Composer Richard Rodgers once praised Florence Henderson as the ideal vehicle for his kind of music -- pretty, extroverted, and gifted with a very natural-sounding voice. In this studio recording of the groundbreaking musical Oklahoma!, Henderson sang the role of Laurey, a part she'd previously performed in a road company of the show. Joining her as Curly was John Raitt, who had originated the role of Billy in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel. Also receiving top billing on this recording was Phyllis Newman (a Tony award winner for Subways Are for Sleeping) as Ado Annie, the gal who "cain't say no." Each of these stars was in fine form, singing in a style -- unforced and full of personality -- that would no doubt please Rodgers. What mars this recording, however, is an echoey sound that ends up being too studio-bound for its own good. The voices are also saddled with unnecessarily cartoonish "new orchestrations" by Philip J. Lang. Unlike the straightforward and effective orchestrations created by Robert Russell Bennett for the original stage production, Lang overloaded the music with banjos, brass hits, and other '50s-era overkill, creating a sound more at home in a Lawrence Welk or Ferrante & Teicher arrangement than in a production of Oklahoma. Effectively, this recording remains a curious relic too tied to its 1964 recording date, thus negating the underlying timelessness of the material.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Shurley