Archives for: December 2008, 03
By Andy Propst on Dec 3, 2008 | In ATW Reviews
Tommy Krasker and Philip Chaffin's company has released a rather amazing assortment of discs over the past 12 months, preserving not only adventurous new musicals from Broadway, off-Broadway and beyond, but also delivering a host of vocals discs that span a spectrum of styles and genres.
From the company's original cast recordings releases, there are three that for most musical theater enthusiasts are must haves (or must gives): from Broadway, John Bucchino's A Catered Affair; from off-Broadway, Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith's Adding Machine, and from London, Ricahrd Maltby Jr. and David Shire's Take Flight. The common factor in both the shows and the recordings is the writers' dedication to telling uniquely theatrical stories with scores that both are simultaneously provocative, pleasing, and innovative. These discs not only sound great, but for those people who were unable to see the productions in their original incarnations on stage, they also are complete enough to give the sense of having actually experienced the musicals onstage. The packaging for the discs only adds to one's enjoyment of this trio of recordings, each is packaged with full-color booklet and comes with lyrics/libretto.
Two other cast recordings from PS Classics are of the pop-infused musicals Xanadu and Happy Days. Each of these discs will have their admirers and it's great to have them on the CD shelf, but no matter how enjoyable, these two beautifully produced discs simply can't compare to the company's other releases. Still for those who like a little theatrical pop-music, these two are worth bearing in mind.
In addition to these releases (and five more unreviewed at this juncture – see below), PS Classics released a grand spectrum of work by individual artists during the year. Chaffin's When the Wind Blows South is a delectable mixture of songs from musicals and pop standards. (For a fuller review of this release visit this link). Kerry Butler's solo offering, Faith, Trust & Pixie Dust proves charming through and through and with its emphasis on music from the Disney songbook – does such a thing really exist – might be a great way to introduce young people to the joys of vocals that are not necessarily pop or rock and roll. (Here's a link to an earlier review.)
Both of these discs would certainly delight as gifts this holiday season as would the often hysterical Jackie Hoffman Live at Joe's Pub, a wonderfully immediate recording of the irreverent comedian performing the cutting edge songs that she's introduced, and penned with composers like Ian Hoyt and Dave Brunetti, in her one-woman shows over the years. For anyone who's not been able to catch this singular performer in person, "Joe's Pub" is a terrific introduction to her comedic song stylings – which on many levels are a grand throwback to an era when such recordings were regularly available.
Equally notable is John Miller's Stage Door Johnny, where blues-y, folks-y and Latin sounds blend with Broadway classics in remarkable and often delightfully unexpected ways. It's hard not to be captivated by Miller's bi-lingual "Hey There" (from Pajama Game) and bemused by the new lyrics he uses for I Can't Say No (from Oklahoma!). A rendition of "Fugue for Tinhorns" (from Guys and Dolls) finds Miller sharing the microphone with Bob Dorough and Janis Siegel and when he gets around to delivering "Real Live Girl" well, the song's once again offered in two languages – this time English and Portuguese. For fans of Broadway classics reinterpreted, this is simply a must-have or must-give in 2008.
Among the other vocals discs from the company this year: Capathia Jenkins and Louis Rosen's marvelous second collaboration One Ounce of Truth and Long and Winding Road, a gorgeous new disc from Maureen McGovern.
As 2008 has wound down, PS Classics has busily released another 6 discs, which I've not had a chance to listen to yet. Included among these are the cast recording of The Marvelous Wonderettes hard to imagine anything going horribly wrong with this jukebox musical filled with girl-group songs of the 1950s and 1960s and the latest installment of the company's songwriter series Howard Sings Ashman, which features a wealth of songs from shows like Beauty and the Beast and Little Shop of Horrors being sung by the man who wrote them. Always adventurous, PS Classics also has recently issued recordings of Ricky Ian Gordon's opera of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. The company's discs for the year have been rounded out by one featuring Broadway's Jason Danieley and the children's show Dear Edwina. Expect reviews of these on Friday. Tomorrow, reviews of releases from Ghostlight Records.
[Editor's note: right now, PS Classics is running a big sale on their site, www.psclassics.com. They're offering many titles for the exceptional price of just $9.95.]
---- Andy Propst