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There have been a handful of classical pieces on baseball — for example, Charles Ives' "Some Southpaw Pitching" and William Schuman's "Casey at the Bat" — but this is an entire album by a symphony orchestra on the theme. Yet Erich Kunzel, the ever-expansive populist, keeps away from the classics, reaching instead for a clutch of film scores, pop songs, marches, standard baseball ditties, and assorted memorabilia, liberally laced with realistic crowd noises. Nevertheless, the eccentric, eclectic brainstorms are what give this CD its charm; and you want to whiz past the dull, formulaic swatches of film music (the odd rhumba from "A League of Their Own" being an eccentric exception) to get to them. You'll probably be tempted to head straight for the timeless Abbott & Costello "Who's On First" routine first; and yes, it's the real McCoy. One of the best musical features is the rarely recorded full overture to Broadway's Damn Yankees, with its irresistible tunes strung together in curtain-raising style. There is a "Casey at the Bat," but not Schuman's; Kunzel loyally opts instead for Cincinnati Pops principal composer Steven Reineke's corny, over-the-top illustration of the tale, with the stentorian, sometimes overwrought James Earl Jones overdubbing his narration from a studio in New York. So does actor/singer Tom Wopat (from Nashville), doing his best John Fogerty imitation in a decent sympho-rock arrangement of "Centerfield." So does Maria Muldaur (from San Francisco) as she sings "The Ball Game" from Cobb in a raunchy voice. The orchestral sound is a bit recessed, but equipped with the full rich Telarc bass content, and the crowd noises from Cleveland's Jacobs Field sound pretty snazzy when heard on a surround-sound system. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi
Formed: 1977 in Cincinnati, OH
Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s