Wednesday, April 13, 2011

cd review - Cleo Sings Sondheim

All of the cds I've reviewed so far on my blog have all been recent releases, however after looking back at some of my posts about Sondheim I thought I should write about one of my favorite recordings of his work, which just happens to be from 23 years ago.

Cleo Laine Sings Sondheim is a collection of 16 songs and not one of them is a misfire, they are all gems.  The cd is basically a Sondheim hits collection sung by one of the impresarios of jazz and musical theatre. 

Now Cleo Laine may not be a household name to current musical theatre goers, but she has had a hugely successful career in England, and was even made a Dame in 1997.    She has only appeared on Broadway in one musical, originating the part
of Princess Puffer in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, winning a Tony nomination for her performance.    She also originated the role of the Witch in the first National tour of Sondheim's Into the Woods in 1988.   This recording was released in March 1988, shortly after Into the Woods opened on Broadway and includes "No One is Alone" from that show.

Laine had a successful singing and acting career in  the UK in the 50's and 60's and came to the US in the 70's.  She has recorded and/or performed with Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and Mel Torme and many others.  Cleo was married for over 50 years to the jazz composer and performer John Dankworth and together they created many famous recordings.  He was also made a Sir by the Queen in 1996 and
they are one of a very few couples where both have been knighted.  Dankworth passed away in 2010 but Cleo at 83 still occasionally performs.   Laine and Dankworth's daughter Jacqui is also a singer and actress and she played "Cinderella" in the London premire production of Into the Woods in 1990.

This recording was made at the infamous RCA studios in New York City with Sondheim's long time orchestrator and arranger Jonathan Tunick at the helm.  His jazz influenced arrangements and conducting are stellar throughout, so is the orchestra. But it is Cleo's smokey voice that manages to make Sondheim songs you've heard numerous times before sound fresh and new.

1. Everybody Says Don't (From "Anyone Can Whistle")
2. Losing My Mind (From "Follies") 
3. Ah! But Underneath (From "Follies, 1987")   
4. I Remember (From "Evening Primrose")
5. Liaisons (From " A Little Night Music") 
6. You Could Drive a Person Crazy (From "Company") 
7. Not While I'm Around (From "Sweeney Todd")  
8. The Ladies Who Lunch (From "Company")   
9. Send in the Clowns (From "A Little Night Music")
10. The Little Things You Do Together (From "Company") 
11. Anyone Can Whistle (From "Anyone Can Whistle") 
12. I'm Calm (From "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum")   
13. No One Is Alone (From "Into the Woods) 
14. The Miller's Son (From "A Little Night Music") 
15. Not a Day Goes By (From "Merrily We Roll Along")   

The cd is out of print with new copies going for around $50 on Amazon but used copies can be found inexpensively as well.

Highly recommended.
Amazon Link for the cd - Sings Sondheim

Amazon link for the cd - Very Best of Cleo Laine - 34 Classic Hits

Cleo's videos for:

"Everybody Says Don't" -

"I Remember" -

"Anyone Can Whistle" - 

"No One is Alone" - 

"Losing My Mind" -

"Send in the Clowns" -

"Liasions" -

The Mystery of Edwin Drood- Tony performance with George Rose, Betty Buckley, Howard McGillin, Patti Cohenour and Cleo - 

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