Call Me Madam, a fictionalized account of the life of Washington hostess and ambassador to Luxembourg Pearl Mesta, was Irving Berlin's final hit Broadway musical. It was also his second collaboration with Ethel Merman, who had starred in his most successful show, Annie Get Your Gun. Opening October 12, 1950, Call Me Madam settled in for a run that eventually totaled 644 performances, making the commercial prospects of a cast album bright. Unfortunately, there was a glitch. The show had been financed by RCA Victor Records, who claimed the cast album. But Merman was an exclusive recording artist for Decca, one of RCA's major rivals. The result was two albums: RCA replaced Merman with Dinah Shore, while Decca made its own recording with Merman and a few hired hands, including Dick Haymes. Once both albums were in the public domain in Europe, where a 50-year copyright limit applies, Prism Leisure assembled Call Me Madam, which contains the complete RCA LP, plus, as bonus tracks, the seven selections from the Decca LP that feature Merman and two numbers by members of the original London cast of 1952. Shore is an odd fit with the stage cast on the RCA material. Paul Lukas ("Welcome to Lichtenburg") and the rest of the actors perform in character, but Shore sounds like the pleasant, noncommittal pop singer she is, never bothering to create any believable characterization, even when she's speaking dialogue. It takes until the 15th track for Merman to come in, but as soon as she does, she makes you forget Shore. True, she's really just playing Ethel Merman, but these songs were written for her, and she sings them with her usual supreme confidence. The two excerpts from the London cast are a welcome coda, but no competition. Given the odd situation, this may be the best album one can expect of this score.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann