Michael Feinstein Pours on the Memories with American Songbook (DVD)
What is the first song you remember ever hearing? No, not mama singing “Rock-a-Bye Baby.” What is the first song you remember hearing? The one you can still hear in the recesses of your memory? My father definitely had a sense of humor, dry as it might have been, and it extended to his record collection with songs that weren’t dry at all. “Cocktails for Two” is the first song I remember hearing, and it was performed by Spike Jones and His City Slickers. Two red 45s from RCA Victor nearly got worn out—“Cocktails for Two” and “Chloe;” I doubt my father ever got to play his records once I discovered them.
As an adult, I collected more than a fair share of Spike Jones albums, then CDs. My tastes are, obviously, eclectic (Me Too and the Gimme Gimmes, anyone?), but I’ve listened to Spike Jones all my life simply because it’s music that makes me happy. Every song on every album provokes laughs at corny jokes and wacky sound effects. Outlandish versions of popular music and classical pieces were Jones’ specialty, and no one (except maybe Weird Al Yankovic) comes close to his genius.
A new double-DVD, Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook features his three-part series (shown in October on PBS) on the history of twentieth century American popular music. With guests (Joe Franklin is still alive?), including Marvin Hamlisch and Vince Giordano, Feinstein presents a lively, musical retrospective, complete with reminiscences, explanations, archival photos, films, and music. With his expertise, Feinstein is a most congenial host for this musical journey.
The treasure in Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook, though, is the “extras.” The second disc has two hours of bonus material, including old movie shorts of bands performing their hits (some made for servicemen—at home and overseas—during World War II) and Feinstein performing eleven classics from 1933 through 1978. His duet of “You’re the Top” with David Hyde Pierce is particularly entertaining—had Cole Porter anticipated Deepak Chopra?Continued on the next page