This CD, issued by AEI (American Entertainment Industries, Inc.) under the auspices of the non-profit Council for Musical Theatre, presents, for historical purposes, recordings originally issued on 78 rpm discs in the 1940s, all associated with all-black Broadway musicals. Tracks 1-5 made up a 1940 album by Ethel Waters, star of Cabin in the Sky, issued by the Liberty Music Shop label. After an overture performed by the pit orchestra from the musical and presided over by that orchestra's conductor, Max Meth, Waters steps in and sings four songs. "Takin' a Chance on Love," "Cabin in the Sky," and "Love Turned the Light Out" are all numbers she sang in the show, while "Honey in the Honeycomb" was performed on-stage by her character's rival, played by Katherine Dunham. Tracks 6-11 present music from Porgy and Bess drawn from two sources. Pianist Cy Walter's "Medley" (actually separate recordings of "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'," "Bess, You Is My Woman," and "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York" tracked together) and nightclub singer Mabel Mercer's renditions of "Summertime," "My Man's Gone Now," and "I Loves You Porgy" made up another Liberty Music Shop album issued in 1942. In 1947, Todd Duncan, who had played Porgy in the original 1935 Broadway production, recorded "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'" and "Bess, O Where Is My Bess?" for Musicraft Records. Those two tracks are also included here. ("Bess, O Where Is My Bess?" has been renamed "Porgy's Lament.") All of these 11 tracks were previously released by AEI in 1979 on an LP called Porgy and Bess/Cabin in the Sky. For the 1994 CD reissue, the label has added another set of rare recordings. Tracks 12-17 represent songwriters Baldwin Bergersen and William Archibald's demonstration recordings of six of the songs for their short-lived 1945 musical Carib Song, which were issued on 78s by International Records. There are some good songs here, and they are enthusiastically performed in arrangements more elaborate than the piano accompaniments that make up the rest of the disc. Sound quality is iffy, as the tracks have been mastered directly from scratchy 78s. But the album will have value to collectors and musical theater buffs.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Cabin in the Sky|
|Porgy and Bess|
|Porgy and Bess|