Generally known for his starring role in the movie version of WEST SIDE STORY (1961), George had already appeared in the preceding London production of that hit musical. However, recalled also as an excellent chorus dancer he can be seen in Hollywood's GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953) and WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) to name but two of the many films he appeared with featured roles gained in many later movies. He was also a personable vocalist and I'm pleased to welcome this two-album pairing of GEORGE CHAKIRIS and GEORGE CHAKIRIS SINGS GERSHWIN recorded in 1962 and 1959 respectively. It proves to be a great showcase for George with the singer ably handling both ballads and more rhythmic material with smooth application and pure understanding of the lyrics emotional needs.
The latter album was likely to have been recorded in London whilst George appeared in WEST SIDE STORY and with the London Variety Theatre Orchestra he embraces eleven Gershwins' standards with I'VE GOT RHYTHM, EMBRACEABLE YOU and LOVE WALKED IN amongst those nicely expressed and often swung to great effect along with DO IT AGAIN written by George with Buddy DeSylva and a swinging and appropriatle placed IT AIN'T NECESSARILY SO added from a later session recorded with Johnny Gregory and his Orchestra.
The Capitol album, GEORGE CHAKIRIS, hit the US album charts at #28 and not only includes standards BY MYSELF, ILL WIND and YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM but heavily relies on songs from then-current Broadway musicals with ONCE UPON A TIME (ALL AMERICAN), TONIGHT and MARIA (both WEST SIDE STORY), I BELIEVE IN YOU (HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING), ONE GIRL and A LOT OF LIVIN' TO DO (both BYE BYE BIRDIE) and ALL I NEED IS THE GIRL (GYPSY) ensuring the album's topicality. Orchestra is conducted by Milton Raskin.
With four bonus show tunes from an EP, this release acts as an excellent vocal reminder of a star who might otherwise be overlooked when appraising vocal ability. Sepia's usual excellent sound remastering, presentation, photographs and notes ensure the finishing touch.
This is a fascinating CD from Sepia as it covers the formative years of George Chakiris's singing 1959 to 1962 and has him vocalising on some classy material. I had not realised that he had such a deep and resonant voice and it is most evident on the first 12 tracks his album for Capitol "George Chakiris" which was originally released in September 1962. On this album the orchestra is conducted by Milt Raskin with arrangements by him, Billy Byers; Billy May & Van Alexander. The stereo is very clear and the sound transfers very good.
"My Colouring Book" was a Capitol single and is with the Dick Hyman orchestra. Tracks 14 to 17 are with Johnny Gregory and his orchestra and were recorded in London in 1960. All the songs are show songs and he is particularly up beat on "Kids". Tracks 18 to 28 were recorded with Norman Stenfalt and the London Variety Theatre orchestra/ Alan Clare 4 in 1959. All of the Gershwin songs are handled very effectively and show a depth of performance that demonstrates how good a singer George Chakiris was. It is clear that both the size of backing and the arrangements were just right for the occasion with outstanding versions of "For you, For me, For Evermore" & "They all Laughed".
As with Sepia CDs the running time is lengthy reaching almost 76 minutes and the overall sound excellent. The liner booklet is detailed and nicely illustrated with colour images. This will be a much sought after CD and considering the most reasonable price, a bargain in my opinion.
on 18 October 2014
Finally! A cd to show off this man's lovely voice and style. A great compilation, although I was puzzled why the West Side Story number's lyrics had been mixed up. Still, it didn't spoil the collection, and I wish there were more around. Until I found this, I had only ever seen George's songs on vinyl.