How often does one get the opportunity to hear a never-before-released score from one of the most beloved songwriting teams of all time? How about three unreleased scores, then? And what if one of those scores featured seven never-before-heard performances from Sammy Davis, Jr.? Indeed, such opportunities are rare…making Kritzerland’s new release of Unsung Sherman Brothers all the more special. This delectable and tuneful collection premieres rare demo recordings of three unproduced scores by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman for film musical adaptations of The 13 Clocks and Roman Holiday plus an original fairy tale amalgam, Sir Puss-in-Boots. All three projects were mooted in one remarkable year – 1969 – of The Shermans’ most magical and prolific decade.
The Sherman Brothers’ delicate whimsy proves an ideal match here for humorist James Thurber’s 1950 story The 13 Clocks. Drawing on various fairy-tale motifs, Thurber’s story concerns a prince in the town of Onceuponatime who sets out to rescue a maiden from a nefarious duke. There are, of course, complications. As producer Bruce Kimmel quotes Richard and the late Robert in the liner notes to Unsung Sherman Brothers, the Duke “smashes all the clocks in an effort to prevent ‘someday’ from ever coming.” Working with their future Busker Alley collaborator A.J. Carothers for Warner Bros. and producer Mervyn LeRoy, the songwriters were clearly inspired by this unusual and beguiling story.
The colorful and varied 12-song demo was recorded with vocalist Fred Darian and the orchestrations and chorus of musical director Don Ralke. True collaborators on both music and lyrics, the Shermans brought a music-box feel to the title track and the attractive, baroque-tinged ballad (for the fair maiden?) “Where is Tomorrow?” Seemingly effortless lyricism and gentle wit characterize the wry “Ten Minutes to Nine” (“Morning, noon and evening time/It’s ten minutes to nine”) as presumably sung by the resigned villagers. “Hagga’s Lament” likewise showcases the offbeat humor that the Shermans would have brought to the film.
The laconic, nearly country-and-western road song “Day by Beautiful Day” (“Wandering down life’s highway/Traveling where I may/I’m traveling miles, gathering smiles, day by beautiful day”) and the gorgeously yearning “How Free Would I Be?” showcase the brothers’ deftness with a melody in any style, as well as the ability to lyrically express emotional truths for a character with exquisite simplicity. In another era, the latter would have been a folk-pop hit. “Saralinda” is the team at their most longingly romantic.
The upbeat “Little Minor Miracle” is quintessential Sherman Brothers, and bears a resemblance to the team’s equally catchy “Try a Little Something New,” written for The Disney Channel’s 1983 Welcome to Pooh Corner television series. Similarly, “From the Guggle to the Zatch” has the delightfully loopy quality of “Heffalumps and Woozles” from their score to 1968’s Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.
Alas, the sale of Warner Bros. to the Kinney Corporation scuttled The 13 Clocks. The same year of 1969, however, Richard and Robert crafted an original musical also rooted in the fairy-tale milieu. Sir-Puss-in-Boots would “borrow a little bit of mythology from every fairy tale we could think of…In our story, a magical prince gives a cat the ability to talk (not to mention wearing boots, a vest, and a hat). To repay the favor, our pussycat sets out in a boat with his trusty friend Rowl the Owl to find an evil ogre who lives at the top of a giant beanstalk. Our Puss-in-Boots defeats the ogre, saves the Prince’s beloved Princess – and as a reward is knighted Sir Puss-in-Boots.”
An all-star cast was assembled for the project including Karl Malden as the ogre and Jack Carter as Rowl the Owl. But the biggest coup was the casting of Sir Puss-in-Boots himself: Sammy Davis, Jr.! At the time of his involvement with the project, Davis was concluding his tenure at Reprise Records and on the cusp of moving to the Motown label for a short-lived period there. The demo was recorded with light jazz accompaniment provided by The Bobby Hammack Quartet. Still vocally at the top of his game, Sammy romps and swaggers through the buoyant title song and deliciously swings “Rhythm of the Road,” clearly tailor-made for his talents. “Rhythm” is heard twice: once in a “straight” demo version, and once in a Sammy-ized “pop” version that’s equally wonderful. “People are Similar” espouses a very timely (then and now!) sentiment of togetherness despite differences (“Kingdom to kingdom, whatever be the name/People are similar/People are like people are/People are similar/People are the same!”). This was a message close to the heart of both Davis and the song’s authors, who had written “It’s a Small World,” after all. Davis delivers it with abundant charisma both on his solo take and a trio version with the Prince and Princess, performed by uncredited singers.
Much like The 13 Clocks, Sir Puss-in-Boots boasts a varied score. Amusing wordplay comes to the fore on both Davis’ ode to Sir “Lungemore Lancewellington” (to have been played by British radio personality Michael Jackson) and Karl Malden’s “Ogre Song.” Malden growls and barks with evident relish on his big solo spot, and joins Ginny Tyler for an equally fun “Ogre Beans.” The Prince and Princess’ “Dawning Sun” duet is as tender as the Ogres’ songs are larger-than-life. Though Sir Puss-in-Boots never made it to fruition, the titular feline would finally find onscreen fame as a character in the Shrek series of films…themselves inspired in large part by the Disney films featuring scores by The Sherman Brothers.
The shortest score here is for director Franco Zeffirelli’s unproduced musical remake of the 1953 cinema classic Roman Holiday. The three songs here – “We’ll Still Have Rome,” “So Simpatico,” and “The Bells of Roma” – were written “on spec” to present to the project’s producer Dino De Laurentiis, who was wary that the American brothers could supply songs with the requisite Italian favor. Unsurprisingly to all except the producer, “The Boys” more than delivered, but the studio soon scuttled the project. Left behind were the sumptuous orchestral recordings of three tracks, lushly arranged by Irwin Kostal (Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music). Though vocals weren’t laid down at the time, Kritzerland has rectified that by newly bringing Robert Yacko, Lisa Livesay, and a six-person chorus into the studio.
Producer Kimmel and restoration expert/audio engineer Chris Malone have seamlessly integrated the 2016 vocals and 1969 tracks to show these sweepingly romantic, elegant songs to their best advantage. The choral “The Bells of Roma” is a gorgeous scene-setter, and “So Simpatico” is a sweet love duet charmingly sung by Yacko and Livesay. “We’ll Still Have Rome” makes for a wistful finale as winningly sung by the pair.
Unsung Sherman Brothers contains a 12-page booklet with detailed liner notes and numerous photos including fantastic shots from the Sir Puss-in-Boots recording session. This set introduces a number of songs that won’t soon leave your memory, among them “Day by Beautiful Day,” “How Free Would I Be?,” “Rhythm of the Road,” “Puss-in-Boots,” “So Simpatico,” and “We’ll Still Have Rome,” just to name a few. There’s likely not a moment anywhere in the world where someone isn’t listening to a Sherman Brothers song, and how lucky we are to now have 27 more compositions from these legendary tunesmiths to enjoy. Might one hope that Unsung Sherman Brothers Volume 2 is in the works? Quite simply, this truly scrumptious release is musical fun for the whole family. In other words, it’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
You can purchase Unsung Sherman Brothers at Amazon U.S. or directly from Kritzerland where limited copies signed by Richard M. Sherman are also still available as part of a special offer! Both links are below! You can also find our interview with Bruce Kimmel about this release right here!
The 13 Clocks
- The 13 Clocks
- Ten Minutes to Nine
- Day by Beautiful Day
- Little Minor Miracle
- From the Guggle to the Zatch
- Where is Tomorrow?
- How Free Would I Be
- If You Don’t Ask Questions
- I’ll March to My Own Drum
- Hagga’s Lament
- The Time Has Come
- Puss-in-Boots – Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Rhythm of the Road – Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Ogre Sun – Karl Malden
- Dawning Sun – Prince and Princess
- People Are Similar – Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Birthday Song – The Children
- Lungemore Lancewellington – Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Ogre Beans – Karl Malden and Jinny Tyler
- Puss-in-Boots Finale – Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Rhythm of the Road (Sammy’s Version) – Sammy Davis, Jr.
- People Are Similar (Trio Version) – Sammy Davis, Jr., Prince, Princess
- Birthday Song – Prince, Princess, Children
- The Bells of Roma – vocals by Brittney Bertier, Amy Gillette, Phil Gold, Rick Kleber, Ryan Ruge and Sami Staitman
- So Simpatico – vocal by Lisa Livesay and Robert Yacko
- We’ll Still Have Rome – vocal by Lisa Livesay and Robert Yacko