Dory Previn

Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign/On My Way to Where

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The obvious question is why, in its welcome reissue of the United Artists recordings of Dory Previn, British label BGO packaged her fourth and first albums together, in that order (preceded by her second and third ones in a separate release). The dubious answer is, the first album's release in Britain was delayed until after the second, third, and fourth ones had come out, so the reissues replicate the U.K. order of release. But the odd sequencing actually works for this two-CD set, since that fourth album, Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign, originally released in 1972, is more of a comment on, and thus more closely connected to, the former Dory Langdon's '60s career as a three-time Academy Award-nominated lyricist for movie theme songs. Though Mary C. Brown is not, as it is sometimes mistakenly described, a studio cast album of Previn's stage musical of the same name, it does contain several reflections on film stardom and its lack. Overall, however, it is really a concept album full of story songs about misfits, from the suicidal Mary C. Brown herself and the near-blind mama's boy Cully Surroga to midgets, the left-handed, and even misunderstood celebrities like King Kong and Jesus. Previn sings these cinematic tales over functional music, used rather the way music is used in movies, to support the story rather than for its own sake. Songs often have different sections, and the styles range from folk-rock and light pop to Dixieland, samba, and even Gregorian chant. In contrast, Previn's 1970 debut album, On My Way to Where, which follows, is a folkie singer/songwriter collection full of personal songs. Though Marilyn Monroe turns up in the first song, "Scared to Be Alone," Previn is more interested in her own inner landscape than the hills of Hollywood here, and the result is a psychiatrist's couch' worth of remembrances. Interestingly, the album's most controversial track in its day, "Beware of Young Girls," which describes the breakup of Previn's marriage with composer André Previn due to his relationship with actress Mia Farrow, now comes across as prescient ("She will leave him/One thoughtless day") as well as an object lesson Farrow herself should have heeded before her later companion, Woody Allen, ran off with another young girl.

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