BWW CD Reviews: Masterwork Broadway's LI'L ABNER (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is Exuberantly Fun

Album Art courtesy of Masterworks Broadway.

In 1956, Al Capp's cherished Li'l Abner comic strip about the rural inhabitants of Dogpatch, U.S.A. got the Broadway treatment, and was met with a lot of enthusiasm and success. It was quickly adapted to film by Paramount in 1959. To the joy of musical theater enthusiasts, the film is remarkably faithful to its source material and even retained a majority of the original Broadway cast. Even in 2014, people still speak fondly of the LI'L ABNER film, and now Masterworks Broadway is releasing the LI'L ABNER (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) on CD for the first time.

It is important to note that the original LP release of LI'L ABNER (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is notable for two major reasons, which Masterworks Broadway has conveniently retained for their CD and digital album release of the recording. First and foremost, this soundtrack rests somewhere between the world of Cast Album and film soundtrack, or the "track of sound" taken from the film. The reason being that the music presented on the record is not wholly lifted from the film's "track of sound." Instead, some songs were recorded in the studio to make the album friendlier for airplay and hi-fi players. Thus, keen observers will notice musical differences between the film and this cast album. Additionally, unlike the Original Broadway Cast Recording of LI'L ABNER, the film's soundtrack was recorded and released in the then relatively new format of stereo. Even on this release of the recording, listeners will notice the sharp separation in the left and right channels of sound that show off what the then new technology was capable of.

As usual with these releases, Masterworks Broadway has done a superior job re-mastering the original masters and presenting an album with crisp clarity. There are no noticeable hisses or pops, like one may expect from such a dated recording. Each of the 12 tracks on the album have been perfectly preserved and transferred into the digital mediums, presenting Gene de Paul's vivacious score with all the color audiences expect and want.

With all the work done originally and in the re-mastering process, I can assure you that there is not a bad performance on the recording. Peter Palmer's performance as the titular Li'l Abner is sure to enchant those new to the material and bring back delightful memories to those who may recall the original Broadway production or Paramount's film. Likewise, Leslie Parrish as Li'l Abner's love interest, Daisy Mae, is sweetly beguiling, and Stubby Kaye shines as Marryin' Sam. These performances truly showcase the fun and frivolous aspects of giddy 1950s musical theatre at its best.

Listening to the album, I can't but help want to immerse myself into the world of Dogpatch, U.S.A. For people of my generation, LI'L ABNER has always been more of a theatrical and film folk legend, talked of highly by our elders. This charming and exuberantly fun album is one I know I'll enjoy over and over again as I search for a copy of the film on DVD (or preferably Blu-Ray).

LI'L ABNER (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) was released exclusively for purchase via on January 14, 2014 in a limited quantity of Manufacture-On-Demand CDs as well as digital download. The CD will be available through Arkiv Music on February 11, plus downloads through digital service providers the same day.

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From This Author David Clarke