At long last it is here, the "Crime of the Century", uh, I mean, the CD of the century. RCA Victor has finally released the OBC of Ragtime. Ragtime is being hailed as the last great musical of this century but there's still a year and a half to go. It has been a long time since Broadway has had a musical as thoroughly satisfying as Ragtime is. Even so, should another show top this one before that anticipated New Year's Eve, this will be the second best recording ever done.
Most Ragtime fanatics already own the concept album which was recorded prior to the world premier in Toronto, and musical fans all over the world have been waiting for this release. It does not disappoint. This new recording has been recorded the way all musicals SHOULD be recorded. It has enough dialogue to get one through the entire story without wondering what it's all about. Then again, the book by Terrance NcNally is so completely integrated into the show that it's difficult to imagine any further editing.
For those who haven't heard, Ragtime is based on E. L. Doctorow's sprawling novel about three different groups at the turn of the century. It is the interactions of the various individual stories within these groups, upwardly mobile middle-class whites of New Rochelle, blacks in transitional Harlem, and Jewish immigrants establishing themselves in the lower Eastside that depicts how America became the "melting-pot" that it is now. Out of this, and maintaining the integrity of the book, composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens have fashioned an emotionally charged musical, very similar to the British "mega- musicals", except it is not "through-sung".
Mr. Flaherty has a talent for taking different musical "types" and making them sound theatrical. He did this first with tropical music in Ahrens' and his first hit, Once on This Island and he does it again here successfully. Flaherty's music is grand to match the heightened emotions of the story, and he magically combines ragtime with hints of Gershwin and Rodgers and Hammerstein. It has been a long time since Broadway has seen a show with as many show-stopping tunes as this one. Some of the major new songs heard on this disc are, "What Kind of Woman", "Success", "Nothing Like the City", "Atlantic City", and "Sarah Brown Eyes". There are many minor songs as well, and every scene is represented on this recording.
There are far too many wonderful performances to single out any one performer or track; every one of them gets a standing ovation from me. There is even a bonus track, an orchestral suite of themes from the musical conducted by John Mauceri. Too often nowadays, musical theater scores are not recorded completely by record labels. This one has been lovingly preserved by RCA Victor and we should be thankful for it. You will be playing this disc repeatedly no matter how well you think you know Ragtime; I know I will.
For all you owners of the concept CD, DON'T throw it out. With the exception of the addition of Judy Kaye as the new Emma Goldman, the cast on the new OBC album is the same as that on the concept version. The concept version, while lacking the additional songs, contains the song "The Showbiz", which was cut from the show, and the longer versions of "The Night That Goldman Spoke in Union Square", and "He Wanted to Say", all grand numbers. It is a wonderful back up for this wonderful OBC disc.
The Irish and How They Got That Way is a musical revue that was first performed at the Golden Theater as a benefit for the Irish Repertory Theater. It then ran for five months at The Irish Repertory Theater before departing for a national tour. Utilizing music by famous Irish composers, it attempts to tell the story of the Irish experience.
Varese Sarabande has just released the original cast recording of this charming review. While I must admit that Irish music is not my cup of tea, and it may have more appeal to those fans of Riverdance/Lord of the Dancethan to musical theater fans, I must also admit to enjoying this CD. For us fans of Broadway musicals, there are a few songs from one of the grandfathers of musicals, George M. Cohan. "Give my Regards to Broadway", "You're a Grand Old Flag", "Over There", and "Yankee Doodle Boy" are rendered with Cohan's "pizzazz". Also included, of course, is the tender standard, "Danny Boy" sung by Ciaran Sheehan.
Other cast members include Bob Green, Ciaran O'Reilly, Rusty Magee, Donna (Meet Me in St. Louis) Kane and Terry Donnelly. Bob Green and Rusty Magee also double as musicians for the album, with Green on violin, mandolin, acoustic and electric guitars and Magee on piano, accordion, and keyboards. Donna Kane and Ciaran Sheehan have the best voices in the cast and sing a lovely duet on "Anchors Aweigh", which is one of the highlights of the disc.
Each song is prefaced by an anecdote that serves to string the revue together and present a unified story. The only recent song in the show is the U2 classic, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". This great number is sung in four part harmony by the entire cast and is the finale.
While I can't say that I'll be pulling this CD out for repeated listening, it is entertaining and recommended none the less.
The abundandtly talented Judy Kaye, who is featured on the Ragtime OBC, has just released her second solo album recorded by Varese Sarabande, and what a winner it is. Her first Varese Sarabande release paid tribute to the Divas of Broadway. This new disc, titled Songs from the Silver Screen presents songs made famous by Hollywood's Divas. Any movie buff will be familiar with most of the tunes featured on this CD. Among the most well known are, "Wonderful, Wonderful Day", "Secret Love", "Thanks a Lot but, No Thanks", "You'll Never Know", "Falling in Love Again", and "The Good Ship,'Lollipop'". There are also two medleys included here. The first is a tribute to Carmen Miranda. The second is a tribute to Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire, where Miss Kaye's voice is joined by that of Jason Graae. Miss Kaye's husband, David Green also makes a guest appearance on this disc on the track, "The Folks Who Live on the Hill/Two Sleepy People".
Miss Kaye has been featured on recordings of some of Broadway's classics, such as Annie Get Your Gun and Pajama Game, but has failed to find the Broadway roles that she so richly deserves, that is until now. She has always been a versatile performer and once again demonstrates her ability on this new disc. This CD covers tunes ranging from comedy, pop, and country to classic standards and she interprets them all well. She is the consummate performer and in fine form on this album. I found that the more I played this disc, the more attracted I was to her particular talent and I highly recommend picking it up.
At long last, it has been announced that JAY records will be recording the OBC album of Triumph of Love with Betty Buckley. They should begin recording sometime in June.
While on the subject of JAY records, RCA, who previously announced that it would be releasing a "highlights" disc of TER's complete Cabaret will no longer be doing so. JAY records will be releasing the complete two disc set sometime next year.
On June 2nd, Sony records will begin re-issuing several of their most popular titles. All the releases in this group have been remastered for clearer, truer sound and a few will have additional tracks. Among the first to be re-issued with additional tracks will be:
A Chorus Line featuring an additional minute added to the "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love" track,
Cabaret, with rare songs sung by the composers, "I Don't Care Much", "Roommates", "Good Time Charlie", and "It'll All Blow Over",
Camelot with all the songs, but put back into the running order of the stage production,
Kiss Me Kate with its overture and an additional track from another recording,
My Fair Lady The original London cast version, not the Broadway version, which will include, "The Embassy Waltz", from a 1956 recording by Percy Faith and His Orchestra.
That's all for this week. Join me again next time when I will be
reviewing three new discs from Varese Sarabande, Prime Time
Musicals, Cinderella: Songs from the Classic Fairy Tale, and
There's No Business Like Show Business, the motion picture sound
track. 'Til then, happy listening!