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*** VARIOUS ARTISTS "The Prince of Egypt: Music From the Motion Picture Soundtrack"

"The Prince of Egypt--Inspirational"

"The Prince of Egypt--Nashville" DreamWorks

November 15, 1998|ELYSA GARDNER

These three separate CDs featuring music from and inspired by "The Prince of Egypt"--the new animated version of the story of Moses, due in theaters next month--arrive at the peak of a season saturated with high-profile album releases. But competition be damned: Collectively, this trio of discs packs so much star power that its chances of being commercially ignored are about as good as those of the Red Sea parting again.

The soundtrack kicks off with "The Prince of Egypt (When You Believe)"--one of several fervent, melodic numbers written by veteran Broadway and film tunesmith Stephen Schwartz, with additional music by Babyface delivered as a predictably virtuosic duet by superdivas Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.

Haunting instrumental music by Hans Zimmer ("The Lion King") follows, along with winning performances by singers and actors featured in the film--notably Ralph Fiennes, who reveals a strong, clear singing voice on "The Plagues," and Michelle Pfeiffer, who croons sweetly on an alternate version of "When You Believe." K-Ci & JoJo contribute the beatific, vibrant "Through Heaven's Eyes."

The other albums showcase top talent from contemporary gospel, R&B and country music. Aside from Boyz II Men's smoothly ardent "I Will Get There" (also sung a cappella on the soundtrack proper), the inspirational collection includes Kirk Franklin's sinuous, jazz-inflected rendition of "Let My People Go" and rousing, beautifully sung offerings from CeCe Winans ("The River"), Take 6 ("Destiny") and the mighty Shirley Caesar ("Moses the Deliverer").

The Nashville set is also rife with sterling vocals; Alison Krauss' honeyed soprano glistens on the delicate "I Give You to His Heart," and Faith Hill sounds radiant on "Somewhere Down the Road."

These albums are long on the sort of accessible warmth and prettiness that attract even more casual or conservative fans. Such is the mass appeal that blockbusters are made of.

*

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

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* Excerpts from these and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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