Various Artists

Jerome Kern Revisited, Vol. 2 [CD Version]

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Ben Bagley originally issued four volumes of his Jerome Kern Revisited series on LP, but the greater length of CDs allowed him to reshuffle the same material into three packages for the digital era. Thus, the second CD volume omits three songs that were on the corresponding LP, but adds two tracks each from the third and fourth vinyl collections. It is still a typical offering from Bagley, who has sought out obscure songs from the Kern catalog that had previously been buried in the scores of forgotten stage and movie musicals (or, in the case of "Day Dreaming," a rare independent song from Kern, just lost in the trunk), and then given those songs to talented arrangers and singers. Some of those singers have recognizable names, although not always as singers. Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, who perform "Nesting Time in Flatbush" from the 1917 musical Oh! Boy!, are better known as a comedy team, while Sheldon Harnick, who sings "Worries" and "The Enchanted Train," both from the 1924 show Sitting Pretty, is a Broadway lyricist whose credits include Fiddler on the Roof, and Joanne Woodward, who duets with Andy Anselmo on "Bullfrog Patrol" from 1919's She's a Good Fellow, is an acclaimed actress but not much thought of as a vocalist. All are excellent handling these novelty and character songs. And then there is a host of unknowns, all with good voices, who sing the rest. Bagley sometimes has fun in the liner notes with their semi-professional status; of Mark Sendroff, who sings the title song from Sitting Pretty, he writes, "With the release of this recording, discovery Mark could become known as America's best-known singing lawyer." Among Sendroff's law clients, Bagley notes, is Kaye Ballard, the nightclub and Broadway singer who performs "It Wasn't My Fault" from 1917's Love o' Mike and parts of "The Magic Melody Medley." While the selections certainly demonstrate that even Kern's second-tier songs were good, some are even better than that. "Here Am I," sung by Karen Wyman and written for Helen Morgan in 1929's Sweet Adeline, deserves greater recognition, and the collection concludes with two lesser known pieces from Show Boat that originally appeared on the third-volume LP, "Mis'ry's Comin' Aroun'" and "Hey, Feller!," representing the only recordings by the 1983 Broadway Revival Cast of the musical.

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