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William Warfield: Something Within Me

If you’ve seen the 1951 film version of Show Boat, you’re well familiar with the power and the glory of William Warfield (and also know that his magnificent performance of “Ol’ Man River,” fully on par with that of the mighty Paul Robeson, was the best thing about the bloated MGM reinterpretation of the landmark Kern-Hammerstein musical). Warfield, one of the great operatic baritones of the past century, would go on to international influence and success as a concert singer and educator. But apart from soundtracks and bootleg concert recordings, there’s never been much of Warfield on disc, which makes Something Within Me so valuable. This 17-track collection of secular (“Lazy River,” “Oh! Didn’t He Ramble,” “Swanee River”) and especially spiritual classics (“Every Time I Hear the Spirit,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Amazing Grace”) was concocted and supervised by Bill Carter and recorded in late 2000 and early 2001, a year or so prior to Warfield’s death at age 82. Featuring a lively New Orleans-style octet, with Carter on clarinet and Warfield at the piano, it serves as superb testament to an American treasure.

Originally Published