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Recordings featuring the work of one composer, or one genre, are commonplace these days - not a week goes by when a new Sondheim or Lloyd Webber compilation is released it seems. Releases celebrating the work of producers are less common - I can only really recall a couple of Cameron Mackintosh releases to note. In the 1960s they were unheard of, until in 1964 RCA Victor released David Merrick Presents Hits From His Broadway Hits.
Merrick was an extremely successful Broadway producer, winning his first Tony Award nomination (for Jamaica) in 1958, and finally picking up the award in 1964 for Hello Dolly - he also was awarded a special Tony in 1961. It was after his award in 1964 that record producer George Marek suggested that an album should be released to celebrate the work of the producer, and the shows he had produced to date. Marek used his own recording artists, John Gary, Ann-Margret and the Merrill Staton Voices to give lush treatment to 12 songs from 12 musicals - eight of which had received the coveted nominations.
So what of the album. From the first track, there is certainly no doubting what era you are in. And whilst the sound is typically '60s, the treatments are top notch. The arrangements, by Henri Rene & Joe Lipman, breathe fresh air into the songs, many of which are still standards today. The use of brass figures lifts the tracks, and contribute to this being an extremely enjoyable listen. This first time CD release sounds clean and crisp, as we have come to expect from the Masterworks team.
Stand outs are hard to name - the tracks all inspire. The opening song 'Fanny' is delivered with conviction, and 'What Kind of Fool Am I', is Gary at his best. The most successful track for me was 'Make Someone Happy' - it encompasses everything this album is about.
Another Masterworks gem.
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