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Review by Brad Green:
Winnie-the-Pooh has let us in on a secret. He originally wanted Piglet to tell us, but when Piglet went to the Premiere of his own movie, and heard all the special songs by Carly Simon, his nose turned pink and the pink spread slowly up his ears and settled there, and now he is having a rest to get over all the excitement. So Pooh has told us the secret which he heard from Piglet, who heard it from Owl, who read it in a book by a very clever man named A. A. Milne. The secret is that in an “enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing”. Pooh said that according to Owl it was very important to use the Quotation Marks because it is a Citation, and Owl also said that what it means is that even though Pooh isn’t quite as fluffy as he once was, and Piglet’s pink has faded (except now for the tip of his ears), and Eeyore has long since lost a lot more than his tail, and Christopher Robin (who is the Boy mentioned in the Citation) had his obituary printed in the paper a few years ago, nobody from the Hundred Acre Wood really gets old because of things called Imagination and Literary Immortality, and when Pooh asked Owl what that meant (only he originally pronounced it Literary Immorality and then blushed deeply when told what that meant, which is something entirely different and not at all appropriate), Owl told him that Immortality means being around for a very long time. Even longer than it takes to read that very long last sentence? “Yes, I would think so,” says Pooh.

Pooh also says that even though he is a Bear of Very Little Brain he gets feelings about things, and the feelings he gets when listening to this music deserve long and important words like Imagination and Immortality because you can listen to them over and over and never get tired of them. I was under the impression that some of the songs were written by Pooh himself, but he says that Ms. Simon has just used bits and pieces of his hums and turned them into “proper songs, which are almost as wonderful as eating honey”. Then he pauses and remarks that he particularly likes listening to them “WHILE eating honey, although then it is hard to know which thing is making you feel so good”. 

Owl has flown by to check if I used the Quotation Marks correctly, and he is very interested that I am a soundtrack critic because that means that I can examine the songs and explain why they are good. So I mention words like Folk and Jazz and ramble on about intelligent chord progressions and vocal inflexions and Owl nods wisely and says that to achieve real Musical Appreciation you have to look into things like that. Then Pooh looks somewhat abashed and wonders whether he understands the music enough to properly appreciate it. So I turn to Owl and ask him if he has read any books by Benjamin Hoff, and Owl says that he has heard of a book called the Owl Of Pooh Corner, and when I ask him whether he is thinking of The Tao Of Pooh (not to mention The Te Of Piglet), he quickly remarks that oh yes that is what he meant to say. Anyway, I wanted to let Pooh know that he inspired those books because he could recognise the Beauty Of The Moment, and I remind him of the fact that he once mentioned that the instant just before you eat honey can even be better than the actual eating, and that if he gets a similar feeling in the moment between two of Ms. Simon’s phrases, then that is all the Musical Appreciation that really counts. 

Then I mention that songs are so much the better because they cater for The Very Young without being Condescending. To which Pooh says, “Ah!” and Owl says, “Quite so, yes indeed.” Although, I go on, it is quite noticeable that Ms. Simon’s seven original songs tap more into the sagacious whimsy (I have got a head of steam up now) of Mr. Milne than the old Disney Winnie The Pooh song she covers -- which is more in the cutesy-wootsy-fluffy-silly-snuggly domain. But her jazz flavourings, combined with a guitar and vocal performance that is as delicate as a heffalump isn’t, transform even that track into a charmer bound to educate growing ears and win over those that are far more aged and cynical. In some places, composer Carl Johnson enhances the songs’ arrangements with symphonic touches, and we are also treated to four cues from his score. These are gorgeously lyrical, using woodwinds plus acoustic guitar and piano phrasings against a background of verdant strings. Traditional cartoon flourishes and sweet themes combine perfectly to personify the Idyll that is The Hundred Acre Wood. 

Everyone is here now, Eeyore and Kanga and Tigger and Rabbit and last but not least Piglet himself, who has finally recovered his Composure. Pooh begins to ask why the Composer needed to be recovered… but Owl silences him with a stare. Then we all listen to the CD’s final “Chapter”, which contains stripped-down “demo” versions of Ms. Simons songs, and after being captivated by their raw Inspiration, we all agree that we should play everything from the top again. And now we are not sure how long we have been listening, but it doesn’t matter because we have given ourselves over to the Essence of the music. It has become the backdrop to a boy and a bear who are always playing in an enchanted place at the top of the Forest. 

Published June 26, 2003

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TITLE: Piglet’s Big Movie
ID: 91521 336432
Walt Disney Records
SONGS: Carly Simon
SCORE: Carl Johnson

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