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Noël Coward in New York

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Album Review

Noel Coward at Las Vegas, the live chronicle of Coward's engagement at the Desert Inn in the summer of 1955, was a chart LP for Columbia Masterworks, and this studio recording is pitched as its complement, to the point that the record label has taken the cover photograph of the singer, posed in a tuxedo with a cup of tea, standing in the desert, and substituted a New York skyline background to suggest that the same musical approach is being taken. And so it is, minus the applause. Once again, Peter Matz serves as pianist/arranger/conductor, updating some of Coward's old songs to more contemporary backgrounds, while the two also add some more recently written numbers, such as "Louisa" and "Time and Again." (Listeners will recognize "What's Going to Happen to the Tots," an old song with new lyrics, from Together with Music, Coward's 1955 TV special with Mary Martin). In general, these are newer songs, including ones from the 1950 British musical Ace of Clubs ("I Like America," "Sail Away"), although there are selections that date back to the early '30s ("Half-Caste Woman" from Cochran's 1931 Revue). Once again, there is a medley, and once again it is regrettable that such good songs are tossed off in brief choruses. In fact, it's even more regrettable than it was on the live album. While medleys are really more for the benefit of bored performers who don't want to relive their hits than for audiences who would much rather hear the songs in full, at least in a live show there is the excuse that you can't squeeze them all into a one-hour set otherwise. On a studio album, there's really no excuse for them. That aside, In New York is very much the equal of At Las Vegas, another collection of Coward's sophisticated (which is to say, witty, erudite, and, in some cases, very adult) reflections on life and love, tossed off in his deliberately excessive upper class English accent.


Born: December 16, 1899 in Teddington, Middlesex, England

Genre: Vocal

Years Active: '10s, '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

A multi-talented Renaissance man of the 20th century, Noël Coward worked primarily as a playwright, actor, songwriter, and singer, but his creative activities also included the writing of fiction and poetry; producing and directing for the stage, film, and television; and nightclub entertaining and recording. Across a career spanning six decades, he was remarkably successful at these various pursuits, moving from one to the other with seeming ease, even when he was wearing several different hats...
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