Stay Awake: Various Interpretations Of Music From Vintage Disney Films Soundtrack is an incredible and exceptional compilation produced for A&M records in 1988 by Hal Willner, known for a groundbreaking series of multi-artist tribute albums interpreting the work of various composers, and it can be defined "essential" to any Disney music collection.
One of the main elements of the first, early, Disney films was a darkness, both in terms of story elements and animation directly drawn from popular folk tales. An element that in time and in today’s Disney films has been toned down. A jealous Queen that orders the murder of her step daughter (Snow White), greedy men abducting and deceiving children to make a profit out of them (Pinocchio), a child (even if in animal form) separeted from his mother or that gets his mother killed (Dumbo and Bambi), the incarnation of pure evil of Chernabog (Fantasia) and Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty). Stay Awake reprises that darkness and applies it to both less known and hugely popular Disney songs.
While listening to the modern "Disneymania" renditions of Disney classic tunes you feel usually happy and find youserlf dancing to the mixes (and sometimes bored). With the songs from Stay Awake you feel taken to another dimension, where the things we think we knew take a different shape an an unexpected turn. What makes the album so special and different is the fact many of the song renditions by such artists as Tom Waits, Sinead O’Connor, Suzanne Vega, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Los Lobos, Betty Carter , Yma Sumac and Sun Ra are very theatrical, jazzy and even "avant garde".
Among the highlights of the albums and our personal favourites there’s the exceptional gospel/soul like version of "Baby Mine" from Dumbo by country artist Bonnie Raitt that is one of the most "traditional" interpretations on this album. It becomes both a mother comforting her child from the uglyness of the world like in the original version and a romantic ballad of a lover embracing the other. Also from Dumbo there’s Sun Ra‘s cover of "Pink Elephants On Parade", that stays quite true to the original psycadelic film version
Other highlights are the Sinead O’Connor‘s claustrophobic whispered rendition of "Someday My Prince Will Come", Snow White’s signature song and Suzanne Vega‘s acapella version of "Stay Awake" the beloved lullaby from Mary Poppins, that gives the album its title. These two songs represent at its best the bizzare and unique quality of this project and bring it to mainstream with these two well known artists who were at the climax of their careers when the album was released, 20 years ago.
And to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Stay Awake, a live concert has been put together during the St. Ann’s Warehouse Gala Benefit in Brooklyn in April 2 2008 featuring artists from the original cast album such as Terry Adams of NRBQ, Marshall Allen of Sun Ra Arkestra, Suzanne Vega and the voice of Ken Nordine. Other artists perfoming at Hal Willner’s Stay Awake Live – The 20th Anniversary Concert were Steve Buscemi, David Byrne and Beth Orton.
Former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker who originally invited Hal Willner to present Stay Awake live for the first time at London’s 2007 Meltdown Festival, which he curated, commented about this eclectic mix of enchanting, somber and, at times, sardonic adaptations of Disney songs: “Love ‘em or hate ‘em, if you leave the theater without having shed a tear you’re something less than human.”
Review by Disneylicious.com