The Unsinkable Molly Brown
Rhino Movie Music (R2 72465)
Release Date: 2000
Conducted by Robert Armbruster
The MGM Studio Orchestra
|2.||Belly Up To The Bar, Boys|
|3.||I Ain't Down Yet|
|5.||Colorado, My Home|
|6.||Boy Meets Girl|
|8.||Belly Up To The Bar, Boys|
|10.||I'll Never Say No|
|12.||I'll Never Say No (Housebuilding Montage Reprise)|
|14.||Here Comes The Bride (I Ain't Down yet)|
|15.||The Disillusioned Bride|
|16.||When Roses Bloom (The Beautiful People of Denver)|
|18.||I'll Never Say No (reprise)|
|19.||I Ain't Down Yet (reprise)|
|20.||Molly Waltz (Dolce Far Niente)|
|21.||Colorado, My Home (reprise)|
|22.||He's My Friend|
|24.||Queen of the Lardpail|
|25.||Maxie at Maxim's (Up Where The People Are)|
|26.||Letter From Johnny|
|28.||The Brass Bed / End Cast|
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|by Josh Wisch
on June 23rd, 2001
Debbie Reynolds, undeniably but endearingly over-the-top, gives the unforgettable The Unsinkable Molly Brown forward momentum. This rough-edged stage-to-screen musical tells the (not always true) rags-to-riches story of the unflappable Margaret Tobin, popularly remembered as the "Unsinkable" Mrs. Brown for her duties during and immediately after the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Reynolds' animated performance is potentially grating (many of her singing decisions are somewhere between vocalization and sternutation), but as the keystone of the movie and soundtrack it helps humanize Meredith Willson's uneven narrative.
Meredith Willson's The Music Man is his most remembered work, and although Molly Brown does not come close to equaling its artfulness or clever phraseology there are charming themes, and lyrics by Richard Morris, to treasure. The film soundtrack opens with a rousing "Main Title" overture that sounds like it will segue into an ambitious opening number but stops short for "Belly Up to the Bar, Boys", a carousing song presented in a fashion as drunken as the voices singing it. "I Ain't Down Yet" is an enthusiastic song of Molly's aspirations, and "Colorado, My ome" is touching even to this critic from the South. The lilting "I'll Never Say No" is the sort of powerhouse love song Andrew Lloyd Webber strives for, yet Willson & Morris actually get it done (until a flashy, decidedly non-period swing version, at any rate...). "He's My Friend" is the weakest link, with forgettable music and a surprisingly bland text. "Johnny's Soliloquy" starts as a reprise of "I'll Never Say No" before turning tragically as Mr. Brown says, in effect, No. That is it for song diversity. The lack of more original material for such a substantial score - the bulk of songs in this musical are reprises (fun ones, admittedly) - lessens the impact cinematically as well as musically. I wonder if the loss of "Dignity", a song Willson wrote specifically for the film but that the moviemakers cut before recording, is a possible cause.
Predominately orchestrated by the magnificent Alexander Courage and the legendary team of Leo Shuken & Jack Hayes, the symphonic backdrop certainly never falters, but its dependence on adamantine MGM musical standards add little to the craft. The orchestra, like Reynolds, occasionally gets a bit too bold. Variations on the song score provide most of the incidental music, which contains the emotional authority one expects. There is a large amount of orchestral music here, and it gets the last word. The Denver cues are especially nice.
Other benefits include Harve Presnell's masculine tones reprising his role from the stage, and Rhino Record's characteristically nice production featuring several previously unreleased tracks. I continue to wish for more behind-the-scenes shots and more detailed liner notes; Marco Polo's Classic Score releases have me spoiled.
The album does come together proficiently. The Unsinkable Molly Brown is not a classic; it is a highly charismatic entertainment. It brings a broad smile to your face and gets you humming a tune or two shortly thereafter. Honestly, that is sometimes all that is needed.
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