This limited edition re-release of the show's original Broadway recording -- having been re-mixed from the original session masters -- sounds gloriously pristine. The performances from principals Dorothy Collins, John McMartin, Gene Nelson and Alexis Smith, as well as luminaries Yvonne De Carlo, Mary McCarthy and Ethel Shutta, all have a heretofore unheard vibrancy that's in perfect balance with the orchestra (playing Jonathan Tunick's robust orchestrations).
Steve Doyle - Home to You (SteveDoyle.com)
With this lush 10-track disc, singer/pianist Doyle seems to turn the clock back 50 years or so to an era of swinging jazz when cigarette smoke swirled through basement clubs around Manhattan. His expressive vocals on such standards "Secret Love," "Dancing in the Dark," and "Ain't She Sweet," are ably matched by some notable solos from his musicians, particularly saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff and bassist Chris Higgins. Perhaps most surprising, however, is how Doyle returns "Tainted Love," perhaps best known from the early 1980s Soft Cell recording, to its early 1960s roots.
Johnny Mercer Sings Just for Fun (Sepia Records)
This terrific compilation disc brings together a delightful set of songs that Mercer recorded with the Paul Smith Trio in 1957, including Frank Loesser's "The New Ashmolean" (from Where's Charley?), and a baker's dozen of demo recordings featuring Mercer with collaborators Hoagy Carmichael (for an aborted bio-film about Mack Sennett and Mabel Norman) and André Previn (for their West End musical The Good Companions). It's these latter tracks that make this album a real gem, especially the comic "Queenie, The Quick-Change Artist" and the gently rueful "The Pleasure of Your Company."
Winston Gieseke - On the Edge (LML Music)
Gieske's ability to navigate comic material shines brightly on this album, recorded live during a performance he gave at M Bar in Hollywood in 2011. Particularly funny highlights are "Happily Ever After," a giddily off-color look at fairy tale romances, a sardonically sincere rendering of "Shanghai Surprise," and a rendition of Cole Porter's "Always True to You in My Fashion" that's tinged with Madonna's "Material Girl." Gieske's patter between numbers proves equally amusing.
Selections from Sympathy Jones (the New Secret Agent Musical) (SympathyJones.com)
For this show about a woman working to realize her dream about becoming an agent, songwriter Masi Asare ably blends 1960s pop sensibilities with traditional musical theater sounds. Amusingly, she also echoes the now iconic theme songs for the James Bond flicks with the disc's opener, "Time Will Tell," delivered by Jen Percival, channeling her inner Shirley Bassey. At the album's center is Broadway star Kate Shindle, who imbues the titular character with sauciness and an appropriately mercurial flair. Also notable are Sue Mathys and Jim Bray as Kitty Hawk and Tick Tock, who make two melodramatically funny villains.
Tommy Cecil/Bill Mays - Side By Side - Sondheim Duos (CDBaby)
Bassist Cecil and pianist Mays take listeners on a fascinating journey through some of Sondheim's most famous tunes on this elegant jazz disc. They put an almost dreamy, yet nevertheless somewhat dark, spin on "Not While I'm Around," while sparkling syncopation and clever harmonic riffs make "Comedy Tonight" a bouncy delight. And when they turn to the Leonard Bernstein melody for "Something's Coming," there's an undeniable -- and ever-so-apt -- antsyness to their playing.
Singin' in the Rain (2012 London Cast) (First Night Records)
This beguiling disc, a recording of the West End transfer of the Chichester Festival production, brims with familiar tunes from the classic MGM film, including "Make 'Em Laugh," "Good Morning," and, of course, the title number. What listeners will also happily find here are orchestrations from Larry Wilcox and Larry Blank that are brassy, buoyant joys, and utterly charming performances from Scarlett Strallen (in the Debbie Reynolds role) and Adam Cooper (filling Gene Kelly's formidable shoes).
Top Hat (2012 London Cast Recording) (First Night Records)
This West End musical (currently at the Aldwych Theatre) boasts a grand amalgam of Irving Berlin songs, including hits from the RKO movie on which the show is based (like "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" and "Cheek to Cheek"), which are augmented by other well-known tunes ("Puttin' on the Ritz" and "Let's Face the Music and Dance") as well as less familiar titles ("Latins Know How" from Louisiana Purchase). And, thanks to Jerry Travers' Rudy Vallee-esque vocals and Christopher Walker's smartly conceived orchestrations and arrangements, this thoroughly enjoyable disc sounds both period-perfect and remarkably of our time.