RON RAINES: BROADWAY PASSION (JAY)
A regular these days on the soap opera "The Guiding Light," Ron Raines has not had many chances to show off his gleamingly attractive baritone in New York; while Broadway has seen him in Show Boat (1983) and Teddy and Alice, and other local appearances include Olympus on My Mind and a concert of One Touch of Venus, most of his musical theatre work has been done around the country.
On his first solo CD, he gets the opportunity to preserve many of the big leading man numbers (in their original orchestration) from shows in which he has appeared, plus a few others for which he is ideally suited. In "If Ever I Would Leave You," "My Defensese Are Down," "Lonely Town," "On The Street Where You Live," "Soliloquy," "This Nearly Was Mine," "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'," "Dulcinea," "I'll Never Say No" (he succeeded Harve Presnell on Debbie Reynolds' national tour of The Unsinkable Molly Brown) and more, Raines' tone is unfailingly full-bodied and handsome.
Raines lists John Reardon as one of his mentors and sings "Make Someone Happy," a song Reardon introduced on Broadway; it's the highest compliment I can pay to say that Raines' voice is in the same league as Reardon's. Raines can also be heard on JAY's The Pajama Game and Leading Men Don't Dance, and in the label's forthcoming complete sets of Wonderful Town (with Karen Mason and Rebecca Luker), 110 in the Shade (Karen Ziemba, Richard Muenz), and Annie (Kim Criswell, Ruthie Henshall).
CAROLINE O'CONNOR: WHAT I DID FOR LOVE (JAY)
Caroline O'Connor's first solo album is similarly devoted to numbers from shows in which she has appeared in Australia and England, and it's a winner. Currently receiving acclaim as Velma in the Melbourne Chicago, O'Connor has had West End leads in Mack and Mabel and Romance, Romance. One of those rare ladies who belts as well as she dances, she can be heard on JAY's complete West Side Story and Show Boat (a track from each has been recycled here), as well as in cameo parts on several other albums from the label (she's one of the Kit Kat Klub girls on Cabaret).
Considerably more impressive here than on the Mack and Mabel cast album, O'Connor opens and closes the disc with "All That Jazz" and "Nowadays" from her current show; her rendition of the first is outstanding, and this could be the only place it appears, as it doesn't look as though the Australian production will be recorded. She gets to preserve one of her Romance songs ("The Night It Had To End") and the Into The Woods "Stay With Me" she sang in a British regional production. She offers new versions of "What I Did For Love" (she was Morales in the complete BBC Radio 2 broadcast of A Chorus Line) and M&M's "Time Heals Everything." The wonderful "The Story Goes On" from Baby and Funny Girl's "Don't Rain on My Parade" get particularly powerful renditions, and Side Show's "Who Will Love Me As I Am?" receives a solo treatment. O'Connor's is a show voice rather than a concert voice, and that's probably why I found this disc more entertaining than most recent female vocalist albums; all the tracks here sound like they were taken from show recordings rather than from a solo recital.
You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown will be back on Broadway soon, and JAY has issued domestically TER's 1983 London cast recording of the sequel Peanuts musical Snoopy (there's also a DRG recording of the 1975 San Francisco Snoopy). Clark Gesner wrote Charlie Brown, but Snoopy's songwriters, Larry Grossman and Hal Hackady, have better credentials; their other scores include Minnie's Boys and Goodtime Charley. Without Hackady, Grossman wrote the music for A Doll's Life, Grind, and Paper Moon.
Snoopy has proven to be Grossman's most performed and successful show, and his gifts as a melodist are evident throughout. Because of the subject matter, it's Grossman's least ambitious and interesting score, but it's professional, tuneful, and pleasant.
GERSHWIN RARITIES (Harbinger/DRG)
Continuing its reissues (Harold Arlen was the first) of the Walden Records series of composer tribute albums, Harbinger/DRG has combined two volumes of "Gerswhin Rarities," recorded in 1953 and 1954, on a single CD. Most of the songs here have received numerous subsequent recordings, although a few ("Aren't You Kind of Glad We Did?," "Nightie-Night!," "Oh, So Nice!") remain fairly obscure.
The major name here is a pre-The Golden Apple Kaye Ballard, and she's grand. The other singers are David Craig (recently deceased vocal coach, lyricist, and husband of Nancy Walker); Betty Gillett (at the time in South Pacific while also covering Eileen in Wonderful Town); Warren Galjour (of Wonderful Town); and of course Walden diva, soprano Louise Carlyle. Dozens of subsequent Gershwin collections, not to mention those "new Gershwin musicals" of the '80s and '90s, have made much of this material familiar. But this set, with mostly piano accompaniment, should be of interest to those like myself who enjoy stylings that reek of New York in the early '50s.
FASCINATING RHYTHM: THE BROADWAY GERSHWIN 1919-1933 (RCA Victor)
Continuing its salute to the 100th birthday of George Gershwin, RCA has a compilation of 20 songs from the composer's Broadway musicals. Several of the shows represented received cast recordings in England but not in America; the only cast vocals included here are Gertrude Lawrence in two songs from Oh, Kay!. Otherwise, the set features charming period recordings made for Victor by the likes of Paul Whiteman, Duke Ellington, Fred Waring, and Leo Reisman, all with their orchestras and vocalists; dual pianists Arden and Ohman (a team featured in the pits of Gershwin shows); and Ramona & Her Grand Piano.
THE ONLY BROADWAY CD YOU'LL EVER NEED (RCA Victor)
The notes for RCA's 77-minute compilation of classic Broadway numbers - taken from the label's recordings of original productions, revivals, recitals, etc. -- admit that the title is an exaggeration. Still, some of the inclusions here -- Titanic and Ragtime, but nothing with music by Stephen Sondheim -- are open to dispute.
An addendum to last week's discussion of the latest Columbia Broadway Masterworks issues: On the new On The Town, "So Long Baby" in the Nightclub Sequence has been expanded by about 30 seconds. The musical material now available for the first time on this recording was always to be heard on the 1963 CBS London cast LP, and on '90s versions of the score.
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