MOONLIGHT BAY is a celebration of the popular song's first golden era, which might be called its age of innocence. Written for the most part between 1890 and 1920, these are tunes which had their origins in American vaudeville or English music hall. As they were disseminated through the populace via word of mouth or sheet music, it was important that they be accessible, easy to remember and not too difficult to sing or play, popular music in the truest possible sense. And they do their magic: a century later it is still hard not to get hooked by the sneaky return of the marching chorus of "The Man That Broke The Bank at Monte Carlo" or the blustery reprise of "The Road to Mandalay," just as it is hard to resist the nostalgic comforts of "School Days" or "Daisy Bell."
Mezzo-soprano Joan Morris and her accompanist/accomplice, composer-pianist William Bolcom have been working this turf for a while. This collection lives up to the team's usual high standards of scholarship, musicianship and taste. Most importantly, they are straight-up and sincere in their approach, as 78 rpm evidence shows the original performers were. This is swell stuff.