Bugsy Malone [Original Cast Recording]

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This 1976 soundtrack found Paul Williams turning his writing and producing skills to crafting an original song score for a musical that used child actors to bring an adult story about 1930s gangsters to life. The resulting album works like a charm because Williams uses his Tin Pan Alley sense of melodic craftsmanship to creating a series of short, tight songs that effectively blend modern pop song structures and hooks with pre-rock & roll styles like ragtime jazz and Bing Crosby-style crooner balladry. As one might expect, there are plenty of toe-tapping tunes that evoke the good-timey feel of a speakeasy: "Fat Sam's Grand Slam" mixes a horn-laced up-tempo tune with effective flapper background vocals to create an enticing portrait of the title location, while "Bad Guys" is an amusing tribute to the tough-guy lifestyle that blends a complex multiple-singer vocal arrangment with a jazzy, piano-pounding melody. The up-tempo tracks are balanced out by some surprisingly torchy ballads: "I'm Feeling Fine" is an alluring invitation to romance that boasts a richly-harmonized chorus, and "My Name Is Tallulah" sets tough-girl lyrics to a sultry melody laced with elegant piano fills and stately horns. However, the album's finest moment is the finale, "You Give a Little Love"; this charming tribute to friendship builds from a single piano to a full, ragtime-styled band arrangement that climaxes with a rousing sing-along fade out. Though the album is short, each of the songs holds up to repeated listening and the album flows effortlessly as a result. The end result is one of the best achievements in Paul Williams' career and a charming listen for fans of musicals.

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