Entertainment » Music

Merman - Her Greatest

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Thursday Mar 14, 2013
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Generations before Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green went looking to find "The Voice," Broadway had already discovered it in the presence of Ethel Merman (1908-1984). Merman’s powerful belt was (and still is) unrivaled in her ability to put across a song. A voice unmistakeable in it’s timbre, it’s been infinitely imitated by cabaret performers and drag queens, but remains unmatched.

Sepia Records has released a collection of twenty greatest performances for us to marvel at the talent of the one and only Merman. "Merman... Her Greatest!" features eleven classics under the baton of music director Billy May, including "Friendship," "You’re the Top," "But Not For Me," and "I Get a Kick Out of You." Her renditions of the hits of George Gershwin and Cole Porter not only promoted the artist, but hugely increased the credibility of the composer, with her distinct interpretative skills.

This recording contains not one, but three different releases of Merman performing Gershwin’s classic, "I Got Rhythm," including two live performances: one from her 1959 Broadway television special and one from her performance on the "George Gershwin Memorial," which was presented on radio station WHN in 1937. Merman delivers both an energetic, yet tender, tribute to the composer who gave the singer her Broadway debut in his musical, "Girl Crazy." Of the two renditions of Porter’s "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," the second, also from the television special, features a scat section that would give Ella Fitzgerald a "sha-ba-doo-wop" for her money.

There’s a variety of material for us to enjoy, from the passionate vocal of "I Get A Kick Out of You" to her gritty singing of the standard, "Eadie Was a Lady," from the 1933 musical, "Take a Chance," to her wonderful rendition of "Over the Rainbow," complete with altered lyrics that give the song a more mature feeling. If you’re a fan of this "Voice," this recording is a must have for your collection.

"Merman... Her Greatest!"
Ethel Merman
CD and digital formats
Sepia Records

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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