The Show Time Series EP Collection--Volume One. Stage Door Records. Stage 9081 (1 CD).
The Show Time Series EP Collection--Volume Two. Stage Door Records. Stage 9084 (1 CD).
For the rabid fan of vintage Broadway-related recordings, Stage Door Records' new releases, The Show Time Series EP Collection--Volume One and Volume Two, are something like discovering lost treasures. These two single-disc recordings, the first in a promised three-disc series, collect 1953 studio recordings of Broadway shows and operettas that, at the time, were issued in a new format: the 45 rpm EP (extended play). These little 7-inch records allowed space for two songs on each side, an approach employed by RCA as part of its general effort to establish the 45 rpm as a standard format for many genres of music. RCA released a total of sixteen Broadway-related EP records, including, in Volume One, songs from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's Oklahoma! and Carousel, Jerome Kern and Hammerstein's Show Boat, Kern and Otto Harbach's The Cat and the Fiddle, and Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's Babes in Arms and Jumbo. Volume Two features the vintage gems Mademoiselle Modiste, Naughty Marietta, Shuffle Along, Blackbirds of 1928, and The Band Wagon. All told, each Volume contains 24 tracks and both are thorough pleasures.
On both discs, the tracks feature leading and up-and-coming talents of 1950s musical theatre, most notably John Raitt, Doretta Morrow, Carol Bruce, Stephen Douglass, Patricia Neway, William Tabbert, Lisa Kirk, Felix Knight, Lawrence Watson, Thelma Carpenter, Avon Long, Edith (Edie) Adams, Harold Lang, and Jack Cassidy, among others. Raitt, for example, performs tracks from Oklahoma! in Volume One, in which he played "Curly" in the original Chicago production and again in 1964 in a studio cast recording. Cab Calloway makes a single-track appearance in Volume Two, delivering a lively rendition of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby" from Blackbirds of 1928. A few other artists offer songs associated with them, but some of the most interesting tracks feature performers in songs not previously associated with them. It is difficult to make quality distinctions since each of the performers is at her or his vocal peak. In short, the very best and brightest of Broadway talent were employed to make these recordings.
Throughout the discs, the orchestrations used are the original ones, with no attempt made to update or alter the style or tempo of any number. Variances are only interpretive and, in some cases, the results are fascinating and certainly unique. Such notable Broadway conductors as Lehman Engel and Jay Blackton lead the orchestra for the tracks featured on the two discs. The sound quality is remarkable, with a depth and fullness of sound emphasizing the skills of the vocalists to positive effect. For example, the great Carol Bruce, as "Julie" in Show Boat on Volume One, is present for a single track, "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," which she had performed to critical acclaim in the 1946 Broadway revival of the show. Her mellow sound had clearly deepened...