Cole PORTER (1891-1964)
Anything Goes (1934)
Reno Sweeney - Kim Criswell
Billy Crocker - Cris Groenendaal
Hope Harcourt - Frederica von Stade
Moonface Martin - Jack Gilford
First Girl - Judy Green
Second Girl - Rebecca Caine
Evelyn - Simon Green
Four Sailors - Bryan Landrine, Michael B. Wailing, Bruce Hubbard, Del-Bourree Bach
Captain - Phil Ossafee
Purser - Dustin Stacks
London Symphony Orchestra/John McGlinn
rec. 17-19 August 1988, CTS Studios, Wembley, Middlesex, UK.
Song texts not included
EMI AMERICAN CLASSICS 9 48944 2 [74:22]
I came late to John McGlinn’s Broadway recordings, welcoming the reissue of Annie Get Your Gun (review) and the Jerome Kern Treasury (review). Painstaking research and reconstruction, a roster of good singers – opera stars among them – and sassy, loose-limbed playing from the London Sinfonietta combine in recordings of real spirit and charm. Canny collectors will be pleased to discover that EMI’s big Broadway box – 13 CDs in all – can be had for under Ł20 online. In a market already awash with such sets, this must be one of the best bargains around.
In the meantime, EMI – past masters at the art of repackaging – have seen fit to reissue these discs separately, albeit at super-low prices. The downside is that the paperwork is skimpy and artwork uninspired; transfers are sometimes on the bright side too, but that matters little when the music-making is as infectious as this.
Cole Porter’s Anything Goes certainly had a difficult gestation, but the end result is a show with more than its fair share of classic numbers. The overture has all the fizz and frolic one expects from McGlinn and his big bands – the LSO trombones are especially fine, rhythms as catchy as one could hope for. It never ceases to amaze me what chameleons our best orchestras are, switching easily between core classics and the exhibitionism and extravagance of American musicals. The shipboard shenanigans get under way with Kim Criswell’s delectable rendition of ‘I get a kick out of you’ – how embraceable that burbling tune is made to sound – and a rousing, streamer-filled ‘Bon voyage’ from the Ambrosian Singers.
It’s so easy to surrender to this music, Cris Groenendaal and Frederica von Stade’s ‘All through the night’ full of stars and velvet skies. One of the hallmarks of this McGlinn series is the occasional use of opera singers – Thomas Hampson in Annie, for instance – a crossover that works pretty well; certainly, von Stade makes an attractive Hope Harcourt, the oh-so-distant object of Billy Crocker’s affections. But the ensemble pieces are even more delightful, the sailors’ shanty-inspired ‘There’ll always be a lady fair’ wonderfully warm and witty. It’s good to hear the late-lamented Bruce Hubbard among them – he made a real impact in McGlinn’s Show Boat and Rattle’s Porgy and Bess.
So, any nits to pick? No, not really. The cast is uniformly good, the playing is beyond reproach and the recording has sparkle and space. I’m not always keen on Criswell’s delivery though, her Mermanesque bawl and tendency to snarl under pressure a tad wearying after a while. In the meantime, there’s a conveyor-belt of great tunes, ‘You’re the top’ and ‘Anything goes’ dispatched with commendable zest. The trombones in the latter – so suggestive of Glenn Miller and the big bands of the next decade – are just superb, McGlinn upping the tempo in the most natural way.
The second act is no less enjoyable, from the knee-bending G&S pastiche
of ‘Public enemy number one' – to von Stade’s dreamy take on ‘What a joy to
be young’. Turn down the lights, kick back and just wallow in those languid
rhythms, the mood judged to perfection. And for once Criswell’s bugle-like
tones pay off in ‘Blow, Gabriel blow’. That’s followed by Broadway and Hollywood
veteran Jack Gilford’s strangely vulnerable rendition of Moonface Martin’s
‘Be like the bluebird’. A real trouper, Gilford died of stomach cancer just
two years later.
But I just can’t end on a blue note, for there’s still the mock-sultriness of von Stade’s ‘The gypsy in me’ and three excised items in the shape of ‘There’s no cure like travel’, ‘Kate the great’ and ‘Waltz down the aisle’. You know, with so many of these glorious McGlinn discs still to cross my desk I’m more tempted than ever to buy that big box. Really, so much fun shouldn’t come this cheap.
Really, so much fun shouldn’t come this cheap.