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February 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Hit the Deck!  
  Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  RHINO R2-76668   [58:36]

"Hit the Deck!", the 1955 musical remake of 1925's silent "Shore Leave", 1930's musical "Hit the Deck!" and 1936's musical "Follow the Fleet" (the story also foretelling of Leonard Bernstein's classic "On the Town"), starred Tony Martin and Vic Damone as U.S. Navy sailors on shore leave, with Jane Powell, Ann Miller and Debbie Reynolds as enchanting sirens of promised romance. You know the plot.

The soundtrack's greatest claim to fame may be that it is one of the better 'modest' footnotes to MGM's sui generis song & dance output. Despite the excessively dependable backdrop, Vincent Youmans' melodies are fun to whistle, particularly the charming Jane Powell solo 'Lucky Bird' and the 'Why Oh Why' trios on self-pity (Rex Dennis provided the singing voice for Russ Tamblyn in the male leads' version). But the tunes repeat the same bouncy, crooning formula, broken intermittently by rougher charms such as 'The Lady from the Bayou' and sweet non-Youmans imports, 'Ciribiribin' in particular. The orchestrations by Conrad Salinger, Robert Van Epps, William Beittel, Georgie Stoll and Robert Franklyn do not always divide the sameness but thankfully contribute larger successes in larger amounts; after all, they also had the instrumental tracks to polish -- the 'Fun House Sequence' is a major attraction in that category. The soundtrack's lyrics, primarily by Leo Robin and Clifford Grey, have weak spots of their own ("Sometimes I love you / Sometimes I hate you / But when I hate you / it's 'cause I love you"... oh, spare me), but how can one fault such observations as "Wake up, girls, and stay awake / Don't you know it's all a fake? / Men are Nature's big mistake / But they're very ne-ces-sary," that have a certain wit and a knack for expressing what, for better or for worse, appears to be timeless sentiment? These elements blend auspiciously.

While the album notes include the warning that the original 35-mm stereo magnetic masters used for this recording had some irreparable deterioration, the sound has little worse than a slight warble and a hiss like that of a standard cassette. The album production is not as spectacular as when Marilee Bradford worked at Rhino; still, it gets the job done with several pages of sleeve notes and film stills.

"Hit the Deck!" is a cheerful, though arguably somewhat immaterial, release. Fans of movie musicals may take note where no one else will.

Jeffrey Wheeler


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