Wednesday, March 19, 2008

3 From DRG: Say, Darling, Annie Get Your Gun, Garland

It's been a busy late winter of releases for DRG Records. They've just brought out three titles onto CD for the first time - each a little treasure unto itself.

First, there's an ebullient concoction from Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Say, Darling. This play with music from 1958 is based on a novel from Richard Bissell (the man behind "7 ½ Cents" which morphed into The Pajama Game) is a backstage story plain and simple about a guy from the midwest (like Bissell) who pens an incredibly popular novel (like Bissell) who finds himself working on Broadway as his book is turned into a musical (like Bissell).

While the songs in the show were performed by accompaniment from two pianos, this original cast recording features full orchestrations from Sid Ramin. This means you get Styne's delightful tunes packaged in a signature brassy and sprightly overture. And then, there are a dozen tracks that are performed primarily by the show's leads – Vivian Blaine, Johnny Desmond and David Wayne. The tunes here are a combination of book songs and "show within a show" numbers. In the latter category, there are some terrifically wicked "bad" songs for The Girl From Indiana, the musical that's being produced in "Darling." Comden and Green's are often laugh-out-loud funny in "It's Doom," "The Husking Bee," and "Chief of Love." A couple of favorites from the more "serious" side of "Darling" are a lovely ballad, "Try To Love Me," delivered with a gorgeous smokiness by Blaine, and "It's the Second Time You Meet That Matters" – a jazzy number that sounds outfitted for Dean Martin and a Las Vegas club in the 1950s delivered with flair and verve by Johnny Desmond.

This is one disc you're going to want to add to the shelf.

Also on disc for the first time thanks to DRG is a 1963 studio recording of Annie Get Your Gun, starring Doris Day as the titular sharpshooter and Robert Goulet as her rival/beau, Frank Butler. Now both Day and Goulet sound terrific singing such classics from the show as "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly" and "The Girl That I Marry" – that's little surprise. What's truly gorgeous about the album are the smooth tones and beautiful phrasing that they bring to these and other songs.

Also, a huge asset on the disc – the orchestrations from Phil Lang that were commissioned specifically for this recording. There is an infectious buoyancy that captures your ear from the first notes of the lavish overture (also written specifically for the recording) and holds you throughout. If you didn't know better, you'd swear this was an original cast recording because of Lang's work and the superlative performances from the leads.

For this new release, there's a fascinating interview with Schuyler Chapin (then of Columbia Records) about the recording – the first that he produced for the label. DRG also generously includes the liner notes from the original 1963 release.

Even if you have many of the other recordings of this Berlin classic, I'm going to bet you'll want to add this to your collection.

Finally, let me mention the third recent release from DRG. It's "Garland at the Grove" – a recording of a concert the legendary singer offered in August 1958 at Coconut Grove-Ambaassador Hotel in L.A. The DRG issue of this title is notable because it's the first time that the entire concert has been available unedited and the disc includes 3 songs that had been omitted from previous "Grove" releases. Additionally, tracks here have been digitally remixed from the 3-track master tapes. This means the sound is fantastic and you can hear all of the nuances in Garland performances of some of her signature songs ("Over the Rainbow," "The Man That Got Away," etc.) and some truly oddball offerings: "Purple People Eater" and "A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow." Informative notes from Scott Schechter enhance the package of this welcome addition to the plethora of Garland recordings available on CD.


No comments: