Today we’re looking at two upcoming releases from the Kritzerland label.
Kritzerland is continuing its series of Ben Bagley’s Revisited titles with the third entry dedicated to the music and lyrics of Cole Porter. The Peru, Indiana native was among the most sophisticated tunesmiths of an era brimming with them. The master of wordplay also overflowed with melody, and Ben Bagley dedicated numerous releases to exploring the lesser-known side of his song catalogue from the cast recording of his revue The Decline and Fall of the Entire World as Seen Through the Eyes of Cole Porter to his Revisited volumes. For the second one, Bagley dropped the Revisited tag and retitled the LP Unpublished Cole Porter. The third dropped all adjectives. The simply-titled Cole Porter Volume III, first released on Bagley’s Painted Smiles label in 1979, boasted a typically starry and eclectic cast of stage and screen stalwarts: Elaine Stritch, Dolores Gray, Lynn Redgrave, Helen Gallagher, Georgia Engel, and Arthur Siegel.
As ever eschewing the familiar, this entry featured would-be Porter classics from such musicals as Panama Hattie, DuBarry Was a Lady, Nymph Errant, Fifty Million Frenchmen, Wake Up and Dream, Mexican Hayride, Let’s Face It, The Ambassador Revue, and Gay Divorce, plus tunes written for unproduced films and cut material from stage and film musicals (Can-Can, Les Girls, Seven Lively Arts). All of the arrangements came courtesy of musical director Dennis Deal. While largely unknown at the time, the 18 songs on Volume III display the same sparkling wit, naughtiness, and abundant melody as Porter’s timeless standards. Among the titles: Stritch’s “Find Me a Primitive Man,” Redgrave’s “Her Heart Was in Her Work” and “I Wanted to Be Raided by You,” and Gallagher’s “Make a Date with a Great Psychoanalyst.” (A fourth volume also arrived in 1979 and presumably is due for reissue soon from Kritzerland. That one starred Katharine Hepburn along with the returning Gray, Gallagher, and Siegel.)
Kritzerland has remastered the disc for a sonic improvement over the 1989 Painted Smiles CD release, and the label has retained the cover artwork from composer-artist Harvey Schmidt (The Fantasticks, 110 in the Shade). Cole Porter Volume III is limited to 500 copies only and scheduled to ship by the third week of July. That said, pre-orders placed directly at Kritzerland typically ship three to five weeks ahead of the official date.
Also due in July from Kritzerland is a world premiere official release for the Original Cast Recording of Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire’s 1961 musical The Sap of Life. Maltby and Shire would go onto write such musicals as Starting Here, Starting Now, Baby, and Big, while both men have also had extraordinary careers apart from their writing partner. Maltby wrote lyrics for Miss Saigon and directed the Tony Award-winning Fosse while Shire penned songs and scores for such motion pictures as All the President’s Men, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Saturday Night Fever, and Norma Rae.
The Sap of Life opened off-Broadway at One Sheridan Square with a cast including Kenneth Nelson (The Fantasticks), Jerry Dodge (Hello, Dolly!), and Patricia Bruder (Gypsy). Despite good reviews, the musical from librettist-lyricist Maltby and composer Shire lasted just 49 performances. During that brief run, however, it was attended by theatre luminaries including Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, and Harold Prince. Another fan was Eleanor Roosevelt – yes, that Eleanor Roosevelt. On the day the show posted its closing notice, the former First Lady devoted an entire column in the New York Post to the musical. “I hope the public will patronize it,” she wrote. Unfortunately, the producers only held out for one more week after her endorsement. They did, however, fund the recording of a cast album. Finished copies were given to friends and family of the cast and production team but a commercial release never happened – until now.
Maltby and Shire recycled a couple of the songs in their acclaimed revues Starting Here, Starting Now and Closer Than Ever, but only those familiar with the original LP or its subsequent bootleg issue (and copies thereof) knew the songs’ origins. “Back in 1991, the label Bay Cities was thinking about issuing it, but they didn’t because the quality just wasn’t good enough,” Kritzerland states in its press release. “A cassette of that attempt was found, along with a good transfer of the bootleg record, and with today’s technology and a brilliant restoration expert, Chris Malone, at the helm, it was hoped that the quality would at least be okay. But at the last minute, a reel-to-reel tape was found in David Shire’s belongings and that was what was used for this CD. While the original recording quality was certainly nothing to write home about, it sounds about as good as it’s ever going to sound.”
Richard Maltby, Jr. has written new liner notes for this first commercial release, and a bonus track has even been included: Shire’s recording of his own “Sonata for Cocktail Piano,” played by the composer when it was written. That, too, premieres here. The Sap of Life is also limited to 500 copies and scheduled to ship by the third week of July. Pre-orders placed directly at Kritzerland typically ship three to five weeks ahead of the official date.
You’ll find pre-order links for both titles below!
Various Artists, Cole Porter Volume III (Painted Smiles PS 1370, 1979 – reissued Kritzerland, 2021)
- Wake Up and Dream – Nancy Grennan and Chorus
- Find Me a Primitive Man – Elaine Stritch and Les Boys
- I Like Pretty Things – Georgia Engel and Girls
- Make a Date with a Great Psychoanalyst – Helen Gallagher
- Baby Let’s Dance – The Darktown Strutters
- What Are Little Husbands Made Of/Why Marry Them – Lynn Redgrave
- I’m in Love/You’re in Love – Georgia Engel and Chorus
- You’re Too Far Away – Dolores Gray
- A Lady Needs a Rest – Lynn Redgrave and Girls
- Her Heart Was in Her Work – Arthur Siegel, Lynn Redgrave
- Who Would Have Dreamed – Dolores Gray
- I Wanted to Be Raided by You – Lynn Redgrave and Girls
- I Wrote a Play – Arthur Siegel
- Prize Guy of Guys – Helen Gallagher
- What Am I To Do? – Lynn Redgrave
- When Love Beckoned – Elaine Stritch
- Pretty Little Missus Bell – Georgia Engel and Boys
- It’s Just Yours – Lynn Redgrave, Arthur Siegel, and Chorus
The Sap of Life: Original Cast Recording (Private press, 1961 – reissued Kritzerland, 2021)
- Saturday Morning
- Farewell, Family
- Charmed Life
- Arrival in the City
- Fill Up Your Life with Sunshine
- Good Morning
- Watching the Big Parade Go By
- The Love of Your Life
- Introduction – Act II
- A Hero’s Love
- Children Have It Easy
- She Loves Me Not
- Mind Over Matter
- Time and Time Again
Sonata for Cocktail Piano – written and performed by David Shire
- Allegro Moderato