Described appropriately, by Adrian Wright, the writer of the notes for this album, as a ‘sort of sub-Noel Coward figure’. Alan Melville will be remembered by older generations as an urbane and witty writer of revue material often presenting, quite drolly, his own material. There were also diverting but now forgotten plays. He was also a broadcaster, notably as the presenter of the TV series “A to Z”. Besides being an accomplished lyricist, he was also a composer but in the case of Marigold, his composer collaborator, with whom he often worked, was Charles Zwar, ‘a composer with the lightest of touches,’ as Adrian Wright rather tactfully describes him.
Alan Melville shone in his role as a creator of bitingly satirical songs and sketches. A collection of these is included as this CD’s ‘supporting programme’ under the title of Melvillainy which is, by far, the best of this album. What’s more the songs hardly date. For example, instead of ‘… fairies at the Bottom of my Garden’ … there’s a large quantity of decaying rhubarb leaves, half a corset and a very old chipped potty … Then ‘Noel, Noel’ provokes a brilliant Coward impression and witticisms. These address Noel Coward’s espionage activities and how, for example he ‘… stole confidential dockets about the latest type of rockets out of Rommel’s trouser pockets when the guy was in his cups …’ and ‘… he retrieved stolen papers from Vickers from someone’s knickers …’ In ‘Jets’ he bewails the noise and damage caused by aircraft flying over his house, complaining, ‘each time a jet flies faster than sound, crash go two more chandeliers to the ground …’ and ‘each time test pilots fly low overhead, small bits of Dresden are found in my bed …’. He is joined by that lovely character actress, Fabia Drake in ‘Restoration piece’ in which Fs often get confused with Ss. ‘Not fo saft, fomeone might fee … I come to your clofet as a humble fuitor…’
I couldn’t get excited about Marigold. It’s just tedious and dull. Its intent was to revisit the older, innocent and less controversial British musicals. The glamour and brilliance of Ivor Novello, Edward German or Lionel Monckton is not matched here. Marigold’s songs are largely uninspiring, the tunes, forgettable. The lyrics for ‘Always Ask Your Heart’ may be charming but they’re let down by Zwar’s less than entrancing melody. The recorded sound, somewhat cavernous and echo-bound, makes the words of the chorus often indistinct. However solo singers’ lyrics (recorded more closely?’) fare better. Was this a recorded theatrical performance?
Marigold’s rather thin, twee plot revolves around young Marigold, brought up in the stifling Scottish community of Peebles. She is expected to marry a dull farmer but Marigold is influenced by the more sophisticated tastes of French actress, Madame Marly who turns out to be Marigold’s mother. Accordingly Marigold revolts and runs off to seek adventure and romance with the dashing Archie in Edinburgh.
Sally Smith as Marigold sings sweetly in a sub-Julie Andrews sort of way. Jean Kent, known from her appearances in so many British films of the period, is cast as Madame Marly and impresses. The then young Jeremy Brett is a debonair Archie and is in good voice too if you can forgive his odd wavering note.
Forget Marigold; relish Melvillainy.
Forget Marigold; relish Melvillainy.
Overture into Romance at the Manse
Love Can’t Be Learned
The New Bohemian Polka
According to Mr Payton
Always Ask Your Heart
Her Majesty’s Health
Present Day Youth
Reprise: Always Ask Your Heart
There Are No Fairies at the Bottom of My Garden
Down Down Down
The Art of Midlothian
Yonder Blessed Moon
Is it True What They Say About Dixie? And Which Witch