Various Artists

Music from the New York Stage 1890-1920, Vol. 1: 1890-1908

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Cast-album recordings of Broadway musicals did not occur regularly until after 1943's Oklahoma!, but dating back to the beginning of recorded sound, performers occasionally stopped into studios to preserve songs from their shows. Reference book author Jack Raymond produced Pearl Records' four-part series of three-CD sets containing original cast recordings for the period 1890-1920. But as shown by the first volume, covering 1890-1908, a former cast member usually recorded one of the songs from a show many years after the original production, so that what you get is not necessarily what you would have heard onstage. Of course, that can mean improved sound quality, since the 1890s recordings were mastered from records and are difficult to hear clearly (even the later selections are very scratchy). A second problem, which annotator Dwight Blocker Bowers frequently acknowledges, is that in many cases there were no recordings made of the most successful songs from shows by the people who sang them. It was a common practice for one performer to introduce a hit song in vaudeville or on Broadway, while a different one had the record hit. The most famous example concerns George M. Cohan, who wrote and starred in several shows in the 1900s, performing standards that became record hits for Billy Murray; Cohan did record a session of tunes from his shows in 1911, and four are included here, but he never cut his most popular songs. Nor, for the same reason, are there any tracks from the operettas Babes In Toyland, Mademoiselle Modiste, The Merry Widow, and The Red Mill. On the other hand, a surprising number of major hits are included by the people who sang them onstage, and there are selections by many of the major stage stars of the era. The historic value of a nearly four-hour CD set covering an 18-year period at the turn of the century is incalculable. Due to the limitations of the recordings, this is not easy listening by any means, but there are many pleasures to be found, and as a work of aural scholarship, the set is unsurpassed. (Note that several performers occasionally parody Irish- and African-Americans. While necessary to a historically accurate portrayal of the era, such material may offend.)

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:58
2 2:43
3 1:08
4 2:12
5 1:29
6 2:21
7 3:33
8 0:52
9 2:54
10 2:41
11 3:28
12 2:57
13 1:46
14
2:54
15 2:53
16 1:56
17 1:55
18 1:37
19 1:33
20
2:08
21
2:05
22 2:39
23
3:14
24 2:38
25 2:37
26 2:34
27
2:18
28 2:02
29 2:11
30 2:04
31 4:01
32 3:36

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:58
2 2:44
3
2:49
4 2:30
5 2:30
6 2:25
7 2:07
8
2:46
9 2:52
10 2:51
11 2:37
12 2:36
13 3:07
14 2:51
15
3:40
16
2:28
17 2:42
18 2:04
19 2:15
20 2:37
21 2:16
22 3:28
23 2:52
24 1:55
25 2:33
26 2:34
27
3:04
28
3:11

Track Listing - Disc 3

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:14
2 3:53
3 4:32
4
3:26
5 2:58
6 3:30
7
3:16
8
3:38
9
3:20
10
2:42
11
2:45
12
4:12
13 2:42
14 2:58
15 2:48
16 2:43
17 2:44
18
2:21
19
3:44
20
3:13
21 3:02
22
3:27
23 2:50
24
2:36
blue highlight denotes track pick