The Michael Feinstein Sings the Jerry Herman Songbook

by: Michael Feinstein

As with his songbook albums devoted to the music of Burton Lane and Jule Styne, Michael Feinstein has worked closely with Jerry Herman on this collection of Herman's songs, even to the extent of enlisting Herman as his pianist and occasional vocal duet partner. Except for a couple of tracks that feature both performers playing piano, Herman's keyboard work is the only accompaniment to Feinstein's vocals, so the recording has a recital-like quality. It also has a cabaret-like quality, in that Feinstein and Herman have chosen from the songwriter's catalog and sequenced the material as if constructing a nightclub act. That is not quite the same thing as coming up with a selection of the "best of" Herman or his "greatest hits." Anyone with a familiarity with the songwriter's long career will have no trouble noting omissions -- where are "I Am What I Am," "The Best of Times," and "Time Heals Everything," for example? Some of the songs from two of Herman's most successful stage musicals, Hello, Dolly! and Mame, are arranged as medleys, each song given only a brief rendition. But Feinstein makes a point of presenting relatively little-known Herman music, including songs he wrote for the shows of others ("Just Go to the Movies" from A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine and "To Be Alone with You" from Ben Franklin in Paris); a cut song ("Penny in My Pocket," intended for Hello, Dolly!); a song only featured in a movie version ("Loving You" from the Mame film); and songs with alternate lyrics ("Dancing" and "Hello, Dolly!"). In so doing, he demonstrates that Herman has had an amazing facility for writing catchy uptempo material and heart-rending ballads, no matter what show they happened to have been intended for. This album must be considered an addendum to the various cast albums of Herman's music, but it makes for a good sampler of his work, all effectively performed by Feinstein. ~ William Ruhlmann

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