‘Hunchback’s’ Songs Won’t Ring Kids’ Bells : VARIOUS ARTISTS: “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” original soundtrack Walt Disney Records (* 1/2)

Some records deserve a certain amount of indulgence from the casual listener because their popular appeal derives from the very qualities that make them artistically suspect: overly dramatic performances and no patience for any musical effect more complex than the snappiest fillip. These include children’s records, movie scores and soundtracks, and anything by Michael Bolton.

Somewhere between the first and second categories falls “Hunchback,” the umpteenth Disney project for composer Alan Menken, who here again pairs with his “Pocahontas” collaborator, lyricist Stephen Schwartz. Demolishing any hint of subtlety that stands in their way, the duo has constructed an album of towering skyscraper-like songs, each one aiming to inch past the last with just a few more instruments or yet another chorus.

It’s hard to imagine who would want to listen to the whole thing. All-4-One’s syrupy “Someday,” one of the few instances where Schwartz’s lyrics are genuinely touching, not trite, might pull in the Top 40 crowd, but they’ll surely be put off by the liturgical pomp of “Heaven’s Light/Hellfire” and others. And some of the scored bits are nice, but can they hold the interest of anyone under 55?

In fact, though the animated “Hunchback,” opening Friday, is presumably a “family” film, its soundtrack seems anti-children: Only on the spirited “Topsy Turvy” will kids--or anyone else--sing along.



Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).