Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Vanessa Williams|
St. Louis Woman (1998 Encores!/City Center Cast)
Genres: Pop, Soundtracks, Broadway & Vocalists
After it flopped in 1946, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's musical about nightclubs and jockeys featuring an all-black cast had simply vanished. The original cast album was long out of print, and, worst of all, no orchestr... more »
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After it flopped in 1946, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's musical about nightclubs and jockeys featuring an all-black cast had simply vanished. The original cast album was long out of print, and, worst of all, no orchestral scores had survived. After lengthy sleuthing, New York's Encores! team brought the show back to life. From pulsing big-band dance stomps to a cakewalk to near-operatic blues (yes, it works) the score is breathtaking, and both orchestra and singers rise up to the challenge, obviously exhilarated by the material. A special mention goes to Vanessa L. Williams, who confirms her natural affinity for Broadway ("Come Rain or Come Shine" with Stanley Wayne Mathis, "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home"). Original cast recording of the year for 1998, bar none. --Elisabeth Vincentelli
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Nice revival, but not really a restoration
John McWhorter | New York, New York United States | 10/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Taken in itself, this is a really nice CD. But it is unique among the ENCORES recordings in that it really is more a revival recording than a careful recreation of the original piece.The original orchestra parts for this show were lost, but the problem here is that the new ones that Ralph Burns and Luther Henderson created do not sound ANYTHING like what Broadway arrangements sounded like in 1946. Rather, they sound like the kind of arrangements Burns and Henderson crafted starting in the 1960s. These nightclubby/Vegasy sounds are wonderful in themselves, but in the proper sense, ST. LOUIS WOMAN didn't sound like LITTLE ME, SWEET CHARITY and PLAY ON! -- it sounded more like PORGY AND BESS. Saxophones swinging through densely intricate passages as a matter of course as if Ellington and Strayhorn had written the parts, Count Basie pedal point bass lines -- this kind of arranging didn't exist yet in 1946 Broadway pits. As presented on this CD, I FEEL MY LUCK COMIN' DOWN sounds about as unlike what this song surely sounded like in 1946 as the 1971 NO NO NANETTE revival's arrangements -- glorious in themselves -- sounded unlike the originals from that show in 1924 -- and pointedly, it was precisely Burns and Henderson who did the new orchestrations for that revival. If Burns and Henderson, having lived through all of this as a lifetime rather than as a vintage record collection, do not spontaneously draw these kinds of distinctions, surely the youngish aficionados who produce these recordings do.And how we know what the original sounded like is the ST. LOUIS WOMAN album that was recorded in 1946, and what perplexes me is that even the orchestrations for the songs recorded on that album are altered somewhat for this recording, making them sound more "Sammy Davis/Lena Horne" than what the authors intended.This is the only ENCORES album which sounds out of period, even the overture sounding like something playing under the opening credits of a 1960s or 1970s TV special rather than what an overture would have sounded like the year after CAROUSEL opened. As much as I hate to say this, I cannot help thinking that somewhere along the line, a sense developed that black entertainment somehow means less attention to details such as period style. This is sad in this case, because part of the glory of that brief original ST. LOUIS WOMAN album is the plangent, quirky, rich sounds from the orchestra, not quite like anything else at the time, but surely not sounding like CHICAGO either.Furthermore, Helen Goldsby is to my ear quite unimpressive, especially compared to the magnificent singing by June Hawkins on the original cast recording, all the more affecting given how the segregation of the period surely restricted her career. Among the ENCORES recordings, only on the BABES IN ARMS recording is anyone allowed to get away with singing so ordinary outside of "character" parts, and there the reason was the emphasis on casting people who sound like youths -- but what was the reason here? Surely there are dozens of black female singers in New York who could knock you against the wall the way Hawkins did with the very, very good songs her character was given. Why was Goldsby's merely okay rendition considered suitable for such a historic occasion?I am stressing the negative here because the other reviews cover the positive. I LIKE this CD overall -- but only as a deft reinterpretation of the score through a 1963 lens, and I am not sure why it had to come out this way. I hope ENCORES someday does a CABIN IN THE SKY -- hopefully casting Vanessa Williams again as Georgia Brown -- and makes it sound like the 1940s in all of its particularity, giving it the same loving care in this vein as has regularly been given the likes of PAL JOEY."
Forgotten treasure of the American musical theatre
John McWhorter | 04/17/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If your only familiarity with Harold Arlen is through his saccharine score for the film "The Wizard of Oz", you are in for a wonderful surprise. From the first notes of the newly orchestrated overture, you'll be irresistably singing, humming, and whistling these tunes throughout the day. The musical styles cover jazz, blues, big band, standard ballads, and traditional spiritual. The emotional gamut is equally as broad, from the haunting introspection of "Leavin' Time" to the cheerful optimism of "Ridin' on the Moon". Although Vanessa Williams lends "star" name quality to the recording, the entire ensemble is splendid. After listening to this masterful soundtrack, you'll wonder incredulously how this show failed to enter the category of classic American musicals represented by the works of Rodgers & Hart, Lerner & Loewe, and the Gershwin brothers. Kudos to the folks at City Center Encores! for resurrecting this undeservedly forgotten treasure. With any luck, a savvy producer will also soon rediscover this spectacular score and we'll be treated to St. Louis Woman on the stage once again."
Definitive recording of landmark Arlen/Mercer score
Frank Kelly | Long Island, NY USA | 01/08/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"NY's City Center ENCORES series has produced a number of great revivals, but none more worthy than this complete recording of this stunning score. Previously available only on a truncated 29 minute original cast recording with Pearl Bailey, this new 67 minute recording with Vanessa Williams, Stanley Wayne Mathis, and Helen Goldsby glows with vitality and warmth in such classics as "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home," and "I Had Myself a True Love."Musical director Rob fisher conducts the swingin' Coffee Club Orchestra. Just great!"