Various Artists

Harold Arlen Revisited

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Ben Bagley operates by the thesis that great theater and film songwriters write a lot of great songs, only some of which get performed in hit shows and movies, much less become hits outside theaters. His goal is to construct albums out of these lost treasures that prove his theory. That goal is achieved on his Harold Arlen album, which rediscovers songs originally written between 1929 and 1968. His main sources are the unrecorded Broadway scores of 1934's Life Begins at 8:40 and 1937's Hooray for What!, each of which are mined for four songs. Two songs each come from 1929's Follow Thru and the 1952 film The Best Things In Life Are Free, and the rest come from -- or were cut from -- other Arlen shows or soundtracks, except "Run Away World," which was done for this record. Sure enough, the music is melodic and occasionally bluesy in the familiar Arlen manner, and the lyrics, written by such collaborators as E.Y. Harburg, often inventive. The non-hit material in shows often consists of novelty material or uptempo dance songs written for production numbers, but there are also several strong ballads here, notably "This Time the Dream's On Me," which isn't really that obscure, though it never became a real hit. (The album was originally released as a 15-track LP circa 1970 as Crewe Records CR 1345; the CD reissue adds six newly recorded songs for a generous running time of nearly 76 minutes.)

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