Personnel: John Morris, David Baker (piano); Charlotte Foley, Rocky Brynner, Patty Hope, David Craig , Louise Carlyle, Michael Martin, Nancy Walker.
In 1952, Edward Jablonski launched Walden Records with the LP Lyrics by Ira Gershwin, a collection of mostly lesser-known songs featuring words by the eldest of the Gershwin brothers, set to music by his younger brother George, Vernon Duke, Kurt Weill, Aaron Copland, Jerome Kern, and Arthur Schwartz, and sung primarily by Broadway star Nancy Walker (then appearing in a revival of Pal Joey), with contributions from her husband, David Craig, and Louise Carlyle, to piano accompaniments by either David Baker or John Morris. Walden was a tiny label that issued only a handful of discs before shutting up, but this 2008 CD reissue by Harbinger Records contains all of the tracks from the original LP (tracks one through ten), followed by selections from a privately pressed recording, Nancy and the Two Davids Sing and Play Gershwin (tracks 11 through 18), which Walker, Craig, and Baker made as a Christmas present for a friend in 1951. Their approach is essentially similar on the added material, and in fact there is some overlap, with an alternate performance of "I Don't Think I'll Fall in Love Today," a Gershwin/Gershwin song from 1928's Treasure Girl that was one of five songs given their first-ever commercial recordings on the Walden LP. The others were "Younger Generation" (sung by what sounds like trio of youngsters), "Sing Me Not a Ballad" from the flop operetta The Firebrand of Florence, "Put Me to the Test" from the movie musical Cover Girl, and "Don't Be a Woman If You Can" from another lost musical, Park Avenue. Given the simple accompaniment and straightforward performances, these versions emphasize Ira Gershwin's intricate lyrics with their clever rhymes, notably in "I Can't Get Started," a delightful patter song for which the lyricist wrote some updated words (referring, among other things, to New York governor and perennial presidential candidate Thomas Dewey), and "The Saga of Jenny." Those songs and the standard "Long Ago and Far Away" demonstrate that not all the tunes were obscure ones, but famous or not, these compositions demonstrate Ira Gershwin's remarkable verbal facility. ~ William Ruhlmann
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