Lyricist/co-librettist E.Y. Harburg's complicated original plot for the 1947 Broadway musical Finian's Rainbow conflated two stories: one about an Irishman who immigrates to the American South with his daughter after stealing a crock of gold from a leprechaun who pursues them to get it back; the other about a bigoted Southern Senator who gets a taste of his own Jim Crow policies when he is magically turned into a black man. The show worked because it gave greater attention to the first plot than the second, and because Harburg and composer Burton Lane's Irish-tinged score was so tuneful. The hit of the piece was "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?," the daughter's homesick reminiscence of her birthplace, but "Old Devil Moon" also got into the pop charts, and "Look to the Rainbow," "If This Isn't Love," and "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love" all attained the status of semi-standards. In some of the wittier, lesser-known songs, such as "That Great-Come-and-Get-It Day" and "The Begat," Lane included gospel and R&B influences, while Harburg snuck in topical criticisms of the D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution) and "the misbegotten GOP." (No wonder he was blacklisted soon after.) The show ran a year-and-three-quarters on Broadway in its original production. Columbia Records jumped into the original cast album sweepstakes for the first time, in competition with Decca and RCA Victor, by recording Finian's Rainbow a couple of months after it opened and releasing it as a six-disc 78 RPM album. The collection was dominated by Ella Logan, who played Sharon McLonergan, the daughter, and sang six leads or duets among the 12 songs. Logan had a rich voice and a charming Irish accent that helped her put across songs like "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" David Wayne, as Og the leprechaun, was also winning, especially on "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love." Though it was a somewhat under-produced recording, this first performance of Finian's Rainbow on records remained the definitive one. The album marked another first for Columbia when the label used it to introduce its new LP format in June 1948. There were numerous reissues over the years, then in 1988, the album came out on CD. On May 30, 2000, a second CD version appeared that represented a sonic overhaul, going back to the original acetates. Reissue producer Thomas Z. Shepard added a different take of "That Great Come-and-Get-It Day" that restored the song to the second act finale, and he substituted a livelier take of "The Begat." On three more bonus tracks at the end of the disc, Harburg was heard discussing the writing of "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" and "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love" before singing them, and he also performed "Don't Pass Me By," a song cut from the show.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann