Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Reprise Musical Repertory Company "South Pacific"

(Reprise, 1963) Sinatra's project where his label roster would record whole musicals seems like it was an under-appreciated endeavor (I assume sold relatively poorly because I rarely see these in used record stores). Nothing against Rodgers and/or Hammerstein, but I feel South Pacific is, at best, barely hanging on the canon status. "Some Enchanted Evening" transcended the musical  (Frank, obviously, kills it here, then reprises it with a brilliant Rosemary Clooney), but other than that I only consider "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" a classic, and even that never became an American Idol or Glee staple, or got a TikTok dance (not that Kelly Clarkson or Jacob Sartorius could do it as well as Dinah Shore does here). Sammy Davis Jr.. does two numbers on here, and he was typecast as he is often on these. Usually he gets the most novelty number in the musical, and here he does "There Is Nothing Like A Dame." Though the musical director for then entire project is Morris Stoloff (whom Sinatra poached for the movie industry to help oversee Reprise), the tracks mostly have different arrangers, and for this Sammy has the hippest of the bunch in his man Marty Paich, who is responsible for some of Mel Torme's coolest stuff, as well as for TOTO's "Africa" (because his son David started that band and wrote the song). The arrangement here has both a light touch and a heavy conga vibe, really giving Sammy room to showcase his voice and have fun. His second number is didactic racial sensitivity song, "Carefully Taught," where he gets to be the Black friend that you listen to on very special episodes. Overall this album has parts that are OK (McGuire Sisters, Hi-Los, even Bing is just pretty good), some genuinely stellar stuff (from Sinatra, Shore and Keely Smith), and just enough Sammy to make you feel really good about your purchase.

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