See the cd set for a full listing of tracks (track listings are identical).
This four-tape set covers more than 80 years of American musical theater and Hollywood musicals, interspersed with a comedy bit or two. That's necessary for a collection like this, which starts with George M. Cohan and Bert Williams in the middle of the first decade of the 20th century and ends with the mid-1990s revival of Showboat. Anyone likely to be interested in it is just as likely to own at least some of what's here. Most, though not all, of the major bases are covered -- the works of Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Freed and Brown, Lerner and Loewe, Wright and Forrest, and Meredith Willson. There also a lot of prime historical artifacts, such as early 20th century recordings of legends like Cohan ("I Want to Hear a Yankee Doodle Tune"), Al Jolson ("That Haunting Melody," "My Mammy"), and Marilyn Miller ("Look for the Silver Lining"), and period stars such as Nora Bayes, Joe Weber and Lew Fields, most of which show up on Tape One. The accompanying booklet is reasonably thorough, although the notes emphasize the theatrical works rather than the careers of many of the performers represented, which is unfortunate, since many of the artists were major figures in their time who are otherwise unrepresented in the current music catalog. There are gaps, to be sure -- no Kiss Me, Kate or Silk Stockings among the Porter works, and the representation of almost all of the major composers except Sondheim is very sketchy at best. Additionally, the attention paid to Hollywood musicals is slightly distracting, especially given that they don't exactly get a full treatment either. This box is a handy beginning for anyone just discovering musicals, and the early 20th century rarities on Tape One may attract more serious fans, who will have to decide how much of their collections they want to duplicate in order to get them. -Bruce Eder