The Boswell Sisters: Forty Second Street / Randy Brooks: Harlem Nocturne
/ George M. Cohan Jr.: Give My Regards To Broadway / Tommy Dorsey with Jo Stafford:
Manhattan Serenade / Duke Ellington: Harlem Air-Shaft / Lennie Hayton: Slaughter
On Tenth Avenue / Guy Lombardo: Give Me The Moon Over Brooklyn / Mantovani:
Skyscraper Fantasy / Allyn McLerie: Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor / Robert Merrill:
The Big Back Yard / Lyn Murray: "On The Town" Opening (I Feel
Like I'm Not Out of Bed Yet . . . New York, New York) / Red Norvo with Mildred
Bailey: Slumming On Park Avenue / Dick Powell: Lullaby Of Broadway / Mickey
Rooney: Manhattan / Ben Selvin: Broadway Melody / The Shannon Quartet: The Sidewalks
Of New York / Frank Sinatra: Autumn in New York / Paul Whiteman: Park Avenue
Fantasy (Stairway To The Stars)
Though the subtitle claims 22 original recordings, the total is actually
19, the suite "Manhattan Tower" by Gordon Jenkins occupying
four tracks. In all other respects this anthology is exactly what it says, with
music spanning Tin Pan Alley to jazz and Broadway. Sensibly opening with Leonard
Bernstein's "New York, New York" from On The Town,
the set offers a romantic idealised vision of New York as seen through the popular
music of the mid-20th century.
Much of the music will be familiar. For example Richard Rodgers' "Slaughter
on Tenth Avenue" ballet, originally written for the 1936 stage musical
On Your Toes, and brought to the screen in the 1948 MGM biopic Words
and Music. The recording here is one made that same year by Lennie Hayton
and the MGM Studio Orchestra, though whether it is the same as the version in
the film is not made clear. Similarly, many of the pieces found they way into
the movies, while "Broadway Melody" by Nacio Herb Brown and
Arthur Freed was the title song to MGM's first ever musical.
Highlights include the sophisticated balladry of Frank Sinatra on "Autumn
in New York" and the orchestral jazz of Sid Phillips instrumental "Skyscraper
Fantasy", recorded in 1948 by Mantovani and his Concert Orchestra.
Very popular in its day was the, as the booklet says, "schmaltzy flagwaver"
"Manhattan Tower", a 16 minute suite with narration celebrating
"The Magical Tower", "The Party", New York's
My Home" and "Love in a Tower". The piece was Gordon
Jenkins' "personal tribute to NC for singers and orchestra".
This is the original recording from 1945 with Elliot Lewis as the narrator,
and the work was became ubiquitous on TV and stage. As insight into the unquestioned
self aggrandisement of The Big Apple in the immediate post-WWII years it's a
fascinating piece of social history, though its doubtful anyone today in the
UK will want to listen to it often.
The mono sound is inevitably variable depending on the source material,
but is as good as can be expected given the age of the recordings. The booklet
has informative notes and credits for each track and the photo of Manhattan
from the air used in the artwork is splendid. An excellent nostalgia album which
is self-recommending to those fans for whom this particular music holds strong
Gary S. Dalkin