Saturday, July 31, 2010

Porgy and Bess - 1959 Film Soundtrack

And now for something completely different.

Picked this up today in the bargain bin at Utopia records (the big heavy metal specialist shop in Sydney, FTWDK) for $5. Spiffy Japanese pressing from the '70s by the look of the label. Was doing a little googling and was taken aback to find that both the film and its soundtrack are out of print, save for a very dodgy-looking "public domain" Euro CD.

Seems that the Gershwin estate was displeased with Otto Preminger's film, particularly the way they had allegedly Broadway-ised the music and taken it away from its highfalutin' opera origins, and the film has been withdrawn from circulation for several decades.

I have never seen the film, but had heard several jazz interpretations of the score: Miles Davis's and Gil Evans's obviously, but also those by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, The Modern Jazz Quartet and Joe Henderson (not to mention countless versions of Summertime, I Loves You Porgy and It Ain't Necessarily So). It was only this year that I actually dug out a triple LP box of Simon Rattle's recording with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, mainly due to my reading Alex Ross's excellent The Rest is Noise and realising I had never heard the "proper" version of Porgy. All of which is my long-winded way of saying that I was more familiar with a looser interpretation of the work, which is probably why this version appeals to me.

As was the way at the time, many of the big name stars had their vocals dubbed by uncredited singers. One exception being Sammy Davis Jr who for contractual reasons was replaced on the soundtrack album by Cab Calloway, who had performed the role of Sportin' Life to great acclaim a few years earlier (there's a recording of that production in print, but I have never heard it). I'm sure Sammy Davis Jr did a good job in the film, but Calloway absolutely kills on It Ain't Necessarily So here.

Actually, thanks the the miracle of Youtube, here's Sammy Davis from the fillum. He's pretty good, I must say.

The principal roles are sung on the album as follows:

Porgy: Robert McFerrin (yes, it's Bobby's dad).
Bess: Adele Addison.
Clara: Loulie Jean Norman
Maria: Pearl Bailey
Crown: Brock Peters (whom some hereabouts might recognise from his spoken lines at the end of Miles Davis's Jack Johnson)
Serena: Inez Matthews
Sportin' Life: Cab Calloway
For the minor roles, see the IMDB link above.

The score was adapted and conducted by André Previn.

CBS/Sony, Japan. Cat #25AP 809. Stereo.

A1 - Overture (5:22)
A2 - Summertime (2:39) [Clara]
A3 - A Woman is a Sometime Thing (1:58) [Jake, Mingo, Sportin' Life]
A4 - The Wake: Gone, Gone, Gone; Porgy's Prayer (3:00)
A5 - My Man's Gone Now (4:25) [Serena]
A6 - I Got Plenty o' Nuttin' (3:10) [Porgy, Maria]
A7 - Bess, You is my Woman Now (5:13) [Porgy, Bess]
B1 - Morning; Catfish Row (1:34)[Chorus]
B2 - Oh, I Can't Sit Down (2:02)[Chorus]
B3 - It Ain't Necessarily So (3:06) [Sportin' Life]
B4 - I Ain't Got No Shame (1:20) [Chorus]
B5 - What You Want with Bess? (2:08) [Bess, Crown]
B6 - Street Cries: Strawberry Woman; Crab Man (2:25) [Strawberry Woman, Crab Man]
B7 - I Loves You, Porgy (3:24)[Bess, Porgy]
B8 - A Red Headed Woman (1:09) [Crown]
B9 - Clara, Clara (2:13) [Chorus]
B10 - There's a Boat Soon That's Leavin' for New York (2:17) [Sportin' Life]
B11 - Oh, Where's My Bess? (2:33) [Porgy]
B12 - I'm On My Way (1:48) [Porgy, Chorus]

320kpbs mp3
[Links fixed 22/1/12] 


  1. Thanks much! Saw this as a kid. Though its interpretation of Black life in my US is stereotypic, the music is amazing.

  2. If you want the best possible sound quality for the soundtrack album, buy the original Columbia REEL-TO-REEL tape running at 7-1/2 IPS and find a decent reel tape recorder for example Akai or Revox. You will be BLOWN AWAY. Enjoy!

  3. Any chance of reporting this since the fileserve links cannot be accessed?

  4. please repost this treasure. and thanks for your awesome work!