From having elephants hear whos to training dragons and teaching penguins tap dance, John Powell rules the animated animal kingdom when it comes to scores that fly on wings of energetic exuberance. Now he once again takes flight to Brazil with a return to the world of RIO, whose new trip up the Amazon gives him even more opportunities to bring on exotic South American percussion and winds, courtesy of such indigenous guest artists as UAKTI, Milton Nascimento and Carlinhos Brown.

They’re peppy, pop-py birds of a feather in giving Powell a wonderfully manic, yet affectionately energetic sound depicting a neurotic parrot distinctively out of his element. Powered with more musical changes than Carl Stalling on uppers while somehow maintaining a symphonic sense of continuity with his infinitely dexterous RIO theme, the score’s thoroughly fun sense of whimsy captures the frenetic feel of a hapless blue macaw being thrown right on top of a Carnival float, dodging the joyful drummers and flute players piling on him. Yet for all of his colorfully percussive music’s high fructose energy, RIO 2 also knows when to calm itself with nice emotional down time that gives the score its heart. As with Powell’s best cartoon work, Rio 2 positively sings with hybrid panache, showing just well a pop-driven, infinitely stylistic orchestra can do the samba along with chorus, villainous harpsichords, cliffhanging action and every other seemingly impossible maneuver, showing once again with RIO 2 that musical ADD can be a wonderful bird of paradise.

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