Various Artists: More Broadway's Greatest Love Songs
There are two ways of looking at songs from Broadway musicals: that they're only as memorable as the show from whence they came, or that a truly great song can rise above a less-than-fantastic show to become a classic.
In the first category, take a tune like "Still", an absolutely lovely tearjerker from the 1997 musical Titanic. Sung by the characters who portrayed the elderly Isidor and Ida Strauss -- who stayed together as the ship went down -- "Still" was the highlight of that show (and, interestingly, is missing from this collection).
Yet Titanic was, despite its many Tony awards, a pretty average show -- and even those who, like myself, enjoyed the production probably wouldn't name "Still" a Broadway love song to remember, being that the show wasn't much to remember.
In the second category, we have a song like "My Funny Valentine", which has been covered by pop stars and cabaret singers alike since its 1937 debut in the short-lived musical, Babes in Arms. Despite the fact that show closed after less than 300 performances, it boasts more hits than any other Rogers and Hart musical, including "I Wish I Were In Love Again" and "The Lady is a Tramp". Go figure.
After the success of its 2000 release, Broadway's Greatest Love Songs, it's not surprising that Decca would want to enjoy an encore performance, so to speak. Only problem is, all the really great songs were on the first record; More Broadway's Greatest Love Songs are lesser lights of the stage -- candles, if will, not Broadway bonfires. Several tracks in fact, while enjoyable, are not even the original Broadway versions, a fact that adds an element of inconsistency to the proceedings.
The version of "Good Morning Starshine" featured on this album, for example, is from the London cast recording and, while equally appealing, differs somewhat from the original Broadway arrangement. Pop/R&B star Peabo Bryson, meanwhile, sounds wonderful on his duet of "I Have Dreamed", from the 1992 Hollywood Bowl Orchestra recording of The King and I, but you can't help thinking about his radio-friendly hits while listening to it since he's a star of the airwaves, not stage.
Yet other times, the non-Broadway versions work wonderfully: Donny Osmond and Vanessa Williams sound delightfully in synch in their subtle duet, "Not While I'm Around" (from Sweeny Todd), which was taken from Osmond's own album of Broadway covers, This Is The Moment.
The choice of material featured here varies wildly too: you'll get an utterly charming, heart-tugging song like "Try To Remember", (featuring 24-year-old Jerry Orbach, decades before his Law & Order TV fame), bookended by a less-than-thrilling number like "Good Old Girl", from The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.
All of which, brings me to my final observations: some of these songs -- "Try to Remember" among them -- aren't really love songs at all. Sweet, yes; sentimental, certainly, but hardly the traditional boy-meets-girl numbers that get theatregoers swooning. In listening to Les Miserables' "I Dreamed a Dream" -- perhaps the most aching Broadway song imaginable -- one realizes that this is a song of despair, not love, as Fantine laments about the lover who left her pregnant and destitute.
Still, Broadway is as Broadway does, and true fans of live musical theatre can't seem to get enough of the goods, no matter how they are doled out. For those fans, More Broadway's Greatest Love Songs -- with its abundance of talent and emotion -- will delight, despite any flaws.