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TEA FOR TWO
THE SONGS OF VINCENT YOUMANS
27 original mono recordings 1925-1951

Compiled by Ray Crick and Peter Dempsey
Transfers by Peter Dempsey and David Lennick
Restoration by Doug Shearer
LIVING ERA CD AJA 5379 [79.29]

 

 

Crotchet Budget price

1) TEA FOR TWO (Marion Harris)
2) I WANT TO BE HAPPY (Helen Clark and Lewis James)
3) NO, NO, NANETTE (Binnie Hale)
4) TAKE A LITTLE ONE-STEP (Binnie Hale and George Grossmith Jnr.)
5) WILDFLOWER...BAMBALINA (Layton and Johnstone)
6) LIKE HE LOVES ME (Beatrice Lillie with Vincent Youmans)
7) NOCODEMUS (Beatrice Lillie with Vincent Youmans)
8) JOIN THE NAVY (Stanley Holloway)
9) HALLELUJAH (The Revelers)
10) SOMETIMES IíM HAPPY (Louise Groody and Charles King)
11) GREAT DAY (Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra)
12) MORE THAN YOU KNOW (Helen Morgan)
13) WITHOUT A SONG (Lawrence Tibbett)
14) THE ONE GIRL (John Boles)
15) WEST WIND (John Boles)
16) TIME ON MY HANDS (Al Bowlly with Ray Noble and orchestra)
17) RISE ĎN SHINE (Roy Fox and band with Denny Stevens)
18) THROUGH THE YEARS (Nelson Eddy)
19) FLYING DOWN TO RIO (Fred Astaire)
20) THE CARIOCA (Connee Boswell)
21) ORCHIDS IN THE MOONLIGHT (Rudy Vallee)
22) MUSIC MAKES ME (Fred Astaire)
23) TEA FOR TWO (Doris Day)
24) OH ME! OH MY! OH YOU! (Doris Day and Gene Nelson)
25) I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW (Doris Day and Gene Nelson)
26) I WANT TO BE HAPPY (Doris Day and Gene Nelson)
27) TEA FOR TWO (Art Tatum)

 

Vincent Youmans was born in New York in 1898, his father a milliner by trade who had hopes his son would follow him into the business. But Vincent, who for some reason had the nickname "Millie", had other ideas. His interest was the piano, and to help finance advanced studies he worked in a finance company in Wall Street. During WW1 he joined the American Navyís Great Lakes Naval Training Station and made his first acquaintance in stage shows as co-producer of musicals, and also as a writer of music for Military Bands. His Unit Leader admired his work, particularly "Hallelujah", one of Vincent's compositions which was later adapted from a march given lyrics to become a hit in the show "Hit The Deck" . In spite of the exceptionally high quality of his work many of the shows he wrote music for had short runs or even flopped. This was mainly caused by his failure as producer and trying to do too much himself instead of delegating to professionals. He changed lyricists more often than any of the other great song writers of the time, yet in spite of this what you hear on this disc are songs beautifully composed and sung by well known performers of the time.

The first four are from "No, No, Nanette" which ran in Chicago for a year. In New York in October 1925 Marion Harris recorded "Tea for Two". This is a singer little known now, but she has a voice no one could tire from, so easily does she ensure every word is clearly heard. Itís a simple song with a simple musical theme not easily forgotten, and you will find yourself humming along to the words . The year before Helen Clark and Lewis James recorded another hit from the show "I Want To Be Happy". A light, airy duet that will also set you humming, as it did me. What could be more appropriate to follow than the title song recorded March 1925 in London by Binnie Hale with the original London Cast. I thought the music a little loud, but it didnít in any way spoil Haleís singing in the unique way so many of the singers of that era had. The chorus join in when needed and the whole performance goes with the swing it did when performed on stage. Again Binnie Hale delights us with the original London cast in "Take A Little One-Step". I loved this and Binnie demonstrates how she is able to adjust her voice to any tempo the music and song demands. A song perhaps not too well known now but certainly a pleasure to listen to.

In 1923 Youmans wrote a show called "The Wildflower" and from it come the following two songs, both recorded in London in 1931. The always remembered Turner Layton and Clarence Johnson are featured in "Wildflower" and " Bambalina". Turner Layton was well known to be different in how he presented and performed, and when you hear these two combined numbers you will understand why. As I listened I visualised his fingers tripping over the piano keys as he sings, making sure his voice made the most of every note of the music in the very special way he always could.

Next come two recordings from the Broadway show "Oh, Please". Beatrice Lillie, who was in the original cast, recorded "Like he Loves me" with a male chorus and Youmans himself at the piano. In spite of the show being a flop on Broadway I thought these numbers well worth listening to, particularly with Beatrice Lillie. The male chorus sing the introduction with gusto, and Youmans ably supports on the piano which he continues to do when Beatrice Lillie starts to sing in her own inimitable style. To listen to her is always a joy and with the chorus in the background she joins in with the same zest. The second number is "Nicodemus" with Youmans on the piano again. This is a story/song with a definite stress on humour. Beatrice Lillie is a lively performer who can cleverly change her voice when she feels its necessary and she makes this a real pleasure to listen to.

We have three songs from "Hit the Deck". In London in November 1927 "Join the Navy" was recorded by Stanley Holloway from the original London Cast with the Hippodrome Orchestra and Chorus. This came as a complete surprise as I have never heard this version before. But what a pleasant surprise when I heard the sonorous sound of the orchestra start in the introduction and then how they slow the tempo before we hear Holloway chatting to someone in the background until he breaks into song. This is a thoroughly musical version with variations on a song occasionally sang now. The young Holloway sounds as good as he has always done and this arrangement proves what a well performed and successful show it must have been. "Hallelujah" was recorded in New York in April 1927 and, said earlier, was originally a march for the US Navy with the lyrics added later. Here you will hear the popular group Revelers with Frank Black at the piano. They sing in a whimsical style and itís a number that will set your feet tapping and your hands beating on your knees. This is followed by "Sometimes I Think Iím Happy", a duet between Louise Groody and Charles King from the original Broadway cast in 1927. A quiet, pleasant love song, and both singers are beautifully in accord with each other.

From "Great Day" we first hear the title music recorded in New York in 1929 with no less than Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra and four vocalists of which a young Bing Crosby is one. This recording belongs to Whiteman and his instrumentalists play brilliantly in what could have been classed as a very ordinary number. "More Than You Know" follows with Helen Morgan from the original London Cast in 1929. She has a voice full of warmth and feeling, her top notes clear and effortless and she sings without any elaboration. This is followed by the great Lawrence Tibbett in the wonderful "Without a Song", recorded in New York in 1931. To me Tibbett can never be faulted and he sings here as he always does without apparent effort. His voice rings out clearly no matter what. He has great charm and itís so easy to fall under his spell.

The following two songs are from the film "Song of The West". In California in November 1929 John Boles recorded "The One Girl". Immediately my mind went back and I remembered that when I was very young I waited impatiently to see all his films. What a real heartthrob he was, and how when I knew one of his films was going to be shown the anticipation I felt while waiting to see it. That was many years ago, and I hadnít seen or heard him since so I was anxious to hear him again. What a disappointment. His voice didnít match up to what I remembered of him, and I realise it had been his good looks that had appealed to me. This recording proves that he did have a voice that was pleasant and easy to listen to, but no more than that. I canít really say the song is one that appealed to me but it does have a pleasant enough melody. At the same time Boles made "West Wing" . This is much better as Boles sings well, every word clearly heard, every note clear and smooth. A sad song, though, not one that will make you want to stand up and dance.

From the show "Smiles" comes "Time On My Hands" recorded in London in 1931 by Al Bowlly with who else but Ray Noble and his Mayfair Orchestra. Al is a great favourite of mine and he sings in his usual sparkling, stylish manner. As always his singing portrays perfectly what he is telling you and Noble supports superbly. I loved this. Next we have a number from the show "Take a Chance", "Rise and Shine" recorded in London in May 1936 with Roy Fox and his orchestra accompanying Denny Dennis. This recording must be attributed chiefly to Roy Fox as itís his band you hear more than Dennis. There is no mistaking the playing. Itís so typical of how the bands of that time played. Never would you hear in these days a band play in the same way. I thought Dennisís voice mediocre but it was enough to make the playing of "Rise and Shine" into a charming tuneful melody. Next is the title song from "Through The Years" recorded in Hollywood in December 1935 and sung by Nelson Eddy, another heartthrob. I liken this song to a serenade because this was his natural way of singing.

Next we have four different songs recorded from different films at various times. From "Flying Down To Rio" we have the title song from the ever-popular Fred Astaire. In his inimitable way he sings with all the dynamism and energy he always had. Next we have "The Carioca" sung by Connie Boswell and although I didnít dislike how she sang it I did feel it was too slow. This should be a quick, lively number that makes you want to stand up and twist your body in time to the music. You will enjoy "Orchids in the Moonlight" recorded by Rudy Vallee and his Connecticut Yankees. The start of the number is typical tango music and I would have liked it to go on. But when Rudy joins in the whole concept changes from a delightful tango to a straight song. I havenít heard a great many of Rudy Vallee recordings over time and although he does have a delightful voice I wasnít greatly impressed. We follow this with "Music Makes Me", a lesser known recording by Fred Astaire who you hear not only singing the number but every now and again tapping a few steps as he sings.

In Hollywood in 1950 Doris Day recorded four Youmans songs from films, the first of which is a new arrangement of "Tea For Two". Itís always a pleasure to hear Doris no matter what she sings. Next is "Oh Me! Oh My! Oh You!" with a mixture of foot tapping and musical chat. The same applies in the next number "I Know That You Know" and with the same accompanists as before Doris makes this another lively number. The last of these Doris Day recordings is "I Want To Be Happy". A really familiar number and Doris, with that vivacious, bubbly, friendly way she has no matter what the song, sings with great feeling in a stylish arrangement.

There is one last recording of "Tea For Two" made in Los Angeles in 1939 very much in Jazz Style for piano only and performed brilliantly by the great Art Tatum. You hear his hands tripping over the keys with no apparent effort and amazing dexterity. Perfect to listen to.

I highly recommend this disc. The transfers from long ago are well up to the standard we have come to expect from "Living Era" .

Joan Duggan

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