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Gordon MacRae: Greatest Hits

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Album Review

For much of its length, this is one of the most charming, even beguiling CDs in Gordon MacRae's catalog — and the first 25 minutes of its 63 minutes are so overpowering, comprised as they are of the total contents of Capitol's 1952 studio cast recording of Roberta, starring MacRae, Lucille Norman, and Anne Triola, that they overcome the flaws found further into the release. For reasons best known to themselves, Capitol/EMI has never reissued this (or much else of their early-'50s show recordings) on CD; so instead, the Italian-based Hollywood Greats label, operating under the protection of that country's rather lax copyright laws, has grabbed up the recording, along with MacRae's recordings of songs from The Student Prince, The Desert Song, Naughty Marietta, and The Merry Widow — and they've done a job that's nothing less than superb, most of the way through; indeed, it's difficult to believe that they didn't have a proper tape source for much of what's here, because the audio is so crisp, quiet, and detailed, with none of the boomy "boxiness" that one associates with vinyl source transfers. The lush early-'50s mono Capitol sound is captured in all of its richness and splendor, giving conductor George Greeley one of his best showcases on CD, and in addition to MacRae's stunning tenor, we're also treated to Lucille Norman's elegant soprano, which is more steady and powerful than Kathryn Grayson's fluttery work from the early-'50s movie adaptation (entitled Lovely to Look At); Anne Triola's contribution (in the Ann Miller role, if one's reference point is the movie) is also much appreciated, a piercing mix of brassiness and impishness. And when MacRae's and Norman's voices are paired on the finale, one just wants to float away. The music from The Student Prince is just as fine a showcase for MacRae, even if not all of it is as fine music; the transfers are just as good, and from sources equally fine. This is the kind of collection that could make a convert of listeners who normally don't have much patience for stage musicals. The material off of The Desert Song is a little disappointing only in that there's a fast fade at the finale; and the songs, as with the albums that most of this material came off of, are banded together rather than indexed individually; and The Merry Widow material also sounds little ragged and has a terrible early fade. Additionally, the annotation is a little generic, although there is decent discography and filmography information woven into it. And the Roberta songs, and the best of the other Kern repertoire and the Romberg operetta tracks are what matter. There's a rule in show business, that even the most successful act should obey: always leave them wanting more. That's something that this CD does for much of its length.


Born: 12 March 1931 in East Orange, NJ

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '40s, '50s

With his handsome boy-next-door looks, deep baritone, and glorious smile, Gordon MacRae found success as a recording artist, film actor, and television and radio personality. He recorded for Capitol Records for more than two decades, and starred in two of the most popular musicals of the 1950s, the movie versions of Richard Rodgers' and Oscar Hammerstein's Oklahoma! and Carousel, both of which had appeared previously on Broadway. Beginning in 1947, MacRae's releases for Capitol were quite successful....
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