Various Artists

Jerome Kern Revisited, Vol. 3 [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 third CD volume omits four songs that were on the corresponding LP, but adds one track from the second vinyl collection and five from the fourth. Since the Bagley "revisited" albums are devoted to unearthing obscure songs by famous Broadway composers to begin with, one might expect that, by the third or fourth volume the compiler would be reaching the bottom of the barrel, even with someone as accomplished and prolific as Kern. And it is true that this final disc seems to have quite a few ditties that are pleasant enough, but that didn't deserve to cross the footlights and become Tin Pan Alley hits. Nevertheless, there are still some real finds here, among them "Out There in an Orchard," a song Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote for Helen Morgan to sing in Show Boat before deciding to give her the trunk song "Bill" instead. And toward the end of the disc, the material becomes much more substantial, notably the nine-minute medley from Gentlemen Unafraid, an anti-war musical set during the Civil War that failed to make it to Broadway as the U.S. moved from a pacifist stance to entry in World War II. But whether the songs are frivolous or message-laden, the cast Bagley has assembled gives them sympathetic treatments. In fact, some of the lightest numbers are the most enjoyable, such as the novelty "Tulip Time in Sing Sing" from the 1924 musical Sitting Pretty, which Arthur Siegel renders with criminal gusto. As usual with a Bagley production, the cast ranges from prominent nightclub singers like Kaye Ballard and Ann Hampton Callaway to amateurs like Adelle Sardi, identified as the ex-wife of the owner of the legendary Sardi's Restaurant in the Broadway theater district. But whatever the level of talent of the performer, the songs have been chosen and the arrangements have been shaped to show them -- and Kern -- off well.

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