Fade Out-Fade In

Hoo boy! I’m a sound engineer! After several years of procrastination, I actually set up our as-yet-unused-other-than-for-gathering-dust USB turntable, learned enough about Audacity to import the audio from one of my old LPs into my laptop, divide it into tracks, add fade-outs and silences at the ends of the tracks, and export it all into WAV files that I can then import into iTunes and thence onto my smartphone. Listening to the result through earbuds now — sounds pretty good.

I picked the original cast album of the little-known 1964 musical Fade Out-Fade In to work on first. It’s not a great favorite of mine by any means, but it’s fun for a listen now and then, and I don’t have it on CD. Hopefully this will be the start of transferring a lot of my old LPs into digital format.

Fade Out-Fade In was a spoof of the early days of Hollywood, tailored for the particular talents of Carol Burnett, who was just becoming a Broadway star and hadn’t yet abandoned stage for television. (That she did precisely that so soon after opening night resulted in a threatened breath-of-contract suit and is probably why the musical isn’t all that well known, but that’s a whole other story.) Many of the lyrics, which are by Comden & Green, are too facile and jokey by half for my liking, and others (such as that for the title song) seem bland and generic to me, but there are a few gems, including a Shirley Temple parody called “You Mustn’t Be Discouraged” and a mock femme-fatale number titled “Call Me Savage”.

Some of the music, which is by Jule Styne, is really good, especially if you stop paying attention to the words. (Some of the songs, though, are just Styne writing deliberately corny period numbers, as he did quite a bit — I tend to think of this as his “vo-do-de-oh mode” — granted, he was terrific at it, but a little of it goes a lot way for me, and in some Styne scores, including this one, there’s quite a lot of it.) A song for the egotistical leading man (played by Jack Cassidy), called “My Fortune Is My Face”, has got some of the strangest chromatic harmonies Styne ever put into a song. (It has one of the show’s funniest lyrics, too, IMHO.) “I’m With You” is meant to be a parody of the cheesy, overblown Hollywood ballad, but it seems to me it would be a darned good song if it had less cheesy lyrics. “My Heart Is Like a Violin” is an even more exaggeratedly romantic ballad, with an even cheesier lyric and a big, overblown orchestration to boot, but I find it a really appealingly quirky tune all the same.

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