Frank Loesser

Frank Sings Loesser

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This collection consisting largely of "rare and unreleased performances" (as it says on the cover) is something of a sequel to the 1992 DRG Records album An Evening with Frank Loesser, in which the songwriter also presented demos of his compositions. Or, rather, it is really more of a prequel, since that album presented material from three Loesser musicals of the 1950s and ‘60s, Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, while this album delves into earlier recordings dating all the way back to 1930, when a barely 20-year-old Loesser and his then-composing partner William Schuman cut "Doing the Dishes" and "Where the Grass Grows Green" on a "speak-o-phone." Those songs remained obscure, and so are some of the other songs on this album, although a number of Loesser's hits are included, among them "I Wish I Were Twins," "Once in Love with Amy," "In My Arms," "Tallahassee," "No Two People," and "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Like many other songwriters who have been recorded singing their own songs, Loesser turns out to be able to carry a tune, although he doesn't have a good voice, and he relishes singing his own lyrics, which gives them a special feeling. It is notable that many of the inflections and vocal effects Ray Bolger put into "Once in Love with Amy" when he sang it in the Broadway musical Where's Charley? and in his hit recording are right there on Loesser's demo. Not all these tracks are previously unreleased, as Loesser is backed by Mitch Miller's Orchestra and Chorus on "In My Arms" (a much more elaborate performance than the Dick Haymes hit version, which was sung a cappella because of the musician's strike of the '40s) and by an orchestra on several songs from the children's movie Hans Christian Andersen, including "The Inch Worm" and Loesser's musical account of "The King's New Clothes." Several songs are duets on which he is joined by his first wife Lynn Loesser, who provides a guide to some of the women who sang these songs later, such as Esther Williams and Doris Day. Of course, this is an album for songwriting aficionados, but it also demonstrates that if Loesser had come up during a period more forgiving of vocal limitations (such as the one ushered in by Bob Dylan in the '60s), he might have been a performer as well as a songwriter.

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