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Cy Coleman: It Started With a Dream

Cy Coleman may well be the last of the great cocktail composers. The last, that is, in a long line of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley tunesmiths whose melodies conjure images of dry martinis and tinkling pianos at Park Avenue penthouse soirees. Yet, unlike such fellow sophisticates as Cole Porter, Noel Coward, Jimmy Van Heusen and even Stephen Sondheim (who lately seems to have swapped the sting of vodka stingers for dull, mineral water purity), his gift for grown-up storytelling has never become mired in a particular era. It Started With a Dream, Coleman’s first full-length recording of his own material, provides an intriguing, if eclectic, survey of the 72-year-old’s illustrious career, including his landmark partnerships with Dorothy Fields and Christopher Gore. As his thin, reedy voice testifies, Coleman’s no threat to Harry Connick Jr. or Diana Krall. He is, though, one helluva good piano man (who began in show business as a keyboard prodigy at age 5), and a terrific interpreter of the subtle shadings of his own songs. The big hits-“Witchcraft,” “The Best Is Yet to Come,” “Real Live Girl,” “I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life”-are here, as are several surprising rarities. Best of the bunch are Barnum’s tender, reflective “The Colors of My Life,” performed by Tony Bennett with Coleman accompaniment, the sprightly, slightly nostalgic “Atlantic City,” crafted with Gore for an unrealized Bob Fosse project, and the sunny “Bad Is for Other People,” co-written with Bob Wells. Sadly, though, there’s absolutely nothing here from Coleman’s first Broadway success, Wildcat (the show that introduced Lucille Ball to musical comedy and “Hey, Look Me Over!” to the world), or from Sweet Charity, The Will Rogers Follies or On the 20th Century. Also absent are the two very different but equally priceless gems, “When in Rome” and “The Rules of the Road.” Which means, of course, that the time is ripe for Coleman to return to conjure up another sweet Dream.

Originally Published