It’s a curious creature the llama. But not half as curious as a song called
Walk The Llama Llama, penned by Sting and David Hartley and given voice
by the blues-rich harmonies of Rascal Flatts. It’s that most weird and wonderful of
beasts, a composition and collaboration inspired by a film for which it didn’t make
the final cut.
When such a song appears on a soundtrack release you can bet an Emperor’s estate
that it’s a cracker, a work that could only have been given birth as a cinematic
concept but too expansive to ultimately fit the Groove of cinematic context. This one is
no exception and if its vibrant swing doesn’t have you on your feet doing the
Llamambo than you must be less animated than a computer generated corpse.
In which case it may take another unlikely but irresistible collaboration,
Sting/Hartley writing for Eartha Kitt, to take your fancy: "And Daddy was no
dummy/Did outrageous things with a mummy/And often the stiffs that he would shrive/Would
look better dead than they did alive." A twist of farce has always lurked behind the
lyric panache of the ex-Blue Turtle dreamer, who for once climbs off his political high
horse to put some Sting in this Llama’s tale.
Eartha Kitt as withering necromancer could hardly fail to thrill; and, with
Sting’s arch verses curving to a spellbinding chorus, she is in
the vintage form that makes Shirley Bassey sound a little on the demure side.
But this is another gem cut only for CD, not the screen. In fact, of six Sting/Hartley
numbers only three made it to the final reels, and one of those is a reprise of Perfect
World, the opening track here. Another ripper, it features Tom Jones belting out some
dramatic soul, over frenetic South and Latin American rhythms and brass blasts, the way
only the world’s greatest singing panties magnet can.
Two songs are performed by Sting himself, including the single My Funny Friend and Me,
and a duet with the delightful Shawn Colvin. Both sound by far the most like Sting
compositions. They lack the energy of some of the collaborations and the jazzy exuberance
of his erstwhile bands, but they do reflect the mature song craftsmanship that has been a
feature of his solo career.
The second half of the disc is dedicated to John Debney’s orchestral score.
Smoothly vacillating from big band swing to reprises of the Funny Friend motif and the
delicious mock menace only to be found in animations, it is as
entertaining and accessible as any of the songs.
This is a terrific soundtrack, but Sting must be a trifle miffed not to land the Best
Song Oscar, an often obligatory adjunct to a Disney gig. He shouldn’t worry. Another
decade or so and he’ll be able to throw together any old chords, dip into the fount
of nostalgia, and a la Bob Dylan nab himself a sentimental statuette."
Published April 5, 2001