These titles are rather better
known than the contents of the shows themselves.
They are amongst a number of original Broadway
cast recordings that were released on Decca
and Columbia 78 records during the opening
runs and they sold well. The coming of the
LP brought about their first transcription
and again they were popular.
This CD release is taken
from the original records by Peter Dempsey
who has done an excellent job with the transcription
and cancellation of surface noise.
Guys and Dolls
is an old chestnut that needs no introduction.
Of its numbers, the best known are 'Sit
Down, You're Rocking the Boat' [tk.14],
'I've Never been in Love Before' [tk.9],
'Luck be a lady’ [tk.12], and 'Guys
and Dolls' [tk.6].
Some of the singing here
is strident when judged by operatic standards,
but of course this is an American musical,
a genre where emphasis on the right characterisation
is of paramount importance. Robert Alda sings
competently and with authority as the lead,
Sky Masterson. Isabel Bigley (Sarah Brown)
gives good support with good vocal range and
timbre. The singers are well- suited to their
roles and yet Vivian Blaine (as the comically
frivolous Miss Adelaide) is rather piercing
with her reedy voice. With experience of nightclub
singing, her over-the-top shrill voice may
well match her on-stage characterisation,
but here is unwelcome. Pat Rooney (as Arvide)
is an inexperienced singer who has a soft
velvety tone yet tends to waver or crack on
Much energy is shown in creating
this recording with the forwardly placed singers
and clear diction. The musical direction is
first class and the small orchestra respond
well under the direction of Irving Actman.
Styne's Gentlemen Prefer
Blondes does not enjoy as vivacious
a score as the one written a year later by
Loesser (above) and so I did not enjoy this
musical to the same extent. There is no clear
theme, the lyrics are particularly trivial
(It's Delightful down in Chile), and
much of the orchestration is simplistic. The
chorus is small, but accurate in its close
harmony singing [tk.23].
Although the recording is
not as dry as Guys and Dolls there
is a lack of clarity to the vocals, particularly
in the chorus numbers.
This show is remembered principally
for one number, 'Diamonds are a Girl's
Best Friend'. This is sung by Carol
Channing in character as the perkily common
Lorelei. I would have preferred a smoother
rendition in a softer, more sensual voice.
We can however grasp her potential as a good
singer at the beginning of 'A Little Girl
from Little Rock' where she retains the
comedy in delivery yet reveals a good voice.
Jack McCauley is a confident lyrical singer
who commands a strong presence and sounds
well with the long drifting phrases of
'Bye, Bye, Baby' [tk.18]. He exudes all
the confidence needed to overcome those dotty
on-stage females. Yvonne Adair (as Dorothy)
provides the calculated charm needed to match
the engaging rhythm of the jazzed up number
'I Love what I am Doing' [tk.20]. Her
stage partner Eric Brotherson (as Henry Brotherson)
[was his name especially written into the
part by Leo Robin, writer?] is very fitting
with his mature handling of the role.
The orchestra is recessed
at times with a noticeable drop in woodwind
and mid frequencies: or is it more a limitation
of the orchestration?
The artists in these recordings
are those who made the stage performances
famous. Both musicals were made into films
by MGM in 1955 (Guys and Dolls) and
20th Century Fox in 1953 (Gentlemen