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The Magic of Anthony Newley

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Album Review

It seems to be true of nearly every veteran recording artist that, somehow, an album, or sometimes just a bunch of outtakes or live tracks, get away from the major-label catalogs or the artist's own control and enter into the world of endlessly repetitive licensing. Once that happens, the album will be reissued over and over under different titles with different cover photographs, so to frustrate both the artist and the artist's fans. Anthony Newley almost escaped this fate. But his final album of new recordings, 1992's Too Much Woman, has subjected him to the scourge. The same batch of tracks, which includes both re-recordings of old hits like "Do You Mind?" and "What Kind of Fool Am I?" as well as Newley compositions that were new to the original release, has been reissued by GNP Crescendo under the deceptive title The Very Best of Anthony Newley and by Prism Leisure as Remembering Anthony Newley: The Music, the Life, the Legend. And here it is again, this time called The Magic of Anthony Newley, with a cover photograph of a young Newley that would lead a potential buyer to believe it contains his earliest recordings instead of some of his final ones. As an album, Too Much Woman was not a bad Anthony Newley collection. The new songs included some touching romantic ballads, among them "Nearly Wonderful" and the title song, which, like such predecessors as "You're So Vain," leave one wondering whether the singer is describing a real person, and if so, who? On the other hand, there are also some embarrassments, such as "White Boy," a painful complaint about the deterioration of pop music from Newley's point of view ("And will someone tell me what the hell is rap?," he asks in exasperation), and "Centrefold," a tribute to a nude model. On the whole, the album is a minor coda to a major career. But each time it is reissued in a form that suggests it's a Newley hits compilation, more Newley fans are likely to be alienated.


Born: September 24, 1931 in London, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Anthony Newley was one of entertainment's genuine triple threats: an actor, singer, and composer with an international following, equally adept and prodigious in all three fields. Moreover, he enjoyed success as a performer in such seemingly mutually exclusive fields as rock & roll and the legitimate stage. And even more improbably, he did it with a working-class Cockney persona that should never have found much currency outside of England. Indeed, for 30 years he was one of the most imposing talents...
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The Magic of Anthony Newley, Anthony Newley
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