Even Villains Have a Soft Side
2023 / Tom Ameen
Review by Kathy Parsons
Even Villains Have a Soft Side is a wonderful collection of eleven classic Disney villain themes arranged for solo piano and performed by Tom Ameen. Tom has released more than twenty albums, several of which are compilations of Disney music for movies, rides, and other Disney attractions. What makes this collection so much fun is that Tom has taken the theme music for some of Disney's best-known villains and converted it to much softer and even more charming piano solos. I taught piano lessons for forty years and often bought copies of the songbooks for Disney movies as they came out and worked on the music with students to keep them enjoying lessons and the music they were working on. I really enjoyed watching students discover ways to add character and dimension to their playing, and some of these songs helped to make that happen. What Tom has done here goes several steps beyond that to intentionally make the music say something very different from the original intention, and a few of these made me laugh out loud at the changes. Tom mentioned to me that this has been one of his favorite albums to record, and I can certainly hear that in his ingenious arrangements and playing.
Even Villains Have a Soft Side begins with "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from The Little Mermaid. Instead of Ursula, the rough and overbearing sea witch, trying to make a deal with Ariel to become human, we have a gentle melody that sounds sympathetic and kind. An intriguing start! "Gaston" from Beauty and the Beast went from the theme for a big, brawny egomaniac to a sweet and delicate ode to a truly nice guy! "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life For Me)" comes from the theme for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disney Parks and is known as a spirited drinking song. Tom's new version would go better with a couple of glasses of really nice zinfandel - smooth and elegant! "The Imperial March" is Darth Vader's theme (Star Wars) and this one really cracks me up. A favorite of many students come recital time, it went from a very dark and threatening piece to an up-tempo minor key waltz! I absolutely love this one! "Be Prepared" from The Lion King and is sung by Scar as he makes plans to assume the position of King by having his brother and nephew murdered. In Tom's version, the power-hungry assassin becomes a benevolent and kindly leader who couldn't hurt a flea. "Hellfire" from The Hunchback of Notre Dame also underwent a stunning make-over from the furious damnation of a tortured soul to a gentle, heartfelt plea - also a favorite and beautifully done! "Cruella De Vil" (101 Dalmatians loses her evil wickedness to become playfully lighthearted and downright lovable! "Mother Knows Best" is the song Rapunzel's mother sings to her when she asks to go outside in Tangled. Tom's arrangement is much softer and more loving, and brings the album to a close with a quiet little sigh (mine!).
Even Villains Have a Soft Side is a super-nice listening experience whether or not you are familiar with the original tracks, and is even more fun if you know the originals. (If you want to compare, the originals are available on YouTube with clips from the movies.) The album is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and Deezer. Very highly recommended!
February 7, 2023
with The Outlaw Ocean Music Project