Music Webmaster Len Mullenger
FILM MUSIC RECORDINGS REVIEWS
June 1999 Film Music CD
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|Jerry GOLDSMITH Breakout OST PROMETHEUS PCR 502 [39:58] Note: this is a limited Edition.Enquiries to: Prometheus Records - e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org||
This is more for Goldsmith completists and dedicated collectors than the general listener. The available music is of shortish duration (he only used 30 minutes of music in Patton, a film that runs for three hours) and the mood is pretty similar throughout. A Bronson 'vehicle', this action film boasts tense music (try 3 track 3 and the creeping Tapiola strings in The Tail) and as the excellent notes rightly point out a minimalist approach to the use of the orchestra.
What are the highlights? Ambushed offers some fine high sierra/chase music. There are some Penderecki-shrill strings in Hasty Exit. Border Crossing nods in the direction of The Magnificent Seven and is a rare example of the composer embracing a bigger sound though I have to say that the mood suggests Chevy Chase rather than Bronson and anything more earnest. Miraculous Recovery and Waiting are tense then relax into catchy guitar music mixed with a heel-clicking, foot-tapping sequence for the brass. The dark brass in Waiting sound like a tribute to the octopus music from Herrmann's Beyond The Twelve Mile Reef (when are we going to be treated to the full score of that film?). Tenderness and a Legrand-like approach to the serenade come across in Schemes, All Yours and the end titles. However tension is never far away usually suggested by maracas, squat brass spits and cracks and high strings. Breakout sports squat, snarling and confident brass. Other distinctive features include the ticking cool of the duo guitars in Main Title and False Arrest, and the presence (not altogether welcome to my ears!) of a synthesiser in End Title which is a condensed tone poem built from the previous cues. A Mexican street band make a smilingly uncomplicated contribution at 5:04 in the end-title track.
There are great notes by Gary Kester whose adroit descriptions and some artfully used (and re-used) stills add considerably to the end-result. The cover design revolves around the original cinema poster.
Recommended for Goldsmith completists.
|Jerry GOLDSMITH Rambo - First Blood Part II conducted by the composer SILVA SCREEN FILMCD 307 [60:33]||
Rambo films, of which this is the second, rode high during the Thatcher and Reagan years. The Brits devotion to US pap culture spelt success for the Rambo-Stallone character. The films were landslides of action and violence. They trod dodgy soil while making some politically correct noises about Vietnam they also celebrated a loner militarism which has the most uncomfortably tragic echoes in life everywhere.
The Goldsmith score is good; not outstanding. Leering noises, blatant violence and a measure of off-the-shelf tension memorably meet the influences of Janacek (Sinfonietta), Kodaly (Dances from Galanta) and the Rózsa of the Hungarian folk song strata. The Jump is a notably successful track.
There are 21 tracks and Silva inform me that the disc includes over 15 minutes of previously unavailable music.
In summary then, a good (though not compelling) score with some highlights. It is not in the league of certain other Goldsmith scores such as the delightful Mulan and some of the Star Trek music.
|FOSSE - Original Broadway Cast Recording conducted by the composer RCA VICTOR 09026 63379-2 [78:45]||
Crunchy Granola Suite; I Wanna Be a Dancin' Man; Sweet Heat; I Gotcha; Rich Man's Frug; Silky Thoughts/Cool Hand Luke; Dancin' Dan(Me and My Shadow); Nowadays; The Hot Honey Rag; Take Off With Us- Pas De Deux; Razzle-Dazzle; Who's Sorry Now?; There'll Be Some Changes Made; Mr Bojangles; Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries (reprise); Sing! Sing! Sing! - Part 1; Sing! Sing! Sing! - Part 2.
What an immense, incredible talent was Bob Fosse! Choreographer, director, dancer, actor, singer - he was all of these.
In 1973 Fosse became the only person in history to have won an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy Award all in the same year. His many Broadway successes included Call Me Mister, Pal Joey, The Pajama Game, and Sweet Charity. He appeared in a number of films including Kiss Me Kate, The Little Prince, My Sister Eileen and Damn Yankees. He went on to direct the film version of Sweet Charity, then Cabaret, and All that Jazz. He also directed non-musical films; Lenny and Star 80. His TV credits include three Emmy Awards as director/choreographer and co-producer of Liza with a Z. Bob Fosse also choreographed a ballet, Magic Bird of Fire (Nepotism).
Fosse, the musical that is his tribute, opened on January 14th 1999 on Broadway after palying in Toronto, Boston and Los Angeles. It comprises 21 numbers associated with his work All the numbers are delivered with great panache and vitality by a talented young cast. Very enjoyable
and another view from Warwick Mason
This recording is a collection of songs from different Broadway productions by Bob Fosse. In 1973 director Bob Fosse became the only person win an Oscar, a Tony and and Emmy award in the same year.
His Broadway credits between 1947 and 1952 include Call me Mister, Make Mine Manhattan, Dance me a Song, Billion Dollar Baby, The Roaring Twenties, Pal Joey and Pal Joey again in 1963.He went on to choreograph the Pajama Game and Damn Yankees , Bells are Ringing, New Girl in Town and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Between 1958 and 1966, Mr. Fosse directed and choreographed Redhead,Little Me and Sweet Charity, winning a Tony for each as a choreographer. In 1972 he received Tonys for his choreography and direction of Pippin. His last three Broadway musicals, Chicago, Dancin' and Big Deal were the first of his writer or co-writer/director/choreographer credits on Broadway.
On film he can be seen in Kiss Me, Kate (1953), The Little Prince (1974) and Thieves (1977) written by Herb Gardner as well as in My Sister Eileen (1955) and Damn Yankees (1958) for which he was also choreographer. He choreographed The Pajama Game in 1956 from then on also took on the role of director, beginning with Sweet Charity (1968). In 1972 he directed and choreographed Cabaret (winner of seven Oscars including Best Director) and in 1974 he directed his first non-musical film, Lenny. Mr. Fosse co-wrote, directed and choreographed All That Jazz (Cannes winner) and wrote and directed his second non-musical film, Star 80, in 1983.
His television credits include three Emmy Awards as director/choreographer and co-producer of Liza with a Z (1972). Mr.Fosse also choreographed a ballet, Magic Bird of Fire (Nepotism) and was a member of the Riff Brothers vaudeville team (1938).
The illustrious list of awards for Bob Fosse is a fitting tribute to the vast body of work he has done and the Broadway cast recording of the Livent production of "Fosse" is an entertaining 79 minutes worth. The twenty one tracks have an engaging liveness about them that transports the listener efffortlessly to
Centre front row. Many of the songs are familiar standards in their own right and are a pleasant reminder of the halcyon days of popular songs that have a good story to tell as well as instant melodic rapport.
"Life is a Bowl of Cherries", "Bye Bye Blackbird","Big Spender","Steam Heat", "Who's Sorry Now?" and "Mr.Bojangles" are articulated well and this new recording brings a refreshing interpretation of what are, after all, classics of their genre.
I was reminded of Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher" scene in "The Blues Brothers" (yes the original film not that awful sequel) by the arrangement of "Sing Sing Sing" (track 20) with the orchestra obviously having fun. The drummers tongue seems firmly in his cheek as he thwacks out some lovely tom-tom rolls. The brass section are definitely trying to out-wahhhh each other and some great solo parts appear as the song runs into track 21 with clarinet, brass and piano giving good account of the high standard of musicianship.
Throughout the recording the vocals are vibrant with all soloists displaying that "something" that singers have in their phrasing and tonality that is unmistakably "Broadway" . I liked the hints of Garland and Streisand that where skilfully underplayed by the soloists, it would have been a mistake to try to copy those greats and it would have slid into aural parody all too easily if they had tried.
What a clever idea to put together some of Bob Fosse's work in this way and, although I felt some initial trepidation at the range of musical eras strung together, it works really well. For those who aren't aficionados of the Broadway musical this CD delivers a good selection of well orchestrated classics.
It's definitely a night out, in.
|Alexina LOUIE and Alex PAUK plus source material - Last Night OST SONY Classical SK 60830||
The film "Last Night" by Canadian writer-director Don McKellar is all about the last night of the world. Goodness, a jaw dropping idea if ever I heard one. Do we need another vision of what the end of this millennium will be? I think that particular market is getting to saturation and its only June. McKellar said he was interested in making a film that would "answer those difficult questions: Who should I be with? Where will I go? What should I do as the world is ending?" Profound stuff alongside such earth-shatteringly great questions of our times as "Is it time for my pills yet? Didn't you know it's a Government Conspiracy? and "the 70's, the bands that time forgot?"
The music for the soundtrack of Last Night is an uncomfortable combination of 1970's pop songs and some original compositions by Alexina Louie and Alex Pauk. McKellar says that he started by compiling a very subjective top ten of all time, explaining that "they seemed to play wherever I went , not because I chose them, but through some perverse insistence of their own. I couldn't ignore music with such determination". I agree that it requires much determination to listen this collection of seventies ear floss. Maybe that's the point he's making, there's only one thing worse than the end of the world and that's listening to "Heartbeat, It's a Lovebeat" performed by the Defranco Family. It's not often I laugh out loud when I am trying to listen carefully to a music track but this one caught me out. Somebody tell me it was Jimmy Osmond on lead vocal please and my life will be complete.
The performances of these 70's tunes is fairly questionable and the lead vocals on "Glamour Boy" performed by The Guess Who had me staring at my monitor speakers in disbelief whist murmuring "it'll be over soon" to their abused midrange capability. The vibrato must have pushed the singer's larynx into inter-dimensional space, it should have stayed there.
The inclusion of Bachman-Turner-Overdrive is essential for the Smashy and Nicey fans and actually had a reasonably good guitar sound, this track leaning a little more towards the heavier side of things.
Having trashed the seventies music on this CD, I have to praise the work of Alex Louie and Alex Pauk. The tracks stand out as atmospheric and intense at times and although providing relief from the flares and afro hair on the other tracks are completely miscast as far as this recording goes. I would like to hear more of their work as it is well scored and interesting. Alexina Louie is composer in residence at the Canadian Opera company and Alex Pauk has composed over 35 concert works including commissions from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
The CD of "Last Night" was a "Fright Night" and easily qualified for a government health warning on the sleeve notes - "Listening to this CD will make your hair curl". Anyway put your flares on and grow a droopy moustache, after all it's not the end of the world, is it?
|Richard RODGERS and Oscar HAMMERSTEIN II The King and I Original Animated Feature Soundtrack SONY Classical SK 63386||
RICHARD RODGERS (music) and OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II (lyrics) THE KING AND I - animation (OST) arranged by William Kidd with voice of Barbara Streisand on track 1 Philharmonia Orchestra/William Kidd Anna - Christiane Noll (singer); Miranda Richardson (spoken voice) King - Martin Vidnovic (sung and spoken voice)
No doubt purists will shiver when they read the words 'arranged by' but here is an arrangement specially done for the soundtrack of the latest Warner Bros animation. No expense has been spared either: the orchestra is the Philharmonia. I hope that they are used again because the orchestral sound is one of the shining splendours of this recording.
Barbara Streisand sings the main theme song sequence (only - about 5 mins) and this will, for many, make this a must-buy, irrespective of content. She sings one song from the show (I Have Dreamed) and then segues into two others from the show but which are not used in the animation. As ever with Streisand the singing is strong, emotionally all there and with brain completely engaged in the words. The recording is reverberantly up-close and invades your space in a way that attracts rather than repels. The ambience is similar to that in the CD of Mulan.
Various aspects of the songs took me by surprise. Amongst these was the swirling whirlpool of menace in the introduction to I Whistle A Happy Tune. Hello Young Lovers Whoever You Are is extremely well done by Noll. The whole of the contribution by Christiane Noll is characterised by pure but natural enunciation without it for one moment sounding affected. Noll's is a name to be watched and I look forward to seeing her being used more often. Her sweetly honeyed and breathily intimate singing is extremely seductive. I have dreamed is well sung by David Burnham (apart from his weird pronunciation of 'view' and 'you') and similar laurels go to Tracy Venner Warren. Shall I Tell You What I Think Of You is very Lerner and Loewe with quite a bit of Henry Higgins in it. Shall We Dance Together has an introduction in which Rule Britannia puts in an appearance. Otherwise it is fluffily Straussian. Martin Vidnovic as the King has a difficult role but I thought his accent was far too stagey; you may like it.
Tracks 12-22 are orchestral only with 14 and 17 being notably sweet and 15 has some rustling Sibelian (Tapiola) shudders in the strings. The Banquet (20) has a stalking grandeur but overall I do not find these tracks that inspiring. The songs are a different matter.
If you enjoyed Mulan there are a few parallels in terms of sound and spirit so do try this CD. A new and reviving spin on the original and a glitteringly swirling event in its own right as well as a souvenir of the film.
There is a good booklet with illustrations from the animation and words for all the songs.
Strengths: the songs - both Streisand's one track and the others especially anything with Christiane Noll!
|Mychael DANNA Regeneration OST (Music with the war poetry of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen) VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6005 [41:51]||
Mychael Danna is a new name to me. The sleeve notes (a single double fold) give no biographical information and little else apart from stills from the film and a reasonable level of detail on the discographical side.
Though the disc times out as above there is in fact just over thirty minutes of original music by Danna. The remainder is made up of circa eight minutes of poems and one track from an ancient 78 presumably contemporary with the Great War. There is also a wild Gaelic dance comparable with that in Titanic at track 21. The poems are read with steely restraint.
Outstanding are the Wilfred Owen poems read by Stuart Bunce. His masterful account of Dulce Et Decorum Est and the final poem The Parable of the Old Man and the Young left a distinct shudder and a prickling of the hairs on the back of my neck.
One of my intended reads has been the Pat Barker trilogy. The way things are going I expect that the film will be my introduction to the sequence which takes as its focus the poetry of Wilfred Owen killed in the last year of the war and Siegfried Sassoon who survived both wars and died in 1967.
What of the music: Subdued, elegiac, pastoral? Yes, sorry to be predictable but Danna's music is summed up by those adjectives. The music is a step away from the music of Geoffrey Burgon for BBC's Testament of Youth (on a Silva Screen CD). Danna displays an eloquent Holstian reserve. Sad bugle calls echo across the shires and are dimly heard amongst the rumbling thunder of the Somme, Bapaume and Passchendaele. Danna strikes a consistent unity of mood but the whole suffers from insufficient variety. The music's elegiac tone is reinforced by the wonderful and (thank heavens!) youthful voice of Lucia Mrazova whose part is a vocalise which inhabits a number of the tracks where it is used as a humanising instrumental thread. I hope we will hear more from her. She would be wonderful in Gorecki 3 of Nystroem Sinfonia del Mare.
Not so much a Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs as a Symphony Of Tragic Elegies.
Just a passing thought: the Great War has been a dominating seam in the British arts. Did the involvement of the USA (albeit from 1917 onwards) spark an equivalent stratum in the arts of the USA?
You will know if you want this disc. It is too unvaried for general recommendation but is secure in its mood of celebrating sorrowing and remembering aching loss - a loss which is still alive in those living today.
|Mike POST Hill Street Blues Music from the Original Television Score SILVA SCREEN SILVAD 3510 [37:19]||
This out of the common rut cult US TV cops series is synonymous with a virtual realism approach to police drama. The Brits had been doing it for years in gritty 1960s series like Z Cars and the various 'Barlow' offshoots. The series certainly 'has legs' and still enjoys a following a repeats (though at increasingly late/early hours).
Hill Street's characters were firmly drawn, not over-glamourised, and hand-held camera techniques reinforced the impression of 'being there'. The series was a staple of UK Channel 4's 1980s output and one of its flagship successes quickly gathering a loyal following. So was born another cult series.
The magic lay not only in the factors mentioned above but also the fine acting, the poignancy of the plot-lines and the affection in which characters were held.
A further key factor is the music of Mike Post. The signature tune is coolly engaging; bluesy cruising at its best (as is the Councellor track). Freedom's End, Field of Honour, Forever and Wasted draw their melodic material from the theme (which is never far away from any of the tracks) but present it in pastoral elegiac Americana mode. Sadly, cruddy commercial rock influences also invade and deface the score -
(No Jive; Night on the Hill; Friend on the Hill) although these tracks do break the pattern which threatens monotony because of its continual deployment of the (rather good) main theme.The CD has a short playing time and no notes. This is for Hill Street diehards. For those who love the theme the CD offers a set of variations on this distinctive piece of nostalgic 1980s Americana.
and another view from Warwick Mason
Hill Street Blues has been around for a lot of years. I personally was never a fan of the TV series, as it seemed to epitomise the low-end aspects of American street life and the story lines were quite depressing. As usual with cop series there were buddy sub-plots, intrigues and the machinations of minor politicians as they interact on the fuzzy line between the law, politics and justice. It was an attempt to bring a gritty realism to the small screen but a lot of the time it was trite and the characters were stereotyped to the point of being cartoons.
This soundtrack is from the series and is basically a set of pastiches around the central theme. The opening track on this recording is the eponymous theme by Mike Post and is instantly accessible and recognisable. The music has a late seventies feel although the sleeve notes give a credit of "Made by Michael Jones Productions @1985". So I'm not sure what's going on here.
The following tracks, Cruising on the Hill, Field of Honour, Blues in the Day, Wasted and The City are funky, chest-wig musical wall paper and there's not much to choose between them, you wouldn't really tell them apart if you put the CD on shuffle play.
Track 7, Jive, is an attempt at contrast with a really poorly played slide guitar part and the whole thing sounding like it needs to be about 15 beats per minute faster on the metronome. There's no conviction (sic) to it and it's unhampered by the need for an attention span.
The rest of the music on here is very similar and becomes tiring to listen to after a short while. Freedom's End, Night on the Hill, Forever, Councellor, Captain, A Friend on the Hill, Officer Down and Suite from Hill Street Blues complete the collection.
For "Hill Street Blues" fans I suppose this CD would add an extra dimension but I don't know what. Being a TV series, most of this music would be played during the programmes so fans who have the episodes on tape already have the music.
Within the context of background music, this recording is suited to the TV series. The ambience of the visuals is reflected in the aural experience and that's as it should be. The only track that stood out for me was track 14, Officer Down, which had a good up front drum mix and was more spacious and dynamic than the other tracks.
Overall a workman-like production but eminently forgettable. Bit like me really.
|Collection - Hit TV Themes VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-5957 [42:02]||
When I opened the package and saw HIT TV Television's Top Themes I thought "Oh no ..no.. no " I mean doing reviewing for fun should mean you actually get some fun out of it. Right?
Taking the 'theme' from the sleeve notes, television themes used to be predictable and formulaic. They often had a catchy tune, sometimes an amusing lyric, memorable only in the most special cases when they were associated with a great show or written by a top composer. Today's TV themes are now drawn from a wide diversity of musical styles from rock to jazz. The intensity of competition for ratings means that a composer has to get to the musical point in 10 seconds or so and this makes this collection remarkable in that sense.
The first track, the theme for Ally McBeal, came as a great surprise. The quality of the band really stands out as something very special. Grant Geissman's lead guitar is tastefully played. Sounding like a Stratocaster with sufficient "crunch" to sustain the notes. The danger here is that the band becomes subsumed to a degree by the familiarity of the tune. No chance with these guys, a great performance, accurate and with great feel. Ally McBeal gives way to Seinfield on track 2 and Ken Wild's stormin' bass lines. The tight syncopation between Ken and Ed Smith on drums really grabs the groove. Again Grant Geissman's strat, excellently played this time in clean jazz mode, shows his first class musicianship. Ken's bass solo is truly inspired.
The next tracks are Law and Order,Caroline in the City, Frasier and Oz. The theme from South Park follows these and is quirky; utilising an odd timing played on brushes with quasi country guitar picking. This actually grew on me I am sad to say! The arrangement of the X-Files theme is interesting and studied - it would be easy to ruin the piece by trying to copy the original but the Band created a memorable performance.
Following the X-files is Mad About You with nice acoustic guitar lead. The ER theme follows this and the mixture of nylon strung guitar and piano works extremely well. The Nanny and Touched By An Angel are next with the theme from Friends following. Grant's lead guitar tone and playing on this track capture a great mood and a 'live' feel. The switch from normal guitar to slide guitar was an excellent choice during this track.
The last track, The Magnificent Seven, was taken at a slower pace than I remember it and probably the one I liked the least. The tune is too traditional to take a more modern treatment, although technically it was fine, it didn't have the punch and attraction of the earlier tracks.
Overall I was amazed at how these TV themes could stand up in their own right as credible pieces of music. The brilliant talent of Grant Geissman shines through and his guitar playing is (as the guitarists say) killer. The band is rock solid with both top class musicianship and accessibility throughout.
I'm glad to have this CD in my collection and my newly acquired square ears will match my square eyes.
|Basil POLEDOURIS Lassie Conducted by Basil Poledouris SONY WONDER LK-66414 [37:59]||
Basil Poledouris' score to "Free Willy" remains, to this day, an unfortunately overlooked example of magnificence. Its amalgamation of symphonic and electronic sound recalled natural wonder -- a score of sympathetic awe, the sort of musical painting an artist such as Mr. Poledouris captures and molds to the film.
Poledouris' soundtrack for "Lassie" (the 1994 return of the world's most popular collie) brings more of the same. The greatness is in the comprehension, the grandeur, the tenderness that is still present and as strong as ever. The sadness is in that we have heard slices of it before, and musical over-familiarity is not always easily brushed away. True, there are no moldy leftovers here, just a few things that need re-heating.
The themes are exceptional. The new "Lassie" theme's long melody line, and a counterpoint reminiscent of John Barry's trademark tunes, is vintage Poledouris. One could recognize the style instantly. There is a pulsing theme for a wolf attack that is wholly solid. And the track 'Lassie Protects the Herd' reminds us that this is by the same composer who brought us "Conan the Barbarian" several years before. There is really nothing thematically to complain about aside from the realization that the music could be fresher.
Those who do not mind their soundtracks slightly chilled (figuratively speaking) will delight in this score as any other Poledouris opus. One specific bit of orchestration is a different matter. I hear Poledouris intone Lassie's theme with French horns so many times that I suspect if people were hearing it live the entire section might have to worry about them clogging their bells & bores with clothing. For the sake of good music, Basil, leave the poor horn players alone!
The album is competently produced, and flows swiftly and unpretentiously. It would be perfect for listening to while driving on a country road... of course, sometimes that is all one asks for.
|Lisa STANSFIELD sings golden oldies and newer songs from SWING RCA/BMG 9 74321 669232 [41:00]||
We are breaking our rule not to include 'pop' music reviews because this is such an glorious and infectious collection that we just had to include a brief review. The film set in Liverpool is, to quote BMG press office's blurb: 'a heart-warming story, triumphant story about working-class friends who despite obstacles, follow their dream to form a swing band. This is the exuberant style of music from the 30, 40s and 50s but mostly it brings back memories of the stoicism of the home front in the 1940s and the years of austerity that succeeded World War II. Classics like Ain't What You Do, Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens and Mack the Knife are belted out with real abandon and there are quieter more romantic numbers like Our Love Is Here To Stay too. A nice fun disc.
The contents are:
1) Ain't What You Do
2) Ain't Nobody Here Bu Us Chickens
3) Baby I Need Your Love
4) Gotta Get On This Train
5) Martin's Theme
6) Why Do We Call It Love
7) Our Love is Here To Stay
8) Love's Theme
9) I Thought That's What You Liked About Me
10) Watch The Birdie
11) The Best is Yet to Come
12) Martin's Theme (reprise)
13) Blitzkrieg Baby
14) Two Years Too Blue
15) Mack the Knife
|George and Ira GERSHWIN Girl Crazy Broadway Cast including Mary Martin SONY SK 60704 (46:50)||
Girl Crazy, in its movie incarnation, starred Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney; it was one of M-G-M's successes of 1943. The film retained most of the show's infectious songs with some interpolations and new numbers written by resident composer Roger Edens.
The original Broadway show dated back to the 1930-31 season, but despite its quality and the unusual number of big hit songs, it ran for just 272 performances. The blame for its relatively short run was the results of the 1929 stock market collapse. By comparison, a revised version that opened in February 1992 under the title Crazy For You enjoyed a run of 1,622 performances. It also did very well in London.)
The story is quite madcap; it's about a New York playboy who is banished to a quiet little Arizona township. He travels all the way in a New York taxi cab and turns the humdrum farm where he stays into a bustling dude ranch and gambling emporium. There are also the inevitable romantic complications and entanglements. Mary Martin shines in her role as the postmistress heroine Molly Gray. Her expressive singing of 'Embraceable You', 'I Got Rhythm' and 'But Not For Me' are some of the highlights in this album which delights from beginning to end. The other evergreen numbers include: 'Bidin' My Time'; 'Treat Me Rough' and 'Boy! What Love Has Done For Me'.
|Irving BERLIN As Thousands Cheer The Drama Dept production with Neville Chamberlain; Judy Kuhn; Howard McGillin; Paula Newsome; Mary Beth Peil;B.D. Wong; and David Evans (piano) Lou Bruno (bass). VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-5999 [45:17]||
Not to be confused with the routine Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson M-G-M musical of 1943, Thousands Cheer. As Thousands Cheer - the musical comedy review was a huge success when it opened on September 30th 1933 on Broadway with a cast that included: Clifton Webb, Ethel Waters, Marolyn Miller and Helen Broderick. It reminds us - if we ever needed reminding - of the genius of Irving Berlin. Like Cole Porter, he was a brilliant lyricist as well as composer of not only a host of memorable romantic ballads but also many caustically witty and sometimes risqué songs.
This brilliant new production by the Drama Department gives us the opportunity of appreciating these hard-hitting satirical songs - many of which must have really blown the 1930s audiences.
The programme is based on a series of comments on newspaper headlines of the day. It opens with the traditional 'Man Bites Dog is news' admonition to cub reporters. In this opening number we learn that the man was French and that the dog was a she bitch and a poodle. Of the 15 numbers on the album, the best known are Easter Parade and Heat Wave - " we are having a heat wave when she made her seat waive, she created a heat wave her anatomee made the mercuree rise to 93!" Then there is the hauntingly beautiful number, Lonely Heart about the girl who writes to the lonely hearts column of the newspaper.
What really must have shaken the 1933 premiere audience was Supper Time. In the middle of a high-spirited musical comedy revue, this headline appeared: 'Unkown Negro Lynched by Frenzied Mob' - the song that followed when Ethel Waters stepped out in a tattered apron, singing it is 'supper time' and that she should be setting the table but what's the use since her man wouldn't be coming home, must have stunned them. Paula Newsome delivers this awesome song with pathos, dignity and fiery defiance.
The Metropolitan Opera songs are hilarious. In Metropolitan Opening we meet the new millionaires like Mr Ruben, a Cuban who has a delicatessen empire; while Metropolitan Opens in Old-Time Splendour celebrates the inanities of commercial radio. Simultaneously, we hear an aria from Lucia di Lammermoor, a commercial for Muelers Miracle Mustard Sauce, the Williams Family - a soap opera, and the world famous chef, M. Pepiton.
In Our Wedding Day, we are invited to join a wedding party but instead of joining the couple in church we meet them in their bedroom for they had been living in sin before the ceremony. Then we discover that this is the norm when we are invited to meet New York Through A Keyhole. "Get a view of who is cheating who if you want to get an in on the latest bit of sin have a look through a keyhole. If you want to see New York getting ready for the Stork if you really want to know how she got into the show, have a look "
Naughty but nice. Great fun with terrific singing from a cast that sparkles.
|Chants from The Thin Red Line Melanesian Choirs: The Blessed Islands RCA VICTOR 09026 63470 2 [51:49]||
And now, for something completely different .. someone singing for the sheer joy of it! The Melanesian Choirs of Guadacanal perform some entirely uplifting and wonderfully unaffected chants and songs on this CD from RCAVictor.
The choirs mostly sing unaccompanied and the natural exuberance of the performances are captured vividly in this production by Claude Letessier and Terrence Malick.
They were recorded in November 1997 on the South Pacific Island of Guadacanal with the mixed male and female voices being recorded during a choir practice at All Saints Parish, Honiara. The male voices were recorded during an early morning service of the Melanesian Brotherhood (a community of lay ministers located in Tabalia on the western end of the island).
The words, with few exceptions, are in pidgin English, the common language of the Solomon Islands. At the time of the recording the director of the All Saints Choir was Brother Zephaniah (who is now working in the Philippines) and the choir master of the Melanesian Brotherhood is Robert Nani.
The Choirs have an innocent charm and the inclusion in them of young voices adds to that ambience. The harmonic structure of the songs is simple and instantly accessible and after a couple of listenings, I was quite familiar with the melodies. The lyrics are a different prospect though and I have to admit to a total failure to grasp the pidgin english lyrics most of the time! However, this didn't prevent me from half an hour's entertainment trying to figure some out. I guess that "Mi go longway" (track 10) is "I have a long way to go" although "God yu tekkem loef blong mi" (track 3) couldn't really be something about the Almighty helping himself to my bread roll, could it?
There are 26 tracks in total and they are largely of religious content. I can see your face drop as you may consider this to be a down side but this music should not be considered as being boring or self-righteous. Quite the contrary, it would be wonderful if church services could all include chants and songs as uplifting and smile making as these are.
The message on the CD is "The people of Guadacanal wish you joy!". After listening and thoroughly enjoying their performance I would say "..yu holem hand blong mi".
|The ANNA RUSSELL Album? SONY MDK 47252 [77:03]||
Following on from the hilarious Anna Russell - Again? album reviewed on this site last month I could not resist turning my critical ears to this first collection of Ms Russell's penetratingly witty shafting of the world of music. With Ms Russell nothing is sacred - thankfully.
We learn that she was taught by a teacher with an unbelievably long and quite unpronounceable name - " He taught me everything I know - even singing." We learn that she sang with the Ellis Island Opera Company. Of her singing the part of the Goddess in the opera The Goddess in the Underground, a reviewer wrote that she sounded quite unearthly and that he didn't think that the human voice was capable of such sounds.
Ms Russell's 21-minute analysis of Wagner's Ring is a tour de force. She describes the Rhine Maidens as a sort of aquatic Andrews Sisters, Wotan as a crashing bore and Siegfried as a Little Abner type. When she tells us of the meeting between Wotan and Erda (described as a green torso stuck in the earth.) we learn that that Erda 'begs Wotan "Be careful, Be careful" - and then bears him eight daughters! She then tells us how Siegmund falls in love with Sieglinde. "She's married so it's immoral and she's his sister so it's illegal But that's opera - you can do anything as long as you sing it!"
Ms Russell also takes off the German lied, the French art song and the English folk song ("British - pure but dull"). We are also told how one can write one's own Gilbert and Sullivan opera according to a formula and we are introduced to her characters: heroine Pneumonia Venderfelt and hero Clodberry Bunion in an unlikely story about mistaken identity and thwarted love amongst the New York upper classes before everything is resolved by a long lost baby being identified by an onion shaped bunion. On the way, Ms Russell lampoons all the typical G & S songs.
Seventy-five minutes of hilarious fun in the company of a lady who obviously knows and loves music.
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