Aug 24, 2013

Clamma's Complete Bess, Andre Times Two, Plus Minnie's Students And A Third Eye Secret Song!

Sing out, Clamma - and rejoice "Porgy And Bess" fans. Clamma Dale performed the role of "Bess" in the Houston Grand Opera's production of "Porgy And Bess" in 1976, and to say that this was a seismic turning point for the troubled Gershwin/Heyward show is a (huge) understatement. "Porgy and Bess," as you may know, was ignored for decades given its ill-fated Broadway debut in 1935, several lumpy revivals which hacked the score to pieces, and a stiff, unsatisfying movie version. No one, it seemed, could save it from obscurity.

Then the Houston Grand Opera changed everything. For the first time, the show was performed by an actual opera company, and the entire score was restored. Lucky for us, it was recorded in its entirety. If you've only heard the truncated 2012 Broadway version (which sounds a bit shrill) (to me) (you can't convince me otherwise), then get ready. This is the real thing.

Meanwhile, Mia Farrow better be super-careful (she should have listened to her psychic). After all, her baby could turn into a she-devil. Or worse, she might marry Mia's boyfriend. Look out, Mia, look out!

Luckily, Mia's previous marriage to composer, conductor and musician Andre Previn ended without much angst. Truthfully, I've never much liked Andre's work as a soundtrack composer (they all sound ham-handed) (to me) (you can't convince me otherwise). But his jazz work, ah, well, that's another matter. 

His 1957 take on Broadway's "Pal Joey" is wonderful light jazz, with Andre on the piano, Shelly Manne on drums and Red Mitchell on bass. You may not be familiar with all the songs from this show, but the ones you do know all but caper out with top hats. "Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered," for instance, has rarely sounded so glowing. 

And just when things couldn't possibly get any better, they do. In 1962's "Duet," Andre's trio was joined by Doris Day. The entire LP is heaven, but it's the opening track, "Close Your Eyes," that'll send you into orbit. Andre's arrangement, Doris' singing; sometimes song and performance really are perfectly matched. 

The other night, at the insistence of my Cuban Luvuh, I watched "Hunky Dory," a 1970's-era tale about a plucky high school theatre director and her conflicted students (the no-good punk, check; the closeted 'mo, check; etc, etc.). 

The movie's 70's-era musical soundtrack - a Tye-Dye Cheerful Exclusive! - is a lot of fun. And the movie itself? I was expecting a warmed-over version of "Glee," except set in Wales, and allegedly "gritty," and while that's basically what it is, the performances are (so much) better, and the kind-hearted tone is genuinely felt. 

There's another big difference, too. The musical numbers are sometimes fantastic. And unlike the platinum-hearted "Glee," they can even send a shiver or two up your spine. Case in point is The Byrds' number "Everyone's Been Burned" performed by Darren Evans, a Welsh-born actor who portrays a twitchy, bug-eyed teen who's scarily tuned in to every bitter word of the lyric. The actor is so self-effacing that, for this number, at least, you almost feel like you're watching a documentary. 

The Secret Song File is always performing - on occasion, just for herself - sometimes here, sometimes there, sometimes in Glasgow, which is home base for a certain indie rock group (which for some odd reason hasn't had the commercial success it deserves). 

If you walk like a peasant or write about love, you may have heard of them. But be careful, that waitress you just short-changed may bring catastrophe, though honestly, given your third eye, you really should have known. And if you did, then you might also know the name of their terrif new CD. The Secret Song File does. And today, she's not just keeping it for herself. 

Some things really are better shared, don't you think? 

Share and share alike in the comments if the mood moves you. 


MisterBlight said...

Greetings! Thanks SO much for that Porgy & Bess! One problem, though, Disc 2 Track 19 ("Honey, Dat's All De Breakfast I Got Time For") is wonky ... it will only play for 15 seconds. Could you possibly fix? Thanks ... you're wonderful!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Oh, I hate wonky tracks! This should fix it:

MisterBlight said...

Perfect! You are a god. But you knew that already. Thank you so much!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Stop! You'll make me blush! (and that would just be too tacky for all concerned). :D
Glad you're enjoying Porgy!

Anonymous said...

This is my favourite blog on the net! Mr Ecletic ;)

Are the Porgy n Bess tracks labelled? That is, not just "Act 1, Scene 1" but the real song titles ("Summertime", "I Loves You, Porgy" etc.)?

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Yes, all the tracks have song titles, I promise!