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Jonathan Karrant Lady In Red image

 

AfterDark-NYC CD PICK (single)   *  *  *

In his thrilling new single, Lady In Red, jazz stylist Jonathan Karrant shows what all the fuss is about as he steps into a brighter light in his career. 

His smoky baritone is seductive and soulful on this single.Typically, he shows great respect for the words and music. Unllike Chris du Bargh's pop 
hit from 1986 which had a dance beat going, Karrant takes his time as this yearning tale of lust unfolds. His treatment of this classic song is quite
brilliant. He brings it into the twenty first century with a unique brand of truth-telling as he pulls the listener in. It's risky taking a rather contemporary, 
well known love song, that was so identified with the 1980s, and making it your own. Karrant not only impresses but succeeds on every level. His
supple voice is warm and deliberate as he wraps the listener in haunting and sweet moments to savor. Backed by great musicians, Karrant 
sets
himself 
apart from other contemporaries on this single.Ultimately,he displays a brilliance here through phrasing and languid passages that lingers.
This single will surely have the listener pressing the repeat button over and over. It's available on iTunes, cdbaby, etc.
You can hear it at www.jonathankarrant.com  

Jonathan Karrant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CD Review: Cabaret Scenes Magzine

 

 

Jonathan Karrant: On and On

 | October 11, 2014 

Jonathan Karrant

On and On

September 30, 2014

Reviewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes

Jonathan-Karrant-One-and-On-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212One of the blessings of today’s cabaret-jazz rooms is spotting new talent on the rise. In a world filled with mediocre frauds who get more attention than they deserve, one wonders where the torchbearers are for true cabaret and jazz classics. In the case of Jonathan Karrant, look no further. He’s got the goods.

Karrant is a fairly new face on the cabaret/jazz scene on both coasts. And, he is making waves. But not without comparisons. Occasionally, he echoes Harry Connick, Jr.’s early work fused with the influence of Tony Bennett’s mature phrasing. Not bad. His shows at the Metropolitan Room and, more recently, at 54 Below, proved he’s on the way to serious attention with a fan base that is growing. His supple baritone is warm and mellow on the ballad-laden CD. Too, he shows he can also swing with the best of them on the likes of a fun “Doodlin’.”

A particularly warm delivery on “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” sets him apart from the norm. Unlike the overrated Michael Bublé, who leans toward a finger-snapping loungy style too often, Karrant embraces his phrasing slowly with the passion of a soft wind on a warm night. He offers gentle readings that can’t help but pull the listener in as he invests this commitment to every song. On “Please Send Me Someone to Love,” he eschews melodrama and gently asks rather than pleas for an end to his emptiness. It is like a humble request. This shows greatness from one so new. Such qualities embody this new jazz guy who is sure to make noise as his career progresses.

On this debut album, he displays first-rate musicianship throughout that serves to complement each song as he segues from a moody guy (à la Sinatra) to a gentle man yearning for better days. This is particularly evident on an achingly restrained “May I Come In?,” followed by a swinging “Nobody But Me.” They exemplify what this album conveys: romantic musings from a young guy with an old soul. Karrant has many qualities that are rock solid, starting with the ability to skip from deep emotion, without being maudlin, to a dollop of happiness with the album’s title cut. It takes a certain maturity to throw these sentiments around with the flair of a seasoned pro. His interpretation of “Drinkin’ Again,” one of the highlights, sets a scene in a smoky gin mill at closing time. Saloon songs like this can’t help but recall the Sinatra-esque style that first brought Connick attention early on (minus his New Orleans jazz touch). Karrant has a lilting voice that is so inviting it compels the listener to hit the repeat button often. The more you listen, the more you want to hear. Each cut is as close to perfection as you’ll get.

The entire CD is a truth-telling, romantic effort with feelings so deep they are best measured in leagues. From the beautiful title track, that tells how all one needs is love, to the last wistful cut, he fills the void left by those greats from another era. More proof comes when he enriches “In My Life” and a beautiful “This Is Always,” both given riveting readings that are trenchant and flawless. Not enough can be said about the great arrangements, impeccably rich and enveloping instrumentations and musicians on every cut of this disc. For now, treat yourself to this album.

Jonathan Karrant

 

 

 

Brian Gari

 

Live At Uncle Lulu's 1978

 

 Brian Gari CD cover

 1978. It was a very good year. President Ford was in the White House. Sony introduced the Walkman. Harvey Milk was the first gay politician elected to public office in San Francisco, the Bee Gees' “Saturday Night Fever”soundtrack remained at #1 for 24 weeks in a row, Harriet Tubman was the first black woman on a U.S. postage stamp; “Annie Hall” won best picture in Hollywood, “Ain't Misbehavin'”won best musical on Broadway, Norman Rockwell died, “Evergreen” won song of the year at the Oscars, Liza Minnelli was named best actress in a musical for “The Act” at the Tony Awards -  and Brian Gari was appearing at a dusty little club in Manhattan named Uncle Lulu's. Gari was a child of 26 then and he has managed to preserve many club appearances over the years. Recently archiving his cassettes, he came upon a good copy of a performance at this relic of a club that was gone before most people knew it existed. The results are a fun, very entertaining, personalized CD filled with terrific songs by an intelligent, funny, struggling songwriter with his observations into the times he lived and loved in. The good old days.  

 From show business parents and with royalty in his veins as the grandson of the great Eddie Cantor and a pocketful full of dreams, he was a staple on the Manhattan comedy and club scene with his songs then and briefly landing on Broadway with his short-lived  “Late Nite Comic” in 1987 (re-recorded in 2007 with a starry cast.) 
 
Lifted and mastered from a cassette, this release is not without technical flaws. And, the buzz of a live audience doesn't exactly enhance some of the nuances. However, it all captures a simpler moment in time live – sans the vulgar choreography and mindless mannequins seen on today's videos backing him. Just a man sharing his life and observations in song. The often self-deprecating Gari self-contained here as he was in the many club appearances through the years.  He's no Billy Joel or Neil Sadaka (both of whom always had a flair for more commercial/lollipop jukebox appeal.) Gari is more profound. Yet, occasional, subdued echoes of a younger Randy Newman jump out. This is most evident on the poignant message of “Portfolio Girl,” a biting ballad about a struggling singer. The song muses about discarded pictures, resumes, sacrifices, rejection and dreams of hitting it big which ring as true today as they did 36 years ago with the lyrics, “ …  your dreams are the only place in which you star … life can be hard.” The lively opening cut about a guy handling rejection from a paramour is as benevolent as it is laugh out loud funny; “... aren't I the lucky one and don't I have all the fun? … I can have anyone I don't want!” Some clever stuff. In fact, the bulk of this little album (there are ten cuts) makes for terrific special material for any performer putting together a novelty club act. In song Brian Gari playfully berates himself frequently. One gets the impression he is filing his own life experiences in song. Perhaps. On “If Our Songs Still Make It,” Gari again recalls another lost love theme in an upbeat ditty with another reflective message; this time about two songwriters who had an affair; “ … if we could go back to '63 and you could be my baby again … the songs survived but we could not.” 
 Brian Gari's Live At Lulu's 1978 is sung in a strong, clear voice flawlessly accompanying himself with showman's flair and makes one wonder why he isn't on the boards more – where he belongs. The songs are an eclectic mix of the pensive and the funny. Above all, they are heartfelt and say a lot about a guy with some stories to tell (regardless of the decade!) It's all told with a heart he's not afraid to bare in an album worthy of attention.

 

 

* * Irving Berlin's America* *

*

 

Original Cast Records

Irving Berlins America images 001

They say it's wonderful. And it is. One of five shows in development celebrating the songs of Irving Berlin has been carefully put together here in the new musical, “Irving Berlin's America” by producer/author Chip Deffaa in this infectious collection that is sure to be a “must have” for lovers of the great American songbook. After all, it's the music of America's most successful composer. His songs defined an era we'll never see again and some are a hundred years old.  The prolific songwriter, who wore his heart on his sleeve, captured everything worth remembering from the embers of a budding romance to the heartache of war to losing your greatest love along with some of the most robust anthems ever written. He hit it big and there was no stopping him. For instance, his first 'mature ballad,' “When I Lost You,” sold one million copies the first week it was released. That was in 1912, written after the sudden death of his first wife of five months. Such was this man's impact early on in a career that lasted almost a century. Some other fun facts; he gave Mae West one of her first raunchy ditties (“Grizzly Bear” - written with George Botsford) that shook people up. He taught Fannie Brice the Yiddish accent she built a career on. Too, he had the respect of his peers to the end of his life – and that remains today.

 

Irving Berlins America images 004

  Throughout his career, Berlin stitched together pieces of time that would last an eternity. Other greats from his generation made their mark like George M. Cohan, the Gershwin's, Cole Porter and Harold Arlen, etc. But, Berlin reigned as king of Tin Pan Alley for longer than anyone else. He penned more hits and made more money than all his contemporaries. A major part of that legacy in song lives on today and is generously captured on this rich new disc. As America's most successful songwriter, it's hard to imagine that his life story has not been presented on stage – until now. The man is an institution.

A young local fan, "Jack," charms his way into the ailing Berlin's home as the CD opens. Soon, the pair are playfully crooning some of Berlin's toe-tapping rarities, “All By Myself” into “”Nobody Knows (And Nobody Seems To Care.”) This kicks things off with a contagious bang with the mature Michael Townsend Wright (Berlin) and the perky crooner (Jack Saleeby) duetting at the piano.

Saleeby offers a simple “I Love A Piano” and Townsend Wright retorts with “Simple Melody” in medley on “Musical Demon.” Both are delicious examples of a simpler time. Fleeting references are made to George M. Cohan as Berlin talks about his old friend and sings Cohan's “Mary's A Grand Old Name.” Saleeby follows with Cohan's “The Yankee Doodle Boy” with some deft tapping. “Alexander's Ragtime Band” is given a robust treatment with Berlin recalling the song's debut at a Friar's Club function with Saleeby (now as Cohan) gleefully belting the catchy ditty as Berlin regales in the night one of his most famous hits was born. Townsend Wright does a strong job on another rarity, “Everybody Step” which leads into Saleeby teaching tap basics to his older mentor with a song and dance reprise. A bouncy “I'll See You In C-U-B-A” is initially all fun as Berlin looks back on the romantic trip with his wife that ended sadly. It is a poignant moment and Mr. Wright is heartbreaking on the aforementioned “When I Lost You,” Berlin's memorial to Dorothy.

The album overflows with so many of these special moments that it will make the listener feel they missed a fabled time. Along the way, are references to friends including George M. Cohan and vaudevillian Eddie Foy (and the Seven Little Foy's) as well as Al Jolson who is also referenced. Full disclosure: Mr. Deffaa produced successful musicals on Cohan and Eddie Foy and family. He also produced and wrote the off-Broadway show, “One Night With Fannie Brice.” At Saleeby's request, Townsend Wright sings a riotous Brice staple,”Sadie Salome Go Home.” Other highlights include: “A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody,” “Pack Up Your Sins And Go To the Devil” and “Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning.”

Irving Berlins America images 003

Veteran Michael Townsend Wright, who was a standout in Deffaa's revue, “The Seven Little Foys,” has the perfect timbre in his warm, lived-in baritone that captures the essence of these beatified old songs that tell stories anyone today can relate to.
Newbie Jack Saleeby is a fine singer, who, at times, recalls a young Matthew Broderick, particularly on those vibrant upbeat tunes. If he occasionally lacks the requisite heft to capture the heartfelt emotion on a trenchant ballad, this is only due to his youth. But, he is a true showman and a perfect match to his worldly musical partner.

Every song captures the spirit of America and it's times in a relevant way that deserves a life. With luck, astute producers will see the potential here. As alluded to, it remains a mystery as well as a tragedy that, in a world of mundane excuses for theatrical greatness, the story of Irving Berlin has not made it to the legitimate stage – until now. And, what a treat it is. It really doesn't get much better than Irving Berlin songs that have carved their legacy into the hearts and history of a country that made a little boy from Russian emigrants become the world's most successful songwriter. Let's hope the powers that be right this wrong. “Irving Berlin's America” cries for it's place in American lore. And, it's overdue. As Chip Deffaa notes, some of these rarities, and rediscoveries “have not been heard or recorded in a century!” It's time.

The rest of this team consists of terrific music director Richard Danley (with a special shout-out for his fusion of melancholy and ragtime keyboard wizardry,) heading up the band with Grammy winner Vince Giordano (bass and banjo) and Andy Stein (violin.)
The album was released  January 27, 2014 on Original Cast Records and is available CDBaby.com, Amazin.com, CDUniverse.com,iTunes, etc.

 

 

 

 

   
 
 
 
 

Patti LuPone

Far Away Places
Live at 54 Below

Broadway Records

 

 
The multi-award-winning Patti LuPone has made no secret of the fact that she loves the nightlife. (“Come on, I survived the ‘70s!”) Armed with a truckload of awards from major successes on Broad- way and concert stages of the world, she admits a personal love of the intimate stage. Hence, she was the most obvious choice to open what was coined “Broadway’s Nightclub”—the biggest thing to happen on the cabaret scene in eons. 54 Below is the lush, speakeasy-style basement below Studio 54 and set the perfect stage for LuPones’s return to cabaret. All the magic of that engagement is caught on this disc from Broadway Records.

Far Away Places is the act that made her (and the club) the toast of the town. The show was a musical collage of travels and experiences throughout her career, with an emphasis on the light side fused with some pretty dark stuff, which she pulls off at her drama queen best. The CD captures the adrenaline rush that changed cabaret and the Manhattan tapestry after dark.

The show didn’t rest on past laurels. Nor was it a medley of show tune hits. It followed a cohesive through line based on various junkets, her love of travel and professional hiccups along the way. She set the stage opening with a robust “Gypsy in My Soul” which segued into Willie Nelson’s smoky “Nightlife.” With brilliant Musical Director Joseph Thalken leading the hot band, the show flowed with conviction and verve. LuPone is a commanding diva whose honesty with a lyric can be shattering. Without losing any of its humor, she finds new ways to act and sing the eclectic song list. She can tear your heart out with an exquisite “I Cover the Waterfront” or “Far Away Places.” Like everything else, she makes them compelling. Yet, with such a powerful delivery throughout her set, some songs sound like encores. Always the pro, this takes away nothing. There’s a heartfelt treatment of Piaf’s “Hymn to Love.” Her trademark raw truthfulness peaked. It is a quality few singers can expose. On both, she displayed a vulnerability that was trenchant. More of this might be welcome as she is so effective in those touching moments. She shows an affinity for Kurt Weill through haunting songs that she handles with an old world thespian’s art comparable to Lotte Lenya. She nails such caustic phrasing with earthy ease and they are highlights. These included “Bilbao Song,” “Ah, the Sea Is Blue,” “Pirate Jenny” and “September Song.” Scattered through the act, they offered the show’s most profound moments. Other standouts included a buoyant “Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking” and a zippy “Nights on Broadway” that succinctly wrapped up this memorable hour. It’s all caught on this terrific collector's album. Patti LuPone is a brassy, honest, one-of-a-kind performer in today’s world of cookie-cutter artists who pass for award winners. Cabaret is lucky to have her back.

Reviewed by John Hoglund

Judy Garland:The London Studio Recordings 1957 – 1964

Abbey Road Studios

Garland London Sessions 2

 Forty four years after her death, Judy Garland still has no peer. As the last line of John Fricke's (additional) liner notes say, “... you can't get better than that." And now, welcome one of the most definitive discs that captures the Garland voice issued to date.

 In an age where anything is possible on stage or (particularly) in a recording studio, one can only imagine what could be done to enhance the majesty of that remarkable instrument that could soar with quivering emotion one minute and dissolve to a shaky whisper the next. Well, thanks to modern technology and the considerable skills of producer Jonathan Summers and Abbey Road Studios, it's as if this remastered recording of assorted cuts was made yesterday. The period from the mid-1950s through the early-1960s, were musically productive for Garland giving us some of her most iconic performances. Gone are the saccharine-laden ditties from the MGM musicals with their jumpy, dance-fused, festive arrangements that, while earning their place of greatness from that era, were created mainly to suit characters and advance fluffy plot lines in frothy musicals with a lighthearted (or weak) storyline.

 Here, while some songs naturally date back to those years at MGM, Garland, the adult, had evolved into a more intense thrush who, like Billie Holiday, had become a definitive truth-teller. Special effects were not necessary. Her trademark trenchant honesty came from the gut more than ever and shattered in a voice aching with melodrama and an instinctive musicianship few singers have touched since. She remains in a class by herself. Welcome this collection from Abbey Road.

 

Garland action image

 

For serious collectors and fans, the results on this album represent a very special piece of popular musical history. It is a documented fact that from 1955 through 1964, Garland was one of the most celebrated, acclaimed and best-selling album artists on the EMI/ Capitol roster. On several occasions during those years, she recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London. This well packaged, two-disc set cumulates her work there between October 1957 and August 1964. There are twelve previously unreleased (and fascinating) alternate takes included and, more significantly, a completely unknown and undocumented recording of a song called “Please Say Ah!” by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg. The entire set, produced by First Hand Records, is offered in this deluxe book-format package and released as a physical product - only not available for digital downloading.

 

The recordings were digitally remastered from the original analogue tapes at Abbey Road Studios in high definition (96kHz/24bit sound.) Jonathan Summers & FHR are producers with an assist from John Fricke. It is enough to satisfy any skeptic of her status and, of course, send her most ardent fans into a frenzy. All with good reason. As the late Frank Sinatra said in a 1964 interview in Variety, “ … A lot of us can sing. We can put over a song with a lot of style on a good night. And, it can be damn good. But, nobody can chill your spine like Judy.”

Ian Jones, who is responsible for the editing and re-mastering of the tracks, has managed to make Garland sound vibrant, current - and very present. From the opening track of Roger Eden's “It's So Lovely To Be Back Again In London” to the final track of that recently discovered “Please Say "Ah," sung here with Saul Chaplin, the clarity of the sound and the immediacy of Garland's performance make this unique disc sound like she was in the studio yesterday. Additional kudos to Peter Mew for some brilliant remixing of the “I Could Go On Singing” and “Maggie May” sessions. Judy's vocals have never sounded better.


Most all of the major Garland concert mainstays are also included here on the two discs such as the obligatory “Over The Rainbow,” “The Man That Got Away,” “Rockabye Your Baby,” “Stormy Weather,” “Swanee,” “By Myself,” “I Can't Give You Anything But Love,” and some lesser known ditties like, “There's Only One Union” and “It's Yourself.” Also included are a few “false starts” and whimsical studio chatter that give rare insight to Garland, the instinctive musician seeking perfection, and some giddiness as when Judy outs a pot smoking musician and quips: "I make tea. Dougie smokes it!"

 

Of particular interest on the disks are the outtake material. There is an intelligent fascination in the way Garland approaches so many songs quite differently each time she sings them. This happens through an uncanny ability to reinvent material on the spot. It also includes the occasional rewriting of some lyrics, the use of alternate tempos, different note choices and certain intonations on various takes on the same song. Aficionado's have noted that Garland was a more advanced musician than given credit for. For instance, four songs from Lionel Bart's “Maggie May” change rather drastically from take to take. Some have different endings, some have sections that are rather slow in one take and fast on others. Overall, it makes for amusing and insightful listening.

 Garland's daughter, Liza Minnelli, has said more than once that she needs to find a character to play to or draw on while singing a song. Garland is the opposite. She needs no artifice.

It is easy to hear Garland singing straight from the heart as the listener hears her convey her own joys and sorrows with each song. At times, the power and glory of the Garland voice is over- whelming. Her wistful vulnerability is nothing less than heartbreaking. Albeit, in ferocious belting or soft crooning, it is always sincere. It is never not real. Too, like the aforementioned Billie Holiday, Garland has the keen ability to make lesser songs sound better and better material sublimely better. Also, like Holiday, she will grab an occasional vocal flaw and use it. The end result is chillingly compelling – and only adds to molding the interpretation raw and real.

 Likely, the most anticipated track on the album is “Please, Say Ah” dropped from her last film, “I Could Go On Singing.” This ditty is basically just that - a little ditty. Well sung with the film's musical supervisor, Saul Chaplin, it has a catchy, lighthearted charm factor that comes through. However, it's easy to figure out why it was cut from the final film which played out as more of a drama with concert footage as opposed to a light musical (where it might have worked.)

 Garland is at her best on these discs. This listener was taken most by the first ever release of a studio recorded version of “It Never Was You” – with a guitar accompaniment. In the film, she sings this scene live with a piano on stage at the London Palladium. Here, the guitar carries most of the song with the orchestra gliding in gently at the end. Perfection. Also included here in the outtake is

Garland negotiating with her guitarists over how softly to play the song. It shows the lady as not only a great singing artist but also a consummate musician. Jonathan Summer has written some brilliant liner notes .

Disc: One

It's Lovely To Be Back In London

Lucky Day

I Can't Give You Anything But Love

Stormy Weather

Medley: Judy At The Palace: Shine On Harvest Moon,

Some Of These Days, My Man. I Don't Care

You Go To My Head

Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody

Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Joe

It's A Great Day For The Irish

I Happen To Like New York

Medley: You Made Me Love You, For Me And My Gal, The Trolley Song

Why Was I Born?

Do It Again

Come Rain Or Come Shine

The Man That Got Away

Chicago

You'll Never Walk Alone

San Francisco

After You've Gone

Swanee

Over The Rainbow

 

Disc: Two

Hello Bluebird

By Myself

It Never Was You

I Could Go On Singing

The Land Of Promises

It's Yourself

Maggie, Maggie May

There's Only One Union

Lucky Day

Stormy Weather

Why Was I Born?

After You've Gone

It's A Great Day For The Irish

You'll Never Walk Alone

It's Yourself (Intro chat)

It's Yourself

The Land Of Promises

Maggie, Maggie May

Hello Bluebird

I Could Go On Singing

It Never Was You

Please Say 'Ah'

 Ultimately, as previously noted, this collection sounds as if it were recorded yesterday. It's that good. All the cuts are brilliantly remastered; it's a totally different listening experience than listening to other compilations of her greatest hits including the 1980's “Best Of Capitol Masters: London Sessions” set. Garland has never sounded better than in these recordings. The "new" tracks are a treat. The alternate takes of the "Maggie May" tracks are a rare gift and brings the songs full circle. And, it's nice to know that there is more Garland material out there for her legions of fans.
Bottom line: If you're a fan of the legendary Ms. Garland, you will not regret buying this piece of Garland history.

 

 Garland Playbill - B Gari FB


Seven Little Foys CD cover


Once upon a time, there was a thing called vaudeville. It started in the days before movies when theaters booked three shows a day. It was as diverse as it was raucous. It was also a launching pad for future stars that included the likes of Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor, Harry Houdini, Al Jolson, Gypsy Rose Lee, Ethel Merman, Sophie Tucker, Mae West – and Judy Garland. All had roots in vaudeville. It is a time we will never see again. Or, will we?

Chip Deffaa's The Seven Little Foys is a bustling musical all about vaudevillian Eddie Foy and his Irish family of seven kids (there's even an Irish- American Vaudeville Medley !) Together with Original Cast Records, Deffaa has affectionately captured the heart of an era in this homespun show on the disc. The lively musical had its local debut at the New York International Fringe Festival a few years ago. It was well received; and with good reason. Wearing many hats as writer, arranger, director and producer, Chip Deffaa presents a lighthearted, well-crafted period piece worthy of a longer life. It overflows with vintage gems like, Shine On Harvest Moon, Some Of Theses Days, Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland and Second Hand Rose. All are preserved on this sweet show captured here with so much heart.

The songs on the CD are performed by a talented cast led by Michael Townsend Wright (Eddie Foy, Sr.) It is a story worth telling; well-researched by a historian with an encyclopedic knowledge of the past and a reverence for the greats that paved the way. And, it all tips its hat to the age of song and dance hall entertainment. Vaudeville. Ultimately, it turns into an all encompassing pastiche that blatantly wears its heart on its sleeve as the story of the Foy's unfolds. At times, the perky toe-tapping songs jump out at the listener beginning with a gleeful rarity called Smiles by the forgotten team of J. Will Callahan and Lee S. Roberts led by a sweet-voiced Jillian Wipfler and the “Foy kids.” Incidentally, Ms. Wipfler narrates most of the story. The catchy number kicks off a magical songbook that is nothing short of a valentine to the past. Deffaa, a respected archivist (in or out of the theater,) has astutely managed to stitch together a heartfelt piece of time and captured the warmth of a kindly family that sticks together through the good and the bad.


Seven Little Foys cast - Michael Townsend   cast - Credit M LopintoMichael Townsend Wright & cast members

Some historical footnotes here to help to fully appreciate this CD and the genre: Vaudeville began around the early 1870s. It caught on fast and evolved into the most popular form of entertainment of the day running full throttle through 1935 before movies eclipsed its luster. It was a hugely popular form of variety entertainment comprised of a hodgepodge of acts at varying degrees of quality - on the same bill. This musical carnival included everything from acrobats, jugglers, animal acts, magicians, dancers and a host of good and bad singers. The potpourri also included minstrel acts, mini-plays, athletes and celebrities of the day. Variety was the key. Vaudeville was the name. Historians have noted that in its heyday, vaudeville was called, “the heart of American show business.” Enter Eddie Foy. Born in 1856, he died in 1928. Along the way, show business history was made by a song and dance man who mattered.

After years of performing as an established soloist, and following the sad passing of his wife, Eddie Foy decided to take his seven children (!) on the circuit (skirting child labor laws of the day. ) It was a natural. They loved to sing and dance. They had a truckload of talent. Foy was a popular attraction. And, with his best friend's stamp of approval, they became the most popular act vaudeville had ever seen. Incidentally, that best friend happened to be George M. Cohan. Through period songs, narration, soft piano in the background and some very clever original songs, it all comes together in this delightful CD brimming with a Ft. Knox minefield of gold for anyone with a flair for the way it was. If you're a sucker for unadorned, old fashioned harmonies and family style sing-alongs, this is your cup of tea. Fusing a generous dose of schmaltz and sentiment, it's like having a front row seat on the Orpheum circuit.

 With 37 (!) cuts on the album, there's something here for everyone. Using some unaffected young talents fused with more experienced pros only adds to the charm factor here. It all fits the cozy flavor of these wistful songs. Following Townsend Wright's nurturing lead, the cast also includes a wonderful Beth Bartley (Mrs. Foy) who sings a trenchant Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland (Whitson-Friedman) and that multi-talented phenomenon (and veteran of other Deffaa shows where he received raves portraying George M. Cohan,) Jon Peterson. Both are a sensation in their solo and ensemble turns. The rest of the merry band of players is made up of mostly young folks at various levels who deliver the songs with a gentle longing that enhances these relics as it embraces what vaudeville was really about. The whole brood is not part of the act – they are the act! The little Foy kids here shine as well as their seniors. The mix also includes an impish Irish-American Vaudeville Medley (mentioned at the top)) and a feisty A World War One Medley. Both medleys are full of raw pearls like: Bedelia, That Old Irish Mother Of Mine, Goodbye Broadway, Hello France and that warhorse,  Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag And Smile, Smile Smile. Where else will you get to hear such dreamy sentimentality from one show? As they sing and playfully interact with each other, the cast displays period accuracy with ample affection all lavished on these songs. Repeatedly, they bare their souls adorned with affection for each other. Yes, it's kinda schmaltzy in an endearing way (as also previously mentioned) but it's cup runneth over with more charm than a litter of kittens lapping up spilled milk.


Eddie FoyEddie Foy, Sr.


There are more standouts. Playing Bryan Foy, Broadway's Devon Eddy is quite the highlight and showman on If I Was A Millionaire and Goodbye My Bluebell. This is a young man with a future. Tyler DuBoys, as Richard Foy, nails Shine On Harvest Moon (Norworth-Bayes) perfectly and is great on the memorable One More Christmas (by Deffaa) as an all round song and dance man. The whole troupe is very well cast. With so many vintage songs on one CD, there's a lot to take in. Of those 37 cuts, some are solos, medleys and reprises sung by the family intertwined with dialogue from the script. As a result of the latter, the listener gets a fluid picture of the action. Rediscovering such musical evergreens is a treat for layman and sophisticates alike from a genre and era that defined itself in song. And, show biz anecdotes pop up such as the time Madeline Foy took sick at The Majestic gig in Dallas. In a panic, Eddie somehow found a cute local gal and hired her as a “ringer” to fill in for two weeks. The inexperienced young lady liked the singing and dancing so much, she decided to shoot for a career in show business. Her name was Ginger Rodgers. Zachary Riopelle, a student at New York's LaGuardia High School, is special and landed his solo spots with ease. His lack of seasoning, adds even more authenticity to Deffaa's well written storyline. The younger kids get their chances to shine throughout with a shout out to Alex Craven and Maxwell Beer. They all give Irving Berlin's The International Rag perfect pizazz. And so it goes with this must have album.

High praise to musical director Richard Danley. He has magically captured the spirit of the times through veracious musical instincts and raw talent. Andy Stein is simply perfect on violin. Incidentally, Chip Deffaa's hands-on attention to detail as he assisted with arranging some musical numbers enhances the vital old fashioned flavor of the whole album.

This CD is significant for many reasons. The Foy's were an integral part of the history of this milieu. A 1955 movie starring Bob Hope was made about the life of Eddie Foy and a 1964 television special ran starring Mickey Rooney. Foy's  name is on all the lists of greats from the age of vaudeville. It's terrific stuff and a treat for any collection. It's also like that special ornament hung at the top of a Christmas tree; special and loving without explanation. Just there.

The CD is a keepsake that lovingly reflects an age when values were different; doors were held for each other and gentlemen tipped their hats to the ladies. Too, show business was all about vaudeville and specifically, a musical vagabond named Eddie Foy and his seven talented little vagabonds who carved out a legacy worth remembering. How lucky to have an album of these treasures to show us what we missed.