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Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Better to Hear You With, My Dear 12/10-12/16

So, in addition to blogging about noteworthy shows and enlightening you all to some of my behavioral issues, I did say that I would write some about music, movies, and books that come my way. (And, unlike local theatre, if I don't like it, I will say so.)
Sundays, I will devote to music. A few of the albums I had in my CD players this week are:

The Very Best of A Celtic Christmas- Various Artists
For those of you who've grown tired of hearing "White Christmas" by Andy Williams, and then by Mel Torme, and then by Dino, and then by Leon Redbone . . . (Thank you, KOSI 101), this is a slightly different take on Christmas tunes. It is a collection of the best from six Celtic Christmas albums released by Windham Hill Records. Artists include James Galway, William Coulter, and David Arkenstone. No chesnuts roasting on any open fires here -- there are even a couple of lively reels. (Uptempo foot-stompers, me wee bonnies.) I like it. It's good "stuck-in-the-Wal-Mart-parking-lot" listening.

Spamalot - Original Broadway Cast Recording
You know, I'm getting a bit weary of having some of my favorite movies (My Favorite Year, The Goodbye Girl, The Full Monty) turned into musicals that pale somewhat by comparison. Now it's been done to Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Yes, Spamalot is funny, but it's just not as funny as its source material, in my opinion. Eric Idle is the primary creative Python force behind this outing, and I've always felt that he was the "Zeppo" of the group. (Or the Dan Aykroyd.) I'm reserving full judgement until I can see the actual show live, but I'm a bit disappointed with the album.

Cold Spring Harbor - Billy Joel
First album from the "Piano Man" before he released the song that earned him that moniker. I've heard mixed reviews on this, but I really kind of liked it. It's a bit messy at times, but that kid (he was 21 or 22 at the time, I think) could play the heck out of a piano. I also felt that there was a certain McCartney-esque quality to the vocals. This is a good one for the die-hard Billy Joel fans, but people who only know him for "Uptown " and "We Didn't Start the Fire" may not care for it. I liked it. (This is the album with "She's Got A Way.")

Brooke Shields in Wonderful Town - 2004 Broadway Revival Cast
After the critically-acclaimed Donna Murphy left the cast, she was replaced by Brooke Shields in the role of Ruth. Though a cast album of the show had already been released with Ms. Murphy, the producers decided to release a second cast album with former model Shields. I must say that I looked at this album with the same scrutiny that the clerk at 7-11 looks at a 20 dollar bill I hand him. Or a five. Or a nickel. (Why don't people trust me?)
After all, Donna Murphy had played Fosca in Passion, and Brooke Shields had played, um, Brenda Starr?
However, I was pleasantly surprised. Brooke holds her own, and this lesser-known musical is a real gem. With music by Leonard Bernstein (who appears to be having the time of his life), and lyrics by Comden and Green, this show is smart, funny, and really swings. I'm surprised that this show isn't produced more often, frankly, because it really swings, and Ruth is a great role for a beautiful, brassy, belter. (Are you listening Janelle Christie?) An added bonus is a couple of uncovered studio tracks of Comden and Green performing numbers from the show. Adolph Green passed away in 2002, and Betty Comden left us just last month. Hearing the two perform together is a real treat. I really liked this album.

Give them a listen if you get a chance.

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