Noël Coward

Centenary Celebration

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Noel Coward was born on December 16, 1899, and this budget-priced compilation looked forward to his centenary by selecting recordings of 24 of his best-known songs from the 1920s to the 1940s, 15 of them featuring Coward himself. The cutoff point in the '40s (the latest included recordings seem to be Nelson Eddy's October 1940 take on "I'll See You Again" for American Columbia and Coward's July 1943 performance of the scathingly sarcastic "Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans" for HMV) is caused by European copyright law, which releases recordings made more than 50 years earlier into the public domain, allowing Prism Leisure to assemble albums like this simply by mastering old records. That's why, for instance, "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?," from 1961, is missing. But the bulk of Coward's most memorable songs are included, among them the witty patter numbers "Mrs. Worthington," "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," and "The Stately Homes of England," all sung by the songwriter. In many cases, the songs are performed by the actresses who introduced them on-stage. Beatrice Lillie sings "Mad About the Boy," as she did in Words and Music in 1935; Yvonne Printemps re-creates her interpretation of "I'll Follow My Secret Heart" from 1934's Conversation Piece; and Ivy St. Helier renders "If Love Were All" as she did in Bitter-Sweet in 1929. Best of all, there is an excerpt from the 1930 play Private Lives featuring its stars, Coward and Gertrude Lawrence. The barebones packaging, lacking annotations beyond a brief, generic biography of Coward, does not detail the contents, but the discount price makes this a good purchase for those wanting to hear the best of Coward, sung by him and his major interpreters, on a single disc.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:03
2 2:51
feat: Peggy Wood
4 3:09
5 4:33
6 3:09
7 2:42
8 1:19
9 3:09
10 3:40
11 2:17
feat: Peggy Wood
13 3:39
14 3:14
15 3:07
16 2:30
17 3:08
18 3:16
feat: Peggy Wood
20 3:27
21 2:41
22 3:18
feat: Nelson Eddy
24 3:33
blue highlight denotes track pick