Bette Davis

Two's Company [Original Broadway Cast]

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Part of Sepia Records' mission statement is "to release CDs...to be enjoyed by all." Who were they thinking would enjoy hearing Bette Davis' attempt a Broadway musical revue? People looking for new tools for psychological warfare? People preparing for an appearance on Fear Factor? Even the tracks that feature other vocalists are not that interesting, more idiomatic of 1940s movie musicals than Broadway. The only track worth hearing is "A Man's Home," with Ogden Nash's witticisms about Lloyd Wright architecture, sung (à la Rex Harrison) with appropriate cynicism and torment by Hiram Sherman. It's just a shame that the talents of Nash and Vernon Duke were mostly wasted in this instance. The value of the disc really lies in the bonus tracks. Most are Vernon Duke playing medleys of his songs. Duke was a more skillful pianist than Gershwin; he certainly had more classical training. He was just as creative as Gershwin when it came to improvising variations on his own melodies, and his can also be just as jazzy. Even though Duke is the featured artist of these tracks, each one has a vocalist on at least one of the tunes in the medley, and Duke's playing fades into the background both as part of the music and in terms of the sound. The cleaned up recordings let the vocalists through more clearly than the piano. Two final tracks are a surprising, fine one with Nancy Walker, best remembered for her TV roles in MacMillan and Wife and Rhoda, and one of Duke's songs from the film April in Paris. Rare as recordings of Duke's playing are, it's hard to recommend this disc for just those, but they do prevent its being used as a coaster.

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