Sylvia McNair

The Land Where the Good Songs Go

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English writer P.G. Wodehouse is best remembered for his witty and satirical writings and essays and his two fictional mouthpieces, the affable Bertie Wooster and his dauntless valet, Jeeves. But he also exerted a major influence on the evolution of the American musical theater, as it was transformed from act-by-act music hall and vaudeville presentations to one built around a full-fledged plot, integrating music and story. Another pioneer in this process was Jerome Kern, who wrote tunes to more than 200 Wodehouse lyrics. Most of these songs have long since been packed away in the trunks of time. Now comes Sylvia McNair and Hal Cazalet to dust off these slumbering ditties for a cabaret-like session. In addition to unfamiliar material, the two have included tunes that have survived, including "Bill," "Anything Goes," and "You're the Top," although neither ASCAP nor other references list Wodehouse as a lyricist for the latter two Cole Porter songs. Wodehouse was a humorist at heart, and his wit is found in lyrics for "Tell Me All Your Troubles, Cutie" and "You Can't Make Love by Wireless." But he also could write earnest, serious ballads, such as "If I Ever Lost You." Classical and pop singers McNair and Cazalet do justice to this material, although most will go back into the trunks until someone later decides to pay a recorded tribute to Wodehouse. The singers are joined by pianist Steven Blier, whose light, gay accompaniments are right on target; other tracks feature guitar, banjo, ukulele, and/or cello, and Lara Cazalet sings "Bill." Although most of the material is dated, hearing it now and then, especially by consummate artists McNair and Cazalet, will bring a smile to the face and twinkle to the eye. Recommended.

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