Percy Faith made some excellent albums containing orchestral instrumental treatments of the music from Broadway shows in the 1950s, and here are two of them on one discount-priced CD. Both were highly ambitious projects for their composers, George Gershwin and Frank Loesser, respectively. Porgy & Bess, of course, was Gershwin's "folk opera," a commercial disappointment in 1935 that grew in stature until, when a film version was released in 1959, the record stores were swamped with recordings of it. Faith matched the ambitions of the score, employing two large orchestras and some notable soloists. Faith brought something of a swing sensibility to his arrangements, but he preserved those gorgeous Gershwin melodies and gave a feel of the passion and tragedy of the story. His recording was justly successful in the charts. 1956's The Most Happy Fella was a more contemporary work, Loesser's sung-through operetta of a musical that took three discs to contain the original cast recording. Faith picked and chose his way through the score, keeping the big songs like "Standing on the Corner," "Joey, Joey, Joey," and "Big D." He brought out the varying colors of the music well, veering from marching-band style to lush ballad arrangements, which gave a sense of the diversity of Loesser's music. Taken together, the two albums present some vibrant instrumental music, both in the familiar tunes and in the more obscure ones that get treatment just as meticulous.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Porgy and Bess, opera|
|The Most Happy Fella, musical|