Noël Coward

Songs of Noel Coward

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Although Noël Coward's efforts as a songwriter for the theater in the 1920s and '30s came before the era of the original cast album, which didn't begin until the mid-'40s, he and other members of the casts of his plays and musicals often turned up in recording studios for HMV Records and Decca Records in the U.K. to make 78-rpm records featuring songs and bits of dialogue. This album collects songs Coward wrote for ten revues, musicals, and plays, along with a couple of independent tunes. The songwriter himself shows up on ten of the tracks, either singing by himself or exchanging words with Gertrude Lawrence (in the plays Private Lives and Tonight at 8:30) and Yvonne Printemps (in the musical Conversation Piece). A thorough sense of the talents of the leading ladies of the British musical stage in the era is provided by appearances from the likes of Alice Delysia, Maisie Gay, Ivy St. Helier, and Peggy Wood. Dating back as far as the '20s, tracks like "There's Life in the Old Girl Yet" and "Poor Little Rich Girl" were recorded prior to the introduction of the electrical microphone, and they sound primitive. Elsewhere, tracks mastered from original 78s sometimes have a muffled, crackly sound. But the mixture of witty patter songs ("There's Always Something Fishy About the French," "The Stately Homes of England") and well-realized sentimental ballads ("I'll Follow My Secret Heart," "Someday I'll Find You") gives a good sense of the range of Coward's talents as a songwriter, making this a valuable collection. (Tony Watts' overly critical, occasionally inaccurate liner notes demonstrate that he's never seen a production of Private Lives, since he misstates the use of the song "Someday I'll Find You" in it.)

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:03
2 3:31
feat: Maisie Gay
4 2:46
5 4:06
6 3:38
7 2:58
8 3:31
9 2:44
10 6:20
11 2:41
12 2:44
13 4:37
14 4:39
15 3:05
16 3:21
17 6:29
18 3:20
19 2:23
20 3:13
21 2:51
22 3:35
blue highlight denotes track pick