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Howard Keel - Bless Yore Beautiful Hide
A Centenary Tribute – His 28 finest soundtrack recordings
rec. Hollywood, 1950-1955

Born in Gillespie, Illinois, USA, on 13 April 1919, Harry Clifford Keel’s 100th anniversary was imminent at the time of writing this review in mid-March 2019. That he had a voice was early evident but his fanatical Methodist mother was “opposed to all forms of entertainment [and] did her best to subdue his performing talent when it manifested itself” as Peter Dempsey graphically expresses it in his as usual illuminating liner notes. He worked for some time as a motor mechanic in Los Angeles, but after hearing Lawrence Tibbett at a Hollywood Bowl concert when he was 20 inspired him to venture into vocal training. He had some tough years during the war, but after the war he came to Broadway through the help of Oscar Hammerstein II, appearing in both Carousel and Oklahoma! And also had a successful stint in London. The early 1950s were his great years as movie star, featuring in the eleven musical films represented on the present disc and some less than successful productions as well – an enormous workload within five years. A handsome man with an infectious smile and a handsome bass baritone voice to match endeared him to musical lovers worldwide. But after those years in the Hollywood limelight he had a blossoming stage career – and quite a few movie stints as well. He also had a late internationally recognised success as Clayton Farlow for ten years (1981 – 1991) in the TV soap opera Dallas. Suddenly he was known to more people than ever before and started making solo albums, which he had never done before. Fortunately his voice was well preserved well into his mid-70s. He died in California on 7 November 2004 aged 85.

The 28 songs recorded here during his early 30s of course find him in youthful voice, it is beautiful, steady, he can be quite expressive and he has a lot of nuances in his vocal armoury. There are several great musicals here with music by some of the greatest composers in the business: Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Harry Warren, Cole Porter, Rudolf Friml and Sigmund Romberg – and the two final tracks are from Kismet, where all the melodies – almost – are adapted from Alexander Borodin’s works. I can’t help feeling that the musical taste almost 70 years ago veered towards the sentimental. The orchestral arrangements are sometimes rather sickly-sweet and the singing also a bit sugary with quite heavy rubatos – but beautiful it is. I remember several of these films from TV relays and they were nice to watch when one was in the right mood. Among the highlights are without doubt the excerpts from Annie, Get Your Gun, where also Betty Hutton, “The Blond Bombshell”, is quite amusing in the title role, singing really ugly – intentionally of course – in Anything you can do. She was actually a late replacement for Judy Garland. Kathryn Grayson, who appears in several productions, including Show Boat and Kiss Me, Kate, where especially Wunderbar is wonderful with charming trills. In this musical Howard Keel is very good in Where is the life that late I led?, a number that never disappoints with a good singing actor. My favourite Thomas Hampson is still unbeatable, but here is a worthy contender. Among his partners is also the ever fresh Doris Day in Calamity Jane. She is still among us at 96!

All the songs may not be as rewarding as those mentioned, but we all have our favourites and for those who like me have memories of the films, this is an excellent souvenir of a Broadway musical artist who really could sing. He was a worthy follower to Nelson Eddy and might, like his predecessor, have been able to carry through a classical career as well. The only operetta role they had in common, as far as I have been able to find out, was Rose Marie, and I would say that Eddy was the most cultivated of the two. But don’t let that remark refrain you from giving this disc a listen. It is also worth pointing out that the recently deceased André Previn conducts the excerpts from Kiss Me, Kate and Kismet. The former music was recorded when he was just 24. As a memorial of his early work in Broadway musical this issue is also valuable. But of course the main reason for acquiring the disc is the singing of Howard Keel.

Göran Forsling

Contents & other performers
Annie Get Your Gun (1950 film)
Irving BERLIN (1888 – 1989)
1. My defences are down [3:20]
2. The girl that I marry [2:32]
3. They say it’s wonderful [2:59]
4. Anything you can do [3:14]
Pagan Love Song (1950 film)
Nacio Herb BROWN (1896 – 1964)
5. Pagan love song [2:55]
Harry WARREN (1893 – 1981)
6. House of singing bamboo [3:05]
Show Boat (1951 film)
Jerome KERN (1885 – 1945)
7. Make believe [3:29]
8. You are love [3:25]
9. Why do I love you? [2:38]
Texas Carnival (1951 film)
10. Young folks should get married [2:58]
Lovely To Look At (1952 film)
Jerome KERN
11. Lovely to look at [1:55]
12. You’re devastating [2:43]
13. The touch of your hand [2:02]
Calamity Jane (1953 film)
Sammy FAIN (1902 – 1989)
14. Higher than a hawk [2:13]
15. I can do without you [1:44]
Kiss Me, Kate (1953 film)
Cole PORTER (1891 – 1964)
16. So in love [3:16]
17. Were thine that special face [2:13]
18. Wunderbar [3:00]
19. I’ve come to wive it wealthily in Padua [2:08]
20. Where is the life that late I led? [4:29]
Rose Marie (1954 film)
Rudolf FRIML (1879 – 1972)
21. The right place for a girl [1:49]
22. Rose Marie [3:15]
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954 film)
Gene De PAUL (1919 – 1988)
23. Bless your beautiful hide [2:01]
24. Sobbin’ women [3:16]
25. When you’re in love [3:42]
Deep In My Heart (1954 film)
Sigmund ROMBERG (1887 – 1951)
26. Our land and my land [2:34]
Kismet (1955 film)
Alexander BORODIN (1833 – 1887) arr. Robert WRIGHT (1914 – 2005)& George FORREST (1915 - 1999)
27. The olive tree (from Prince Igor) [3:05]
28. The sands of time (from In The Steppes Of Central Asia) [1:49]

Betty Hutton (3, 4), Kathryn Grayson (7-9, 12, 13, 16, 18), Doris Day (15), Jane Powell (25); MGM Studio Orchestra (& Chorus)/Adolph Deutsch (1-9, 23-26); David Rose (10); Carmen Dragon (11-13); André Previn (16-20, 27, 28); Georgie Stoll (21, 22); Warner Brothers Studio Orchestra/Ray Heindorf (14, 15)

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