The Frog Prince
Under Sail (UK) Issue 3 Winter1989/1990
The Frog Prince is a straightforward love story set in Paris in 1961, and concerns Jenny, an English girl, who comes to Paris as a student, and her relationship with Jean-Philippe, a French student. There's not much to it actually, but the minor characters are quite entertaining. If you haven't seen the film, you haven't missed anything epoch-making however, it is available on Warner Home Video.
The album has no fewer than 16 tracks but nevertheless takes only about 35 minutes to play. Five of the tracks, however, have nothing to do with Enya at all: four are jazz items from a scene in a jazz club and one is by the late Edith Piaf.
Of the remaining tracks, nine are Enya's music, arranged by Richard Myhill, as used in the film. There are three themes each of which is used three times. For simplicity I shall call these "Jenny's Theme", "Jean-Philippe's Theme" (because they are associated with the two lead rôles) and the "Story Theme" which embraces elements of the other two themes.
'The Train to Paris' is a variation of the story theme. The rather effective background chuffs beat away suggesting a steam locomotive, but in the film the train is hauled by a diesel. Good descriptive music with a lush - typical film - melody.
'The First Day' introduces Jenny's theme. As sweet and gentle as Jenny herself, the piece begins on synthesised glockenspiel, but moves on to synthesised trumpet.
'With Jean-Philippe', not surprisingly, introduces Jean-Philippe's theme. Like the character it portrays, the introduction is brash, the main theme swaggering in on the saxophone. The accordion bridge represents his Frenchness and the sweetness of the shimmering strings suggests that, despite appearances, there is some genuine tenderness.
'Jenny' returns us to Jenny's theme, this time arranged for keyboards, electric guitar and saxophone.
'Reflections' is a dreamy variation of the story theme.
'The Kiss' is a wide-ranging set of variations on the Jean-Philippe theme which includes some virtuoso sax and electric guitar playing.
'A Kiss By the Fountain' is like 'The Kiss' but is based on the story theme. There is some delightful bass guitar work.
'Jenny And Roz' is a variation of Jenny's theme with some atmospheric accordion playing.
'Epilogue' is a very brief statement of the Jean-Philippe theme, introduced with some intricate percussion.
If this were all the Enya music on the album it would be a sad disappointment. But this still leaves two tracks, 'The Frog Prince' and 'Dreams', and for Enya fans these are by far the most interesting and would probably be your justification for buying the album. These two tracks aren't used in the film. They are the 'definitive' versions of Jean-Philippe's theme and Jenny's theme respectively. Both are ballads arranged by Enya and Nicky Ryan, and on 'The Frog Prince' the words are by Roma Ryan, so we're well and truly on home ground. The words of 'Dreams' come from one C.McGettigan.
'The Frog Prince' is Enya as you've never heard her. The accompaniment is mainly electric guitar with a faint dash of keyboard and a lot of percussion. There is also a faint sprinkling of multi-vocal backing giving a hint of the 'Enya Sound'. The gently descending bass line recalls that of 'I Want Tomorrow'. What does seem strange is to hear Enya singing a love song.
'Dreams' is far closer to the Enya we all know and love. She sings, accompanies herself on keyboards and multitracks. In several places she sings a duet with herself, and the result is very beautiful. The multi-vocal backing is typical Enya and on the last verse the "curled up ending" of each backing note is quite delicious. The electric guitar bridge is again reminiscent of that in 'I Want Tomorrow'. The melody, I suspect, owes something to Enya's classical training. All in all a delightful piece, something of a tearjerker and, in my opinion, strong enough to have been released as a single.
So, a mixed record. With the exception of the two 'real' Enya tracks, disappointing for those of us whose introduction to Enya was through Enya or Watermark. But if you are determined to acquire everything Enya ever recorded you will need to add this to your collection - as the stepping stone that led to Enya and ultimately to Watermark, this album is undoubtedly of interest.
Notes: Transcribed by Dave Allum. Under Sail was a short-lived U.K. fanzine.