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Michael Feinstein: Livingston and Evans Songbook

Say what you will about Michael Feinstein’s choirboy conservatism and old-fashioned chutzpah, but nobody works harder to preserve and protect the Great American Songbook. Just over a decade ago, Feinstein set out to create a unique series of discs that, developed in tandem with the composers they showcase, serve as priceless time capsules. To date, Feinstein has shaped vital tributes to Jule Styne, Burton Lane, Jerry Herman and Hugh Martin. Now, after too long a wait (the Martin album was released in 1995), he’s added the Livingston and Evans Songbook (which also happens to be the debut release for his own label, Feinery, a Concord subsidiary).

Like its predecessors, the CD is a cunningly constructed salute that embraces the good, the obscure and the silly from the duo’s six-decade career. Though both Ray Evans and Jay Livingston both contributed to it’s development, only Livingston (who died in October 2001 at age 86) is heard on the album. The sandpaper to Feinstein’s satin, he’s there right off the top for a sprightly “You’re So Right for Me,” then takes a solo turn on his and Evans’ first Oscar winner, “Buttons and Bows.” He’s also on hand for a spirited medley of two very different TV anthems: “Bonanza” (who knew there were lyrics?) and “Mister Ed” (for which, some 42 years ago, Livingston provided the theme’s original voice).

Elsewhere, Feinstein adds his usual polish to the pair’s other Academy Award winners, “Mona Lisa” and “Que Sera Sera,” and unearths such rare gems as “Almost in Your Arms,” first introduced by Sam Cooke in the 1958 Sophia Loren comedy Houseboat, and the delightful “Through Children’s Eyes,” from the short-lived Broadway musical Let It Ride. Too bad, though, that Feinstein couldn’t find room for one of their most underappreciated ditties-the salty “The Paramount-Don’t-Want-Me Blues,” written during the team’s lengthy studio conscription and performed by Livingston and Evans in Sunset Boulevard.

Originally Published