Tuesday, May 3, 2011

cd review - Alison Fraser -"New York Romance" & "The Men in My Life"

My post the other day about the 20th anniversary of The Secret Garden made me realize how many members of the Broadway cast of that show have released solo recordings.  And while Mandy Patinkin has released more solo recordings then the rest of his co-stars I thought I'd highlight the recordings of some of the other stars instead.  First up is Alison Fraser. (posts about Rebecca Luker and Howard McGillin will follow)

Alison Fraser has recorded two solo CDs, each one offers a variety of music including several selections from shows she has been in, some of which weren't recorded.  And as nice as it is to have some of the songs from shows she was involved with, it is also just as nice to have the wide breadth of material that the CDs include.

I first saw Alison in the musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood and she resonated with me back then.  She has a style to her acting that is hard to describe but enables her to play comedy as well as lead roles and character parts with ease.  She also has the ability to do some funny accents as well.  And her singing has a sexy, breathless, earthy tone to it that grounds it and projects an everywoman feeling.

I've seen Alison in Drood and Secret Garden on Broadway, the Falsettoland anniversary concert at Playwrights Horizon, in a supporting role Off Broadway in The Green Heart, in four shows at the George Street Playhouse, two of which she got to sing in, including Gunmetal Blues, caught her funny take on "Tessie Turra" in the LuPone Gypsy at City Center and her hilarious part as the German nun in The Divine Sister this past Winter.

She has released two CDs - "A New York Romance" and "Men in My Life."

"New York Romance" is my favorite track on the cd of the same name.  This song was written by Alison's late husband, composer "Rusty" Magee.   He also wrote the score for the musical The Green Heart that Fraser appeared in Off Broadway and the title song from that show is included on the cd as well. 

Alison appeared in the original casts of the first two parts of Bill Finn's Marvin Trilogy, In Trousers and Falsettoland.  Finn later wrote additional material for In Trousers, including the song "I'm Breaking Down" sung by the character Alison played. This song was first added to In Trousers than incorporated into Falsettoland when it became the first act of Falsettos.  Fraser never got to sing the song when she was in tte original versions of the shows but it is included on this recording and her version is priceless.  The cd includes a beautiful lilting pairing of "Warm All Over" from The Most Happy Fella with "Till Here Was You" from The Music Man.

A jazzy version of "Can't Take You Nowhere" the humorous "Pain" and a "revenge" medley show Alison's ability to stretch her chops.  A trio that includes "Always" and "What'll I Do?" is a beautiful romantic track and her "sea" medley is a lot of fun.  Alison played the "blonde" in the film noir musical Gunmetal Blues and she sings "The Blonde Song" from that show.  Her version of "Love Me for What I Am" is sweet, touching and simply beautiful.  The cd winds down with Alison telling about her humorous meeting with her idol Anthony Newley and concludes with a beautiful version of "Darling Children"

Tracks for "New York Romance"
1. Romance Romance/Orange Colored Sky
2. I Don't Know Enough About You
3. Teach Me Tonight/You Can Leave Your Hat On
4. Warm All Over/Till There Was You 
5. Impossible 
6. Can't Take You Nowhere
7. Overs
8. Coming Apart 
9. Pain 
10. Revenge Medley: Some of These Days/Who's Sorry Now/Goody Goody/I Wanna 
11. I Wish You Love 
12. What'll I Do?/Always/No Regrets 
13. New York Romance 
14. Orange Colored Sky (Reprise)
15. I'm Breaking Down 
16. The Blonde Song 
17. The Green Heart 
18. The Sea Medley: At the Codfish Ball/Hold Tight/By the Beautiful Sea 
19. Love Me for What I Am 
20. Anthony Newley and Me: When You Gotta Go/Sweet Beginning 
21. Darling Children 

While "Men in My Life" might not have as many selections from shows Alison has been involved with, it has several songs that are required listening.    The cd is a tribute to the men who have influenced Fraser's life, and the songs she selected for the cd are eclectic, heartfelt and romantic.    

A beautiful version of "The Beautiful Land" from Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of the Crowd begins with the melody from Peter Pan's "Neverland" which ties directly into the meaning of the song of a mother giving her child guidance.  This is followed by an imaginative pairing of the Antonio Carlos Jobim song "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars" with the Bacharach/ David hit song "The Look Of Love" which is then followed by a different take on another pop classic, Elvis Costello's "Everyday I Write the Book." Alison puts her own stamp on that song as well as on the Todd Rundgren song "Parallel Lines".  The cd includes another song by Alison's late husband Rusty Magee, "Wrong For Me."  This is a beautiful story song about a woman in a relationship that might not be the best thing for her.  Alison pours her heart out in this song.   She combines four songs into a "Vice medley" including the saltry "Smoke" and the humorous Bill Finn "Pill Song" from his musical America Kicks Up Its Heels. Another Finn song, "The Passion Of Rhoda" follows and she duets on it with Finn himself.  The cd finishes up with Alison singing a solo version of "Romantic Notions" from Romance/Romance that she sung with her fellow cast mates, including Scott Bakula, in that show.  This song pairs perfectly with the final cut on the disc, the title track, that Alison cowrote.

Track list for "Men in My Life"
1. Storyteller
2. The Beautiful Land
3. Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars/The Look Of Love
4. Everyday I Write The Book
5. City Of Dreams/The End Comes Softly
6. Parallel Lines
7. Wrong For Me (Rusty Magee) 
8. Young At Heart / The Vice Medley  
9. Smoke  
10. Put It On My Tab  
11. Show Me The Way To Go Home  
12. The Pill Song  
13. The Passion Of Rhoda -Duet With William Finn   
14. Romantic Notions
15. Men In My Life  

Amazon link for Alison Fraser's Men in My Life

Amazon link for Alison Fraser's New York Romance

Alison's official site

Alison singing "New York Romance" -

Alison and Scott Bakula perform from Romance/Romance on The Tony Awards -

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