E.Y. "Yip" Harburg provided memorable lyrics across two generations of American musicals, in film and theater, and most of the best are represented in this delightful archival collection, assembled from various demos, private recordings, and late-career concert appearances. None was intended for commercial release (or even public airing), and the 35-year range from which they're drawn were probably a serious challenge to the producers of this CD. But they rose to the occasion, and despite some radical differences in balance and fidelity, everything here is worth hearing, and a lot more than once -- Harburg may not have been a performer, but as the author he does have a guilelessly effective way of "selling" a lyric and, with it, a tune, whether that tune is the work of Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, Sammy Fain, or Jay Gorney (all of whom are represented here). The songs are so familiar that they hardly need justification for purchase: "April in Paris," "If I Only Had a Brain," "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady" (where he gives some great impromptu vamps before a live audience), "It's Only a Paper Moon," "Over the Rainbow," etc. But some of the most delightful moments are heard on pieces like "The Eagle and Me" (from Bloomer Girl), which are not among Harburg's best-known works. The other musicals represented include The Wizard of Oz, Finian's Rainbow, Flahooley, Jamaica, and Americana, and receive unique interpretive flourishes on this CD, which is an essential item for any fan of musical theater or American popular music.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder