy Collection: Mary Poppins on CD and MP3 now.
Observe the entire track list on the Disney Music Emporium website.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom.