Cabin in the Sky, the all-black musical that features composer Vernon Duke's best score, ran on Broadway starting October 25, 1940, which was before the era in which cast albums became common, although star Ethel Waters did record four numbers from it for a 78 rpm album on the Liberty Music Shop label. A full-length cast recording had to wait more than 23 years, until an Off-Broadway revival was mounted on January 21, 1964. The production ran only 47 performances, but Capitol Records took the opportunity to bring the cast into a recording studio. The results were outstanding, even if they were somewhat different from what audiences would have heard in the theater in 1940, or even in 1964, for that matter. The change from stage to disc in this particular production was brought about by the introduction of conductor Sy Oliver, who wrote special new orchestrations just for the recording that employed a much bigger band than could have fit into the Greenwich Mews Theatre, giving the album much more the feel of Broadway than Off-Broadway. Being the Swing Era veteran that he was, Oliver also gave the songs his punchy, brassy signature sound. As to the changes since 1940, Duke, who was involved in the revival and wrote the album's liner notes, reinstated a cut song, "We'll Live All Over Again"; interpolated "Not a Care in the World" from another of his musicals, Banjo Eyes; and wrote a new song, "Living It Up." (It should be noted that the production did not use any of the songs Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg wrote for the 1943 movie version, among them "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe.") The cast included many talented singers, none more impressive than the leads, Rosetta Le Noire, who got to sing the show's big hit, "Taking a Chance on Love," and Tony Middleton, who sounded like a cross between Lou Rawls and Joe Williams. It may have taken decades to get on record, but when it did, Cabin in the Sky justified the praise it received from theater critics.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Helena Ferguson
feat: Samuel Laws
feat: Samuel Laws