“The Desert Song” 1967 London Studio Cast Recording
By Zander Opper
Stage Door Records has just happily released “The Desert Song” 1967 London Studio Cast Recording on CD. The CD reissue of this recording is simply wonderful and one may even say historic. For, in addition to “The Desert Song” 1967 London Studio Cast, eight songs that were recorded by the original 1927 London Cast have been beautifully remastered as a bonus. “The Desert Song,” with music by Sigmund Romberg and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach, is one of the most pleasurable as well as enduring operettas ever. There is a plethora of “Desert Song” recordings that exist, but, somehow, this current CD reissue manages to stand out just a bit.
One of the real trump cards of the 1967 London Studio Cast is that the two actors hired to sing the leading roles had previously performed their respective parts onstage, in various touring productions of the show. Robert Colman is great playing the male lead, but the most outstanding performance on the recording is given by leading lady Mary Millar, who is just glorious throughout. This 1967 “Desert Song” recording was originally released by Saga Records in Britain and Stage Door Records has been given access to the original master tapes, so the sound on this new release is absolutely pristine. Indeed, this CD offers a real treasure trove of delights. And, even for those who may shy away from operettas, Stage Door Records’ excellent reissue of the 1967 London Studio Cast Recording of “The Desert Song” is an important release and ranks as a must for collectors.
The 1967 London Studio Cast Recording of “The Desert Song” includes just eleven tracks, so it’s not a complete recording of the score, but what’s there is marvelous. Robert Colman leads off with “The Riff Song” and he also scores highly with the title number, as well as the beautiful “One Alone,” which comes near the end of the show. The supporting cast on the recording is also splendid, with Ivor Danvers having a great deal of fun with the two big comedy numbers, “It” and “One Good Boy Gone Wrong.” His partner in the latter song is Betty Winsett, who is excellent and she also makes quite an impression with “Song of the Brass Key.” The arrangements for this studio cast recording are fantastic and add a great deal of sparkle to the album.
And then there is Mary Millar. Fortunately, she is given more than half of the songs on the recording to sing and she is grand and very stellar. Her opening “French Military Marching Song” is terrific, and she follows it up with the lovely “Romance” and the duets, “Then You Will Know” and partnering Robert Colman in the title song. Still, the best is saved for last: Millar’s singing of the final song, “The Sabre Song,” is absolutely gorgeous and it gives her the opportunity to really show off her soprano voice to the fullest. After recording “The Desert Song,” this actress went on to have quite a career in London musicals, starring in the title role of “Ann Veronica” and eventually creating the part of Madame Giry in “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Stage Door Records should be commended for reissuing this 1967 London Studio Cast Recording of “The Desert Song” on CD, but there is even more to enjoy on this reissue. All eight of the songs that were recorded by the original 1927 London Cast, featuring Harry Welchman and Edith Day in the leads, are included and these tracks are newly remastered and sound better than ever. It must be said that it is fascinating to hear renditions of songs from “The Desert Song” recorded forty years apart, and it’s wonderful to be able to compare and contrast the different cast album performances.
As if that weren’t already enough, Stage Door Records concludes the CD with fantastic versions of “One Alone” and “The Desert Song,” recorded by John Hanson, who toured extensively in “The Desert Song,” including a 1957 United Kingdom tour starring opposite Mary Millar. Somehow, by including tracks by both John Hanson and Mary Millar on the same CD brings this entire reissue of “The Desert Song” full circle. At a time when cast recording releases have come to a near standstill, Stage Door Records’ commitment to continue reissuing these rare cast albums on CD, complete with deluxe packaging, is to be welcomed and celebrated. The 1967 London Studio Cast Recording of “The Desert Song” on CD is a fabulous addition to Stage Door Records’ catalogue of reissues and, like all of their releases, provides real joy and wonderment for show collectors, who will be treasuring this CD for years to come.