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** ELTON JOHN, "Elton John's 'The Road to El Dorado,' " DreamWorks

March 12, 2000|STEVE HOCHMAN

The road to this animated "El Dorado" wasn't paved with gold, but with platinum--from the huge commercial success of Sir Elton's teaming with Tim Rice for "The Lion King." Yet, in many ways the sound of this album (with the animated movie's six songs fleshed out by others that didn't make the cut and by some score excerpts) at times recalls the Yellow Brick Road of John's '70s peak rather than the legendary lost city.

It's a bit odd hearing John--perhaps overdoing the dramatic delivery--sing these songs of heroic adventure, fantasy romance and comic diversion in a classic, lush pop setting produced by Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard. And Randy Newman's gruff voice isn't quite compatible with John's sound on the droll duet "It's Tough to Be a God" (Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh do the honors in the film).

As with "The Lion King" and especially last year's disastrous John-Rice "Aida" album, Rice's lyrics rarely advance the plot and tend to paint characters by the numbers rather than break out of the well-established formula of the modern animated musical. Of course, that doesn't mean it won't be a hit--the formula is hard to beat on that score.

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Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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Hear the Music

* Excerpts from Eels' "Daisies of the Galaxy" and other releases are available on the World Wide Web. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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