NOEL COWARD IN NEW YORK
Record Company: Columbia ML5163. 1957. Made available in Britain on Philips in June 1957.
Notes
"I have only had two music lessons in my life," Noel Coward wrote for the dust jacket of Simon and Schuster's "Noel Coward Song Book." These were the first steps of what was to have been a full course at the Guildhall School of Music, and they faltered and stopped when I was told by my man called Ebenezer Prout had announced many years ago that consecutive fifths were wrong and must in no circumstances be employed. At that time Ebenezer Prout was merely a name to me (as a matter of fact he still is, and a very funny one at that) and I was unimpressed by his Victorian dicta. I argued back that Debussy and Ravel used consecutives fifths like mad. My instructor waved aside this trivia pudgy hand, and I left his presence with the parting shot that what was good enough for Debussy and Ravel was good enough for me."

Being steadfastly "unimpressed by Victorian dicta" was, it seems, destined to be a more integral part of Mr. Coward's fabulous career than any conceivable amount of music training he might have acquired. And in the end, even if he had graduated with his weight in diplomas, one feels he would have immediately turned to putting on paper the kind of enchanting and peculiarly telling songs that are so markedly his. Not what Ravel oWebussy would have written, but splendid enough in wit and finesse to match anything put on paper in Montmartre.

Twenty of his "opera" are here, eight of them in the New York Medley. In the geography of Noel Coward, New York is next to London, which is half a day from anywhere. And so, in New York, he sings of India and gypsy life and the rolling seas. The world he sings about he carries with him, and if this is called Noel Coward in New York it is because New York is where he lifts today's particular cup of tea (and where Goddard Lieberson records him).

I Like America, he reassures us, recalling a ditty composed for "Ace of Clubs," a 1950 production in which the action was laid chiefly in a Soho night club. "The story," Mr. Coward remembers, "was full of gangsters, black marketeers, tough chorus girls, stolen jewellery, etc." This may or may not explain why America is liked here for its less orthodox virtues.

Louisa is the sad tale of a movie queen who find no joy in Oscars; nor in Bills, Henrys, Georges, or Davids, either.

Half-Caste Woman came from one of Mr. Coward's few flops, "Cochran's 1931 Revue". Then Helen Morgan sang it in New York in another failure. Mr. C's reasonable remark: "I don't think, on the whole, that poor Half-Caste Woman ever had a fair deal."

I Went to a Marvelous Party is from 1939's "Set to Music." There actually was a prototype party, in the south of France in 1937 or 8, which inspired this extraordinary account.

Time and Again is a frank confession of human fallibility arranged as a permanent and on the whole rather enjoyable system.

Why Must the Show Go On, which concludes side one, dares question the very foundation of our theatre's most courageous, if rigidly self-imposed, tradition.

The New York Medley includes Let's Say Goodbye from "Words and Music"; Teach Me to Dance Like Grandma from "This Year of Grace"; We Were Dancing from "Tonight at Eight-thirty"; Sigh No More from "Sigh No More"; Zigeuner from "Bitter Sweet"; You Were There from "Tonight at Eight-thirty"; Nevermore from "Conversation Piece"; I'll See You Again from "Bitter Sweet"; and just the tail of Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

What's Going to Happen to the Tots is a frighteningly graphic musical question first posed on the CBS-TV Noel Coward and Mary Martin show "Together with Music."

Sail Away is another recollection from "Ace of Clubs."

Wait a Bit, Joe, coming from "Sigh No More," pleads for just a little caution.

20th Century Blues, from "Cavalcade," rues the whole bloody hundred years.

I Wonder What Happened to Him, also known as the "Indian Army Officer," is an hilarious item from "Sigh No More."

Via The Party's Over Now Mr. C. bids you a sad, but quite temporary, adieu.

Notes by Charles Burr.
Tracks
Part 1:
I Like America (Ace of Clubs)
Louisa
Half-caste Woman (Cochran's 1931 Revue)
I Went To A Marvellous Party (Set To Music)
Time and Agaian
Why Must The Show Go On?
Part 2:
New York Medley, which includes: Let's Say Goodbye (Words & Musaic), Teach Me To Dance Like Grandma (This Year of Grace ) We Were Dancing (Tonight at 8.30), Sigh No More (Sigh No More), Zigeuner (Bitter-Sweet), You Were There (Shadow Play - Tonight at 8.30), Never More (Conversation Piece), I'll See You Again (Private Lives), Mad Dogs and Engishmen ( Words and Music),
 
Songs:
What's Going to Happen to the Tots (Together With Music)
Sail Away (Ace of Clubs)
Wait a Bit Joe (Sigh No More)
Twentieth Century Blues (Cavalcade)
I Wonder What Happened To Him (Sigh No More)
The Party's Over Now (Words and Music)

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Copyright - The Noel Coward Society - May 2001