December 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings / December /

Curio Corner

New York, New York  
Various artists
  ASV LIVING ERA CD AJA 5441   [75:01]

newyork newyork

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 appeal.

Gary S. Dalkin


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