The Second Disc

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Archive for April 12th, 2012

Come Rain or Come Shine: Tracie Bennett’s “End of the Rainbow” Arrives From Masterworks Broadway

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“After watching Tracie Bennett’s electrifying interpretation of [Judy] Garland in the intense production that opened Monday night at the Belasco Theater, you feel exhilarated and exhausted, equally ready to dance down the street and crawl under a rock. In other words, you feel utterly alive with all the contradictions that implies,” The New York Times’ Ben Brantley about the performance at the center of Peter Quilter’s play End of the Rainbow. This fictionalized look at Judy Garland’s final months opened last week on Broadway following an acclaimed run in London’s West End, and got audiences talking once again about the legendary performer. The play allows for the performance of a number of songs associated with Garland, contrasting a mini-concert with offstage scenes in a London hotel room. Whether you agree with David Finkle’s assessment in The Huffington Post that the show is “character assassination” of a beloved star, or with Brantley’s ruminations, most critics were convinced that Tracie Bennett as Garland took the stage by storm. She netted an Olivier Award for her trouble, and a Tony Award nomination indeed looks possible. Now, those who can’t make it to the Belasco can enjoy one part of the show, thanks to Masterworks Broadway’s reissue of the 2011 Original Cast Recording of End of the Rainbow, subtitled Tracie Bennett Sings Judy.

Released last year on First Night Records to coincide with the London engagement, the End of the Rainbow album features Bennett singing twelve Garland classics backed by the production’s six-piece band under the baton of Gareth Valentine. (Not all of the twelve songs are actually heard in the play, however.) Masterworks’ 2012 edition features new artwork related to the Broadway production but contains the same core twelve tracks as the British edition, dropping the U.K.’s bonus track of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” performed as a piano solo. In addition to that immortal Harold Arlen/E.Y. Harburg song, you’ll hear Bennett take on five other Arlen classics: “I Could Go On Singing,” from Garland’s final film and also co-written by Harburg; “Come Rain or Come Shine” with a Johnny Mercer lyric; “When the Sun Comes Out” and “Get Happy,” both with Ted Koehler lyrics; and of course, “The Man That Got Away,” the torch song to end all torch songs co-written by Arlen and Ira Gershwin from the 1954 film of A Star is Born.

There’s more after the jump, including track listing and order link!

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Written by Joe Marchese

April 12, 2012 at 14:38

Get Down: Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “I’m A Writer, Not A Fighter” Remastered and Expanded

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Are you ready for another trip through Gilbertville?  The fine folks at Salvo and Union Square Music have just released the latest title in their acclaimed Gilbert O’Sullivan reissue series, and though the album is called I’m a Writer, Not a Fighter, it might as well have been named Another Side of Gilbert O’Sullivan.  On this 1973 set, the singer/songwriter placed less emphasis on the acoustic piano, his usual instrument of choice, and more on keyboards.  These electronic textures musically illustrated his typically astute (and often eccentric) lyrics in new ways.  At this point in his career, O’Sullivan had the luxury to explore new territory, having scored six Top 10 U.K. hits in 1971 and 1972, and also having conquered the pop charts across the Atlantic with tuneful slice-of-life songs like “Clair” and of course, “Alone Again, Naturally.”

The changes on I’m a Writer, Not a Fighter were apparent from the get-go, as O’Sullivan eschewed his tongue-in-cheek sung introductions to the record with a spoken-word piece over a funky groove.  Having put forth his musical credo on that title track (and managing in the course of one three-minute pop song to turn the autobiographical statement into a condemnation of “violence simply for violence sake”), O’Sullivan was free to introduce another round of songs populated by a motley crew of characters in often unusual situations.  In “A Friend of Mine,” the singer explains, “I am a loner/My only real companion is a dog I’m very fond of/His name’s Homer/He follows me wherever I go/And of course I do my best to feed him/It’s not the easiest of tasks…”

Somewhat more down-to-earth is “They’re Only Themselves to Blame,” a heartbreaking little tale of two young lovers torn apart by overprotective parents, its loping, wistful melody adorned by a gentle string arrangement: “It seems our parents followed us home one evening/Caught us walking one another home/Now I’ve been confined till further notice/Told I should be thoroughly ashamed.”  This song, as with others on the album, is striking in its heart-on-its-sleeve, open emotionalism and frank honesty, however terribly not in vogue that might have been.  Of course, those are the same characteristics that marked “Alone Again, Naturally” and “Clair.”

Hit the jump for more, including the track listing and order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 12, 2012 at 09:29