Archives for: December 2008, 02
By Andy Propst on Dec 2, 2008 | In ATW Reviews
Well, it's a season of gift-giving, and for most people, extravagance is not going to be an option. For theaterlovers, and musical theater fans in particular, great gifts can often be simply a CD. Over the next few days, ATW offers up a retrospective of titles, arranged by label/distributor, that have been released during 2008…to give you a sort of checklist/compendium of gift ideas for the holidays.
DRG Records' wide array releases during 2008 provide a host of gift ideas this holiday season, starting with the most recent (and let's hope penultimate) cast recording of Gerard Alessandrini's Forbidden Broadway. The most recent recording, Forbidden Broadway: Rude Awakening brims with Alessandrini's signature wickedly loving brand of satire and on this disc, his parodies of Mary Poppins, Les Miserables, and Spring Awakening (with a nod to Love/Musik) are among the most deft he's created in the show's two-decade plus history. There's some grand bonus material on "Awakening," and this one should certainly be a top contender as a potential gift.
Similarly delightful, but in kinder, sweeter, and gentler ways are two of DRG's reissues on compact disc. One, Happy Hunting, brings an Ethel Merman vehicle from 1956 back to CD. The other, Say Darling, gives a 1958 show life on CD for the first time. Both f these have been reviewed here before, and here you'll find out why "Hunting" and "Darling" would be most gratefully received by clicking the above links.
It's worth noting that DRG released three other cast recordings on CD during the year. First, it brought Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's Me and Juliet back to active release. Like "Hunting," this little-known R&H score had been out-of-print for many years. The grand new release from DRG features several bonus tracks including a single that Perry Como released of one of the songs from the show, "Keep It Gay," and a conversation with Richard Rodgers about "Dream." It's a disc well-worth considering. Equally notable is this company's release of Jerry Herman's Milk and Honey, which has also come back to disc courtesy of ArkivMusic. As you're considering these companies' options, bear in mind that the DRG release comes with one track of bonus material: Robert Goulet's rendition of the stirring anthem from the show, "Shalom." The company's final cast recording offering is something that has been given the label of "Volume 1" and it's a release of two studio cast recordings on one CD. On The Best of Broadway, Volume 1, you'll find the likes of Peggy Lee, Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae offering up tunes from Kiss Me, Kate and South Pacific. It's a promising first step in a seeming series, as was noted in this review (link to previous review).
Alongside these releases during 2008, DRG also brought work from individual vocalists to disc, both new recordings and reissues. In the former category, DRG turned to two grand stars of stage and cabaret, Barbara Cook and Karen Akers. On Simply Styne, Akers lends her smoky and luxurious voice to a host of Styne's songs for stage and screen, making them sometimes ache with longing that one might never have expected ("Just in Time" from Bells Are Ringing, for instance) or infusing them with a mature playfulness that captures the original spirit of the song and then expands on it (heard most prominently in a medley from Gypsy). "Styne" would certainly be a welcome gift this season as would Cook's Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder, which finds the singer in superb form, lending her voice to songs ranging from Rodgers and Hart's "Where or When" to Harburg and Lane's "Old Devil Moon." Perhaps the most unique track on this disc, which features musical direction from Lee Musiker, is a medley of Kurt Weill's "Lost in the Stars" and Stephen Sondheim's "No More."
The company's reissues of older material include a wonderful re-release and expansion of Judy Garland at the Grove (see longer review at this link) and a jaunty set of vocals from early in Sammy Davis' career (original ATW mention). Additionally, the company brought an absolutely beguiling recording from Annie Ross to disc - Sings a Song with Mulligan, which delivers some jazz-y interpretations of songs like "I Feel Pretty" and "I've Grown Accustomed To Your Face" (offered here in not one, but two distinct versions). A disc from Kay Starr, Swinging with the Starr, features some fine vocals and a diverse selection of music, everything from "All of Me" to "More I Cannot Wish You" (from Guys and Dolls). Though there are no vocals on A Sure Thing, listeners probably will find themselves singing along to the music of Jerome Kern as played by horn-player Barry Tuckwell with full orchestra under the direction of Neil Richardson. This is a grand throwback to an era when theater songs were part of the aural vocabulary of record-buyers.
Finally, though not theater-related, a host of DRG's releases in 2008 are of interest to musical theater affionados, including a jazz disc from Andre Previn, What Headphones?, a recording of Dory Previn's 1973 Carnegie Hall concert and the singularly named Simone's take on her mother Nina Simone's legacy: Simone on Simone.
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