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Music Review

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On the Town & Broadway Melody
London Studio Cast Recordings


Music: Roger Edens and Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics: Adolph Green and Betty Comden
Performed by: Lionel Blair, Julie Dawn, Engelbert Humperdinck, Bruce Forsyth, David Hughes and Noele Gordon
Label: Stage Door Records
RRP: £7.99
STAGE 9060
5 055122 190608
Release Date: 22 February 2019

There seems to be no shortage of interesting recordings for Stage Door Records to unearth, and bring us on CD for the first time. As well as some excellent new releases, they have made their name in ‘rescuing’ previously lost (or only available on LP) recordings, sprucing them up, and releasing them, sounding better than ever. They certainly lead the way in terms of UK companies doing this, and long may it continue. Their latest release is a ‘2fer’ from the the late 1950’s and feature a couple of recordings I had on scratchy LP transfers, but was keen to hear them properly for the first time.

Recorded in 1959, the studio recreation of On The Town represented the first time the iconic film's songs (composed by Roger Edens with lyrics by Adolph Green and Betty Comden alongside selections from Leonard Bernstein's original score) had been preserved on record. Conducted by Geoff Love, the recording features Dennis Lotis, Lionel Blair and Shane Rimmer recreating respectively the film roles played by Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin. The roles played on film by Betty Garrett and Ann Miller are sung by Stella Tannerand Noele Gordon.

There’s very little you can do wrong with On The Town - it’s such an engaging, and exciting score. The Geoff Love Orchestra, famed throughout this period and beyond, make good work of the score (not the easiest on the shelf) although for me, the lower tones were missing somewhat, compared to a recording made today. Nonetheless, it’s still a great sound. I don’t know the score well enough to say if these are the original film or Broadway orchestrations, or if they are Love’s own, but they work very well, certainly in this setting. The voices are great - even Lionel Blair holds his own, and certainly provides some excellent footwork too! It was also great to hear UK TV favourite Noele Gordon make an appearance too, long before her Crossroads days.

The album was followed by a studio cast recording capturing songs from the various 'Broadway Melody' films. Conducted and arranged by Tony Osborne, the recording pays homage to the timeless songs that featured in these very first Hollywood movie musicals. The performers recruited to recreate the classic songs of Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown and Cole Porter include Bruce Forsyth, David Hughes, Millicent Martin and Gerry Dorsey (who would achieve fame and chart success as Engelbert Humperdinck). I enjoyed this recording very much, although the material is perhaps lacking slightly. Tony Osborne’s orchestra, and orchestrations, are the highlight for me, and there are some good vocal offerings here too. Gerry Dorsey impresses, certainly on 'Give My Regards To Broadway', and who can ignore any contribution by Bruce Forsyth - here singing two numbers, both extremely well.

All in all, a historic recording and a fun ‘filler’ which make an enjoyable listen.


Ian Gude

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