How fortunate for later generations that His Master’s Voice/EMI recognised his talent so early on, recording excerpts from all his London stage shows – from the revue London Calling in 1923 to his musical Ace of Clubs, produced in 1950. In addition, there is Noël Coward in Las Vegas, a live recording from his cabaret appearance at Wilbur Clark’s desert nightclub where he brought the house down with his new lyric to Let’s Do It and A Bar on the Piccolo Marina.
The songs are presented in chronological order of their stage premieres, rather than recording dates. The roll call of titles from the 1920s reads like a soundtrack to that decade: Poor Little Rich Girl, A Room With a View, Dance Little Lady and World Weary. With the premiere of Bitter Sweet, in 1929, Coward enjoyed his greatest musical hit which ran for 967 performances at His Majesty’s Theatre and included I’ll See You Again. The following year HMV recorded the whole of the Act 1’s I’ll See You Again, starring Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, which includes Someday I’ll Find You, the famous balcony scene number prompting the line, "strange how potent cheap music is".
In Conversation Piece (1934) Coward played opposite the French singer, Yvonne Printemps, who sang I’ll Follow My Secret Heart. His revue songs of that period, when he was an unsurpassed interpreter, included the matchless Mad Dogs and Englishmen and Mad About the Boy; Mrs Worthington (Don’t Put Your Daughter On the Stage), and The Stately Homes of England were also from the 1930s. During World War Two, Coward recorded songs reflecting the times: The Last Time I Saw Paris, You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To and his own Could You Please Oblige Us With a Bren Gun?, about the Home Guard. The post-war revues introduced Nina (from Argentina) and Sail Away, a fine song that Coward borrowed for the title of his 1961 Broadway musical.
The remastering is good, though the voice and piano are not quite as clear as on EMI’s own 20th century Legends series. Excellent documentation accompanies a most desirable package.--Adrian Edwards
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