This retro review is reprinted as a fond memorial tribute to
one of its shining stars -- Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016)
Songtrack of Special Merit
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (Deluxe 50th Anniversary Edition) (2002)
Disc One = 25 Tracks, 73:29
Disc Two = 21 Tracks, 78:10)
Turner Classic Movies Music/Rhino Movie Music R2 74497
Many film critics and movie fans have picked SINGIN' IN THE RAIN as the best musical of them all.
This is the CD cover previously issued in 1996 with some alternate and extended versions on an excellent single CD (TCM/Rhino Movie Music R2 71963), produced by Marilee Bradford and Bradley Flanagan. That release had a few cues that aren't on the new one. So why purchase the new 2 CD set?
For one thing, the 2 CD set has more to offer. The first disc has the songs from the 1952 soundtrack. The other disc has the original songs from rare recordings made in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. So you get a double treat with the 2-CD set. This set was released about the same time as the excellent 50th anniversary special edition of the movie musical.
On the first disc is the complete soundtrack and has all the songs plus some outtakes and extended versions. The outtakes include: "All I Do Is Dream Of You" - nicely sung by Gene Kelly (track 5, 4:26); and a wonderful version of "You Are My Lucky Star" (Track 10, 3:41) sung by Debbie Reynolds. There are also extended versions such as the "Broadway Melody Ballet" (track 15. 13:15), alternate versions (Main Title, track 19, 2:11), and unused versions ("Would You?" - tracks 21-22). Besides the now classic rendition of "Singin' in the Rain" sung and danced by Gene Kelly (track 13. 4:54), there are several other versions of the title song (tracks 17 and 24).
It must be mentioned that the joys found on this soundtrack are the work of several talented musicians. First of course are the songwriters: Nacio Herb Brown, who wrote most of the music, and Arthur Freed who did the lyrics. There is one other song not by Brown and Freed: "Moses" with music by Roger Edens and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Equally important is the team of orchestrators and arrangers: Bob Frankyn, Conrad Salinger, Wally Heglin, Maurice de Packh, and Roger Edens. Just to give one example of their combined expertise, the Gene Kelly version of "Singin' in the Rain" was arranged by Salinger and orchestrated by Franklyn. These studio workers are among the unsung champions of the MGM studio music department.
The second disc has more treasures to offer. It starts off with several songs from THE BROADWAY MELODY (1929), the first musical to win an Oscar. One of these songs is "You Were Meant For Me" sung by Charles King, and arranged, orchestrated and conducted by songwriter Nacio Herb Brown. There are also several versions of "Singin' in the Rain" - by Cliff "Ukelele Ike" Edwards from HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929 and Judy Garland from LITTLE NELLIE KELLY in 1940. Plus there's a rare recording with Arthur Freed singing the title song with the MGM Studio Orchestra from a radio broadcast in 1941.
The illustrated booklet has a very witty tale: "The Story Behind SINGIN' IN THE RAIN: Now It Can Be Told" by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. This essay is taken from their preface of the publication of their screenplay in 1972. It is highly recommended reading if you want to get an idea of how musicals were written back in Hollywood's Golden Age. There is also a Producer's Note from George Feltenstein, the man responsible for so many great movie musical restorations from Turner/Rhino. Also, there are full track listings for both discs with performers and dates of recording, plus some small black & white film stills.
I highly recommend this wonderful, well produced and recorded 2 CD set. The previous single CD from 1996 is also recommended.
Both the single and 2 CDs will help you remember the glories of this beloved Hollywood musical. These TCM/Rhino recordings are examples of superb film musical restorations.
To parpahrase a line from the title song, listening to this musical gives us--
"What a glorious feeling, we're happy again!"
-- Roger Hall, 2002 (updated: 2014 and 2016)
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