The Softer Side of Magic
2022 / Tom Ameen
Review by Kathy Parsons
Tom Ameen's The Softer Side of Magic is a solo piano collection of nine songs from a variety of Disney features and one original piece by Ameen. As the title implies, Ameen arranged the music on the album in a gentle, graceful style perfect for relaxing, studying and/or pure musical enjoyment. Even the "Star Wars Main Theme" is soothing - a fascinating surprise! As a longtime piano teacher, I worked with students on many of these songs in their lessons over the years, and even still, Ameen's arrangements are fresh and new and a joy to listen to. Each track is from a different Disney film, going back as far as Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (1937 - Disney's first animated feature film), all the way up to Encanto (2021). Sometimes instrumental arrangements of familiar songs become very stylized to the point that they become difficult to recognize, but I found myself singing along with most of these. "Star Wars" is probably the most "arranged" piece, but the melody is all there - it's just played at a slower tempo and in a smoother style than the spirited march you usually hear. Tom Ameen has arranged and recorded quite a few albums of Disney music and other cover tunes, but this is my favorite of those.
The Softer Side of Magic begins with "Star Wars Main Theme," arranged in an elegant, peaceful style. "The Rainbow Connection" from The Muppets Movie is a favorite, and Ameen captured the dreamy innocence of this sweet song with warmth and tenderness. "God Help the Outcasts" from The Hunchback of Notre Dame overflows with love and empathy - a gorgeous arrangement that's beautifully played. "Alice in Wonderland" comes from the 1951 film, and is sweetly wistful like a pleasant daydream. "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast is a much gentler invitation than the original showstopper, and is utterly charming. "How Far I'll Go" from Moana is a new song for me and is a compelling expression of longing and wonder. "Whistle While You Work" from Snow White is slower and more dreamy than the spirited version sung by the dwarfs in the movie, but is just as uplifting. "Dos Oruguitas" from Encanto is the most recent song and is also a new one for me - a heartfelt love song even without the lyrics! "You'll Be in My Heart" from Tarzan has always been one of my favorite Disney songs and Ameen's arrangement is a wonderful expression of love and reassurance. "Grogu's Lullaby" is Tom Ameen's original piece, written for the baby, Grogu from The Mandalorian, a beautiful ending to an excellent album!
The Softer Side of Magic is perfect for kids of all ages, and I really think the "big kids" will have the most appreciation for Tom Ameen's arrangements and expressive performances. The album is available digitally from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and various streaming sites including Spotify. Recommended!
April 1, 2022
with The Outlaw Ocean Music Project