Music Review: NEW YORK, NEW YORK Sounds Good, Sounds Good

A Cast Recording Is NOT A Soundtrack & Vice Versa.

By: Jun. 29, 2023
Music Review: NEW YORK, NEW YORK Sounds Good, Sounds Good

Music Review: NEW YORK, NEW YORK Sounds Good, Sounds Good Heigh Ho, dear lovely rainbow tribe, welcome back to Bobby’s CD sandbox where we offer our broken-down breakdowns of new music releases. So, strap in and get ready, as Bobby goes on the record ABOUT the record.

This week’s album entry in the BobbyFiles comes from the Broadway Cast Recording of NEW YORK, NEW YORK.  Now, little Bobby was a might confused when he learned that they were making a musical of this film from 1977.  After all, the Martin Scorsese movie was pretty much savaged by the critics and has had a spotty history when it comes to praise, with many people maintaining a general distaste for the film, while other die-hard fans proclaim their love for the piece, and loudly (consider Little Bobby one of the loudest!).  Well, when the play opened, it turned out that the movie storyline was mostly discarded for the Broadway venture, keeping only a handful of songs by legends Kander and Ebb, and the names of the lead characters, Francine Evans and Jimmy Doyle.  Well, that was a Manhattan of a different color, and it was mandatory that we give NEW YORK, NEW YORK a fighting chance.  The play has a following and some fans, and even though it has its detractors, it had some Tony nominations and wins (go NEW YORK, NEW YORK!), and now the musical play has a cast recording.  And you know what?  It’s good.  It’s really good.

Little Bobby did not grow up in New York City, near the lights of The Broadway, and, so, our experience with cast albums was that of a little boy buying vinyl and playing it at home while reading liner notes, and imagining all that was happening on the stage during the singing and dancing.  There were times when that was easy, and times when it was a chore.  These days, listening to cast albums on digital platforms, with no CD booklet, no photos, no liner notes, it is ALL about the storytelling laid out by the producers who make the decisions about how many talkie bits to include, and how, best, to communicate the story to the listener.  NEW YORK, NEW YORK ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST RECORDING was released digitally on June 9th on the Wine & Peaches label with a lot of producers listed, and if they say too many cooks spoil the broth, then they are wrong.  NEW YORK, NEW YORK is a very good cast album.  From the opening strains of MORNING IN NEW YORK, the listener can tell what is in store for them, and it is completely in keeping with the Kander and Ebb legacy (and, let’s be honest, the Lin-Manuel Miranda legacy, too): hope.  Optimism.  Life.  Misters Kander and Ebb knew and told a lot about life during their decades together.  They told us that life is a cabaret, that life’s a party, why don’t you come to the STEEL PIER, that life keeps happening every day, say yes, and that life is what you do while you’re waiting to die.  Mr. Miranda is the right person to join in with Mr. Kander to take up where Mr. Ebb left off, for this is a cast album about life, about people, about dreams and survival, and about New York, a city that most people love, but that those of us who choose to live here wouldn’t be without.  With this album, those multitudes of producers have made sure that the score of the play is well-captured and representative of the play itself, and with the right technology.  The album never sounds canned.  The instruments never sound synthesized.  The recording sounds just like the albums little Bobby played way back when at a time when record albums with the grey Columbia label sounded like you were in the theater watching the play.  It sounds real, right down to every selected line of dialogue designed to further the plot along to every gorgeous, glorious tap tappy sent to make little Bobby happy.  From all the producing aspects, this is a traditional cast recording of a Broadway show, and we love it.

Moment of truth:  Bobby hasn’t seen the play.  So Bobby doesn’t know the characters, Bobby doesn’t know their names, Bobby doesn’t know their stories.  The cast recording does a good enough job of guiding us through the storyline, especially with Jimmy and Francine.  It’s not a perfect job because Bobby has questions about the other characters that will only be answered by attending the play or doing an internet search on the plotline of NEW YORK, NEW YORK.  That’s a little ding on the producers because plotline still matters.  BUT (and this is your big but) maybe that is what they had in mind, sort of as a tease, maybe a little amuse bouche, and if that’s the plan, then it worked because after listening to NEW YORK, NEW YORK every day for the last week, little Bobby went online and bought a ticket.  So, as a marketing tool for the Broadway musical NEW YORK, NEW YORK, this streaming album did what it was meant to do.  As a Broadway score, this album did what it was supposed to do because listening to it over and over was a real pleasure.  All of the singing actors sound wonderful, especially our Lord and Savior Emily Skinner who sounds as flawlessly fabulous as ever on the album, particularly on A SIMPLE THING LIKE THAT, even though Skinner’s earlier number gives charming insights into the character she is playing.   Leading Lady Anna Uzele sounds bright and Broadway and very appropriate on all of her numbers;  it’s a burden that she has to carry, singing songs made famous by Liza Minnelli, and her creative team has served her well, helping her to step out of the Minnelli shadows and into her own light.  She is lovely to listen to and she does a great job throughout the recording, especially on the Funny Lady-originated LET’S HEAR IT FOR ME - not a song that many should sing but that Uzele scores on, mightily.  Tony Award nominee Colton Ryan, though, is a revelation.  With a very unique voice that has a certain originality that might be described as affectation, the production’s Jimmy Doyle is interesting, exciting to listen to, and always in the story he is telling, especially on the highly contained yet deeply emotional QUIET THING - a gorgeously arranged version of a song made famous many moons ago by, you guessed it, Liza Minnelli.

You see, dear Bobby readers, NEW YORK, NEW YORK is not just a tribute to our beautiful city: it is also a tribute to John Kander, Fred Ebb, Kander & Ebb, and Liza Minnelli.  What an impossible task this team set themselves, creating a stage musical around a movie that, while not a success when it came out, has the indomitable Liza Minnelli so deeply embedded in its legend that to say the words New York, New York is akin to saying the words Liza With A Z.  So they leaned into Liza.  Added into the score (along with new songs by Kander and Miranda) are songs that belong to Liza Minnelli.  Francine sings I’M ONE OF THE SMART ONES - a song written for Liza Minnelli’s Winter Garden concert of the Seventies.  Jimmy sings SORRY I ASKED - a song written for Liza Minnelli’s Radio City concert of the Nineties.  Jimmy also sings the aforementioned A QUIET THING from Liza’s first Tony Award win, the show FLORA THE RED MENACE.  And there are, to ears both trained and untrained, musical motifs that spell, right out loud, L-I-Z-A.  It could not be more appropriate to have Liza Minnelli preserved as a thread in this show based on the movie that gave the world the song, the anthem, the legend that is THEME FROM NEW YORK, NEW YORK.  It is incredibly accurate and it was a wise move.

It isn’t only Liza that can be heard in the threads of this tapestry because Kander and Ebb aren’t just present in the score by way of the OG soundtrack songs, trunk songs, and newly crafted songs by John Kander and Lin-Manuel Miranda.  THE HAPPY TIME IS HERE.  WOMAN OF THE YEAR is here.  CURTAINS is here.  SPIDER WOMAN and STEEL PIER can be heard, here and there. Any listener who knows their musical theater, any devotee of K&E, any fan of Broadway cast albums will be able to pick up, like Easter eggs, the snippets, and reminiscences, the tributes and nods, and they will be excited when they can spot them.  Give away the surprise?  No, Bobby won’t be doing any of that, only saying: when you hear the history of Kander and Ebb in this cast album, pat yourself on the back: you’re a fan, my lovelies!  Own it!

But also own your new fandom of Kander and Miranda, who have created new songs for new characters, bringing to NEW YORK, NEW YORK THE MUSICAL the great diversity to be found in New York, New York the city.  Storylines and ambiance flow from songs like MY OWN MUSIC and GOLD, broadening the scope of the storytelling.  There are fantastic new tunes you’re going to love, like little Bobby’s favorites A MAJOR CHORD and ALONG COMES LOVE, which will make you musical theater happy with their positive lyrics and bouncy melodies, not to mention the gorgeousness of the actors’ vocals and harmonies.  And on the topic of melodies, the very generous album includes all of the dance music that little Bobby imagines Susan Stroman has crafted lovely dance vignettes to, in order to tell the stories of the people who have come to New York to make it there.  It all flashes back to the marvelous musicals of the past that tell the stories of New York and New Yorkers - everyone has a favorite, whether it’s ON THE TOWN, WONDERFUL TOWN, or the RHAPSODY IN BLUE segment of DISNEY’S FANTASIA 2000.  And, for some young person out in another part of America, that favorite will be NEW YORK, NEW YORK, and very rightly so, because Bobby gives this excellent cast album…

5 Out Of 5 Rainbows

Stream Or Pick Up An MP3 Of Your Very Own On The AMAZON: HERE

NEW YORK, NEW YORK ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST RECORDING is a 2023 release on the Wine and Peaches Label, available on streaming platforms, with CDs and vinyl available later.  The album is produced by Michael Croiter, Sam Davis, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, and co-produced by Sonia Friedman, Tom Kirdahy, and Craig Balsam.

Music Review: NEW YORK, NEW YORK Sounds Good, Sounds Good