Wednesday, April 11, 2012

cd review ROBERT CREIGHTON, Ain't We Got Fun

Wow!  The new cd from Robert Creighton might just be the best debut recording from a Broadway performer in years.  And why I say that is not only due to Creighton's impressive vocal abilities, the song selections and the Broadway guest stars he has included but also because Creighton completely avoids all of the fall backs Broadway performers seem to lean on when releasing a debut recording.  There are no songs from Sondheim or Lloyd Webber, no story songs from some hip or up and coming composer and except for two original songs, the most recent selection was written in 1944.  This is definitely not your usual Broadway debut solo cd.

Now while Creighton isn't exactly a household or even an A list Broadway name, like his costars in his recent Broadway show Anything Goes Joel Grey and Sutton Foster, he has appeared in numerous Broadway shows including Chicago, The Little Mermaid,  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Lion King.  The two original songs on this cd are from a new musical about Jimmy Cagney that Creighton co-created, starred in and wrote the songs for, simply called Cagney!, but more on those songs later.

The cd starts off with a "Dad's Medley" that gives us the brief back story of Creighton and how as a young boy he would perform for his family.  A bouncy "Ain't We Got Fun" is next followed by one of the impressive new songs from Cagney!, "Crazy 'Bout You" that features some talented guitar playing by Eric B. Davis.  It fits perfectly within the other, older standards on the cd, which is a high compliment.  One of my favorite tracks on the recording is "My Buddy" that includes a lovely guitar arrangement that not only gives Davis another chance to shine but also is highlighted by the way Creighton's phrasing and his voice drives home the meaning of the lyrics in a simple, understated way.

The first of Creighton's guest stars is Tituss Burgess who starts off "Accentuate the Positive" with his usual flair.  Creighton joins in by adding a lovely counterpoint with "Look for the Silver Lining" that pairs perfectly with Burgess with both men hitting some impressive notes at the end.  A fun barbershop quarter arrangement of "I Want a Girl (Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad) with Daniel J. Edwards, John Treacy Egan, Merwin Foard and Brent-Alan Huffman includes some great harmonies backing Creighton up and has a really great finish. 

Now, back to those two original songs from Creighton and Cagney!:  The next track is my favorite song on the cd, called "Fallin' In Love With You."  It is a lovely duet with great lyrics, perfect musical phrasing and is supported by a lovely arrangement.  Creighton is joined by Kate Baldwin on this track and the two of them are definitely having a fun time together.  Cagney! had its world premiere in Florida three years ago and based on the two songs from the show on this cd I hope Creighton is able to get a production in New York happening soon.

"If You Were The Only Girl in the World" is my second favorite track on the recording.  It has a great arrangement and Creighton's vocals on this track are so impressive with his perfect delivery of the simple meaning behind the lyrics.  Heidi Blickenstaff joins in for a lively "You Are My Sunshine" that is followed by a touching and very emotional take on "I'll Be Seeing You" that features some impressive flugelhorn playing by Joe Burgstaller.

An impressive arrangement of "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" perfectly compliments Creighton's vocals.  I love how Creighton's whistling at the end of the song is mirrored by the instruments. Next up are two tracks closely associated with James Cagney when he portrayed George M. Cohan in the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy.  "Give My Regards to Broadway" features a lovely duet with Joel Grey and the joy the two men are having signing together comes through on the recording.  Creighton actually understudies for Grey in Anything Goes.  An upbeat "Yankee Doodle Dandy" follows including a lovely tap solo in the middle.

The final track on the cd is a lovely version of "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" with no vocal but instead a touching trumpet solo.  While this might seem a little odd if you don't have the liner notes handy, but when checking them you will see that it is Creighton himself imitating a trumpet solo with his lips - and what a lovely solo it is.  The man seems like he can do just about anything.

The cd was produced by Georgia Stitt who also provided many of the arrangements as well as most of the piano accompaniment.   This is an impressive effort by Stitt.

I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing Cagney! and seeing and hearing more of Creighton in the future.

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