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Music Review

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Scene One / We Speak the Same Language


Artist: James Shigeta
Label: Stage Door Records
RRP: £9.99
STAGE 2460
Release Date: 29 June 2018

Stage Door Records are slowly making a name for themselves, not just for releasing long lost recordings, but also for first-time releases on CD for a number of different genres.

James Shigeta is often cited as one of the most pioneering and ground breaking actors of his generation, being the first Asian-American actor to play leading roles in Hollywood. Shigeta is most known for his starring roles in films such as Bridge To The Sun, The Crimson Kimono (for which he won the 1960 Golden Globe Award for 'Most Promising Newcomer'), Flower Drum Song and Lost Horizon. In his later career, Shigeta is remembered for his featured role in the 1988 action film Die Hard.

Prior to his Hollywood film career, Shigeta enjoyed enormous success in Japan as a performer and recording artist, his Japanese interpretation of 'Love Letters In The Sand' was reported to have sold over two million copies, the then all time best selling record in Japan.

On record, Shigeta recorded his first solo album Scene One in 1960, a collection of standards and original songs with orchestrations and musical direction by Frank Sinatra's regular arranger Axel Stordahl. The album was produced by composer Haydn Broughton and featured four of Broughton's original compositions. Following James' starring role as Wang Ta in the 1961 film adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song, James was signed to Fred Astaire's label Choreo (later Ava Records). The resulting album We Speak The Same Language was issued in 1962 and featured input from many of Astaire's collaborators including orchestrations and musical direction by Harry Betts and Dick Hazard, production by Tommy Wolf, plus original songs penned by Hermes Pan, Tommy Wolf, Don Raye and Astaire himself. The album was also notable for Shigeta's choice of material from Broadway with selections from The Fantasticks, Kean and All American featured.

Both Shigeta's solo albums Scene One and We Speak The Same Language now make their debut on CD accompanied by his solo number 'You Are Beautiful' from the soundtrack of Flower Drum Song. As a special bonus, one of Shigeta's highly collectable Japanese language singles is included, his 1955 cover of 'Tara's Theme' (from Gone With The Wind). The release forms part of Stage Door’s Collector’s Series, a line of limited edition CD products presented in the retro style of a miniature long-playing record. All Collector's Series titles are limited to 500 units, so is it worth getting in there quick for this one?

The answer is a definite yes. I really enjoying both of the albums on this CD. I didn’t know many of the songs on Scene One but Shigeta’s rendition of 'You’d Be Nice To Come Home To' is excellent - helped along with some great orchestrations by Alex Sotdahl. It’s always great to hear that full band sound with strings on vocal albums - it lifts the vocal so much. The second album is equally as well-sounding, and I think my favourite of the two. Highlights for me were ‘My Ship’ and the beautiful ‘This Funny World’, both orchestrated here by Harry Betts. It was great to hear so many great songs from musicals that you never really hear of anymore - such as Kean and the much-ignored All American by Adams and Charles Strouse, who later went on to write Bye Bye Birdie and Annie.

A great vocal album, and worthy of a place in anyone’s collection.


Ian Gude

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