Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! Today’s entry is a special musical-themed post that highlights songs I’ve been listening to recently.
As all my friends know, my musical taste — even as a Broadway connoisseur — is unique. It’s not your typical theatre kid’s fare. Almost exclusively show tunes, I primarily listen to songs from the ’20s through ’40s. Though I collect musicals from all eras, I definitely seem to gravitate to the shows and composers from between the World Wars. With this post, I hope to not only give you a further glimpse into my personal tastes, but also introduce some really great (and perhaps forgotten) stuff to an audience that is interested, but doesn’t know where to look.
So here are some of the songs on my end of July playlist…
1. “Can’t We Be Friends?” from The Little Show (1929) (M: Kay Swift|L: Paul James)
I first heard this incredibly bewitching tune as a bonus track on the 2004 recording of Swift & James’s Fine And Dandy. That incredibly modern-sounding rendition by John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey is so simple and honest that I was shocked to find it came from a 1929 revue! With smart lyrics and an utterly unique tune, give this one a listen, young fans; it’s divine! For those who’d prefer a more ’20s sounding recording, there’s Libby Holman’s rendition. (She was in the original production!) And for an upbeat danceable version, I always go to the Imperial Dance Orchestra’s recording. But here’s John and Jessica:
2. “Moanin’ Low” from The Little Show (1929) (M: Ralph Rainger | L: Howard Dietz)
This hot torch number also came from The Little Show and was also performed and recorded by Libby Holman — multiple times, in fact. My favorite rendition is the sizzling recording she did with the Cotton Pickers on 07/09/29 (Brunswick 4446). She only sang a refrain for that recording, but she performed the whole number with a different orchestra the next day (Brunswick 4445). Here’s the HOT first recording with the Cotton Pickers:
3. “I’ve Made A Habit Of You” from The Little Show (1929) (M: Arthur Schwartz | L: Howard Dietz)
This incredibly cute ditty has only been recorded a few times. Two of the more contemporary renditions include Nancy Dussault and Neal Kenyon’s recording from the Dietz & Schwartz Album: Alone Together, and George Dvorsky and Rebecca Luker’s rendition on Keep Your Undershirt On. Both versions play very nicely. My favorite part of the song is the unbearably fun verse: “I’ve heard you’ve got a bachelor’s apartment. Ooh-ooh, scandal! What I know about you!” Here’s Luker and Dvorsky:
4. “Strike Me Pink” from Strike Me Pink (1933) (M: Ray Henderson | L: Lew Brown)
This is a catchy number from a forgotten 1933 revue that starred Jimmy Durante and Lupe Velez. Like “That Terrific Rainbow” from Pal Joey, the title song from this revue plays with colors in its lyrics. (“Strike me pink if I don’t think I’m falling in love! Strike me blue if I don’t think it’s you!”) Kay Thompson performs a great rendition that will surely get your toes tappin’!
5. “The Song Of The Setting Sun” from Whoopee! (1928) (M: Walter Donaldson | L: Gus Kahn)
I featured this show and song in my Musical Theatre Monday post this week. There’s something about this melody that just strikes me — it’s exotic beauty. With traces of Native American sounds, as the clip below (which the track on my Ipod was ripped from) illustrates, this was a lush Ziegfeld spectacle. Rarely do I stop to appreciate a beautiful melody — I’m usually drawn to songs that are fun and clever — but this one is enchanting. See for yourself!
6. “Why, Oh Why?” from Hit The Deck (1927) (M: Vincent Youmans | L: Clifford Grey & Leo Robin)
Vincent Youmans is a fabulously underrated composer from the ’20s and early ’30s that deserves more recognition. In addition to No, No, Nanette, Youmans wrote several other fun scores, including this one here about American sailors in China. The version of this darn catchy number here is by the Original London Cast, and will give young fans a taste of that REAL 1920s sound! Here are the Barry Twins and Company:
7. “More Than You Know” from Great Day (1929) (M: Vincent Youmans | L: William Rose & Edward Eliscu)
I first heard this PHENOMENAL song in the 1989 jukebox musical, Ziegfeld. Youmans provides another exquisite melody, while Rose and Eliscu give memorable lyrics. This is probably the most well known number on today’s playlist, and it probably deserves to be. This song gets in your brain and sticks with you for days. For a dance version, I go to Jack Payne’s sparkling rendition. But here’s the vocally powerful track from Ziegfeld by Hadyn Gwynne:
8. “Open Up Your Heart” from Great Day (1929) (M: Vincent Youmans | L: William Rose & Edward Eliscu)
This little known love song also has that distinct Youmans charm. An interesting thing to note about Great Day is that it was adapted for the screen with Joan Crawford in late 1929. But three-quarters into filming, the rushes were deemed inadequate and the entire film was shelved indefinitely. Why that film didn’t materialized we’ll never know, but the marvelous score makes MGM’s reasons for purchasing the show entirely evident. This forgotten number is simple, sweet, and worth a listen. Here’s Robert White and Joan Morris:
9. “It’s Me Again” from Yokel Boy (1939) (M & L: Lew Brown, Charles Tobias, and Sam H. Stept)
Here’s another upbeat number from a little known show. Lew Brown teamed with Tobias and Stept to write the score for this musical about childhood lovers who have ups and downs in Hollywood. Though the plot wasn’t new, the score seems excitingly fresh and vibrant to my ears. This is one of a handful of catchy tunes from the score (“Comes Love” is probably the most well known). Here’s a peppy rendition of “It’s Me Again” by Bob Zurke and His Delta Rhythm Band:
10. “There I Go Dreaming Again” from Hot-Cha (1932) (M: Ray Henderson | L: Lew Brown)
This wistful yet ordinary torch song has an interesting melody that I feel deserves a couple of listens. Nothing spectacular, but fascinating nonetheless. Perhaps of greater note than the song itself is the performer, Ethel Shutta, who many Broadway fans will remember as the original Hattie in Sondheim’s Follies (1971). Shutta was married to bandleader George Olsen. So though she wasn’t in the original production, she got to record the best tunes that her hubby played. Here’s Olsen and Shutta’s recording:
Those are some of the songs I’ve been listening to lately! Please feel free to comment and subscribe with any questions about these songs or for help obtaining specific renditions.
Come back next Wednesday for another Wildcard post! And come back tomorrow as we continue our countdown of the best episodes of Xena!