Monday, May 12, 2008
Make Me a Song
Now that I've listened to it a couple of times, I'd say that "Make Me a Song" probably makes a good souvenir for those who saw the revue, but it means less to those who did not.
One example: The guy (Adam Heller) who sings "Mister, Make Me a Song," "Republicans" and "Stupid Things I Won't Do" seems to have been cast because his voice is fairly reminiscent of William Finn's own singing voice. And this could be a genuine strength for the live show. However, given the choice between these renditions and Finn's own renditions on "Infinite Joy," I'd choose Finn's recordings first.
In fact, this 2-CD set contains a bonus track: William Finn singing "Mister, Make Me a Song" (not the live performance from "Infinite Joy," rather a new studio recording with the pianist who played piano on "Infinite Joy").
My fear was that having the recordings of "Elegies," "A New Brain" and "Infinite Joy" would diminish this recording. And my fear turns out to have been founded. Like "Elegies" and "Infinite Joy," these songs are accompanied by a solo pianist using what seem to be pretty much the same arrangements.
I don't mean to diminish the efforts of these performers. They are wonderful performers (singers and pianist) and do justice to the songs. But, really, how many recordings of these songs (well, most of these songs) does one really need, especially when the only difference between the recordings is who is singing. There are a couple of songs that I think have not been recorded before, but by and large, most of this recording is not significantly different than what comes before it.
Bottom line, this is a revue I would like the opportunity to see some day, but I don't feel that this recording adds much new to what already existed.
I would recommend it for people who saw the revue or who have no familiarity with Finn other than "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." As a show, it was probably strong and highly entertaining. As a cast recording, though, it feels largely redundant.
[UPDATE: Here's the Chronicle review. He didn't even particularly like the music, and he concludes by saying that "the two-CD set is a bit too much of a pretty good thing."]