Carol Woods: Ain’t We Got Fun: The Richard Whiting Songbook

| May 30, 2017

Carol Woods

Ain’t We Got Fun: The Richard Whiting Songbook

(My Ideal Music, Inc.)

May 29, 2017

Reviewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes

Carol Woods has always been a force of nature. Whether playing Mama Morton in Chicago on Broadway or on an intimate stage, the lady is everything a performer should be. On this new disc, Ain’t We Got Fun: The Richard Whiting Songbook, recorded live at NYC’s Metropolitan Room, she shows why she is so beloved by her peers and legions of fans. Too, she does bountiful justice to one of our great songwriters from another era.

In his liner notes, producer Larry Kerchner recalls the old show business adage, “a good song will stand the test of time.” He goes on to say, “all the songs on this recording live up to that high standard.” That sums up the core of this album: good songs. Paying loving tribute to the songs of composer Richard Whiting with substantial help from music director/arranger Hubert “Tex” Arnold, this disc is a treasure trove of gems that are all worthy of serious attention. Executive produced by Whiting’s granddaughter, Debbi Whiting, the album is filled with a lush history in song that is worth remembering from the golden age that featured the greats of the American Songbook. 

Richard Whiting’s contributions to that songbook will live on in respectful memory. During his Hollywood years, he collaborated with many greats including Oscar Hammerstein II, Gus Kahn, and Johnny Mercer. Debi Whiting’s mother, of course, was the beloved and legendary Margaret Whiting. In her concerts and cabaret outings, Margaret included tasty reminders of her father and his songs. Many remember his most familiar ones, like “Too Marvelous for Words” (Johnny Mercer) “Beyond the Blue Horizon” (W. Frank Harling/Leo Robin), “When Did You Leave Heaven?”(Walter Bullock), and that fluffy, celebratory ditty “Hooray for Hollywood” (not included on this disc). It’s all here celebrated gloriously by Carol Woods as only she can. Less familiar songs like “One Hour With You” (Robin), “Can’t Teach My Old Heart New Tricks” (Mercer), “Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?” (Mercer), and the campy, red-hot-mama, “Sittin’ on the Curbstone (Blues)” (Haven Gillespie/Seymour Simons)—”I stayed out late, I was given the gate; but it don’t mean nothin’ to me!”— are given terrific turns thanks to Woods’ powerful and sensitive delivery. “A Day Away from Town” is a particularly sweet, melancholic surprise that shimmers. Written by Whiting with Gus Kahn, with additional music by Tex Arnold, the song is about innocence and yearning: “… swing me high on an old fashioned swing in a tree… after the sun goes to rest, lay my sleepy head down.” You rarely hear simple sentiments expressed like that today, which is why Richard Whiting is so relevant. He is a genius at capturing the right music (and, sometimes, words) to say what’s sitting in the heart. Thanks to this special disc and the talent of Carol Woods and company, one sentiment is perfectly clear: it’s all too marvelous for words. 

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Category: Music, Music Reviews, New York City, New York City Music Reviews, Regional

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