Saturday, March 08, 2008

Untimely Ript: Reprises And Rescues

Mack The Knife: Kurt Weill's Greatest Hits
Performed by Boston Pops; Morton Gould And His Orchestra; Boston Symphony
RCA, 1973

Musicals have always seemed so stiff and dreadfully forced to me. In fact, I tend to hate them (unless they're as funny and warped as, say, Little Shop Of Horrors), and would probably be more comfortable watching snuff films while resting my feet in a bucket of scorpions. I have never seen or heard Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera. On this instrumental tribute, it is a relief to hear musical-theater melodies that beg to be spun around with drunken romance and silly violence. On Side A's reprise of several Threepenny numbers, 11 members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra still make it sound, well, a bit stiff, but not forced. More importantly, it's clear the music deserves to be rescued from the context of musical theater, if only for safekeeping.

Stream/download: "Threepenny Finale"

Despite similar flaws, the Boston Pops' version of the title track preserves a mystery lost in, say, the cute-'n'-cocky Bobby Darin version. Alright, so the English-language lyrics are worth keeping around, in all their excessive talk about "a body oozin' life" and "when that shark bites." It's just a bit, you know, stiff and forced when stapled onto this elegantly tawdry tune.

Stream/download: "Mack The Knife"

Along with vinyl packaging, we seem to have lost untold amounts of banal pomposity. Not just about the music—there's plenty of that in CD liner notes, after all. On the back of an LP sleeve, there's always room to spare for the babble of corporate audiophiles:

"DYNAFLEX is the RCA trademark for a new development in record manufacturing that provides a smoother, quieter surface and improved ability to reproduce musical sound. This lightweight record also virtually eliminates warpage and turntable slippage."

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