Positive Jack suits 'Curious George'
Jack Johnson's easygoing musical style is a great fit for the kids' animated film
LEAVE IT to the spirit of an inquisitive monkey to help lively up Jack Johnson's score for the animated feature "Curious George."
With his soothing voice, groovelicious tunes and positive-vibe lyricism, Johnson was perfect to provide the music for this movie adaptation of the popular children's tales. The movie opens in theaters Friday, but the soundtrack hit stores nationwide today.
"Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George"|
Jack Johnson and Friends (Brushfire Records)
The album's packaging matches the movie's whimsical spirit, filled with eye-catching primary colors and appealing character sketches.
A couple of the songs do sound specifically written for the movie: the lead-off single-video "Upside Down" speaks to Curious George's feelings of discovering life anew, and Johnson's good friend G. Love penned "Jungle Gym," with the acoustic bluesman from Philly singing and playing a bit of harmonica on the fun tune.
There are also specific songs for the kids in the back-to-back "The Sharing Song" (featuring keyboardist Zach Gill's singing) and "The 3R's," a little ditty inspired by "Three Is a Magic Number" from the ol' TV public service announcements "Schoolhouse Rock."
It's a song Johnson has used in his local classroom visits, and a chorus of North Shore kids help him send out the environmental message to "reduce, reuse, recycle." (How this particular tune will be used in the movie, I have no idea, but it's something we should be conscious of in our island home.)
Although the rest of the music could have been leftovers from Johnson's recording sessions for his last album, "In Between Dreams," the addition of Gill's piano playing and the help of friends Love, Ben Harper, Matt Costa and Kawika Kahiapo makes it the richest-sounding music Johnson has put out to date.
Johnson also occasionally plucks out some nice-sounding ukulele to help keep the island vibe alive on several songs. And Kahiapo adds a bit of guitar to the rhythmic "Talk of the Town." In combination with an acoustic guitar and ringing glockenspiel, it adds a comforting feel to the Costa-sung "Lullaby."
The quietly yearning "Questions" has a nice, deliberate arrangement. But the most revelatory song is Johnson and Harper's reworking of Harper's "With My Own Two Hands." Originally arranged a couple of years ago as a declaratory, Bob Marley-inspired reggae number, here it's stripped down to a quiet and lilting piece. Johnson and Harper perform a lovely duet here, sweet-sounding yet emotionally resilient.
The album's closer, "Supposed to Be," isn't the typical rouser that will keep the audience in a skippy good mood as they leave the theater. Instead, it's a quiet song that blossoms and fades like a flower, as Johnson sings of the preciousness of life we all share.
It'll be interesting to see how Johnson's music, as a whole, will play off the movie's mischievous monkey.