Long Journey For Elton John's Road To El Dorado

Soundtrack's five-year gestation period a result of working with many collaborators.

LOS ANGELES — For Elton John, the long gestation period of the soundtrack to the animated film "The Road to El Dorado" was a test in patience and dedication.

The veteran British singer/composer's studio albums usually take only a year to record and release; Elton John's The Road to El Dorado — which debuted at #105 on the Billboard 200 albums chart last week — took nearly five years.

"It's like giving birth to a very large baby," John (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight) said during a recent in-store appearance at Tower Records on the Sunset Strip. "It's not like doing an album, where you spend six months doing it, and it comes out six months later. This is the fruition of four-and-a-half years of collaboration between the animators, the directors, the people who did the score."

"Someday out of the Blue" (RealAudio excerpt), the theme from "The Road to El Dorado," is the soundtrack's first single. The song sits at #8 on Radio & Records' adult contemporary chart this week.

Elton John's The Road to El Dorado includes six songs featured in the movie, which opens nationwide March 31. The DreamWorks picture tells the story of two swindlers' venture to the fabled city of gold. John called it "a buddy movie."

Creative Burst Upped Commitment

The piano-playing singer/composer, who turned 53 on Saturday, originally signed on to contribute a handful of songs to the movie's soundtrack. But after churning out six tunes early on, he pitched the idea for him to do the full soundtrack with lyricist-collaborator Tim Rice.

"I thought, 'Well, seeing as how we've got six songs, why not just write five more and make a really good album?' " he said.

John and Rice also contributed the pop score to the Broadway musical "Aida," which opened on Thursday.

The pair previously teamed for the soundtrack to Disney's 1994 animated film "The Lion King," which spawned the hit "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (RealAudio excerpt). That project, John said, allowed him to reach out to a younger audience while exploring the kid within himself — an opportunity he felt presented itself again with "El Dorado."

Broad Appeal

"I love doing animation stuff, because it brings out your imagination," John said. " 'The Lion King' ... opened up a whole new territory for me for young people. That's great, because when you do an animation movie, it's really about the kid in everybody. If you've got younger fans and grandmothers, daughters, that's fantastic. I write music for everybody. I don't just write for one set of people. I'm always a kid at heart anyway."

John, who rose to fame in the early '70s with such hits as "Your Song" and "Crocodile Rock" (RealAudio excerpt), has already proven himself a master at straddling demographics. His work with "El Dorado" should further broaden his fanbase, San Francisco radio programmer Julie Deppish said, predicting that the uptempo feel of some of the "El Dorado" material will likely strike a chord with younger listeners.

"He's one of the few artists who have been around for 30 years and is still having hits on the radio," said Deppish, assistant programming director/music director at KOIT-FM. John was awarded the Grammy Legend Award at the 42nd annual Grammys last month.

An animated facsimile of John appeared in the video to "Someday out of the Blue"; he said that was a welcome change from the normally grueling process of making a video. "I'm not a great lover of doing videos, so it was great to spend three or four hours at the piano and the rest of it was done by the animation crew," he said.

"Without Question," one of John's favorite songs on the album, originally landed on the film's cutting-room floor — the same place that "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" also went for some time before Disney reconsidered. That song went on to win a Grammy and an Academy Award.

John, who recently collaborated with Moby and Collective Soul, said he will begin recording his next studio album in September.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation will honor the singer next month, at the 11th Annual GLAAD Media Awards, for his efforts to combat homophobia.