Call Me Madam: Album Reviews

Just in time for the 2012 election season, Sony’s Masterworks Broadway is offering the first digital release of the 1950 political satire Call Me Madam, which has been out of print since 1956, except for a brief LP pressing in 1977.  Remastered from the original tapes, the album features Dinah Shore as Sally Adams, the “Hostess with the Mostess,” with original cast members Russell Nype, Paul Lukas, Galina Talva, and Pat Harrington. Irving Berlin won his first and only competitive Tony for his score, and Ethel Merman won her first and only competitive Tony for her performance. However, RCA asked Dinah Shore to step in for this official original cast recording since Merman was under contract to rival label Decca, for whom Merman recorded a compilation album with Dick Haymes and Eileen Wilson that included songs from the show. For the record, the creative team includes Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (book), Irving Berlin (lyrics, music), Don Walker (orchestration), and Jack Blackton (music direction).

Steven Bergman (Edge): In this crucial period of partisan politics leading up to the national election, Masterworks Broadway has smartly released one of the classic spoofs of the political world, Call Me Madam, on CD and digital formats for the first time, and the synchronicity between the two events alone makes the score worth a listen. … It seemed appropriate that the show, a Broadway box office success, would have political drama associated with it when it was time to go to the studio and record Berlin’s score. … RCA brought in Dinah Shore, its current superstar, to take Merman’s place as Mrs. Sally Adams on vinyl. Shore’s take on the role is vastly different from Merman’s, but her down-home sound and sincere interpretation are equally enjoyable, and she’s supported by the original cast of the show. … This release gives us a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Shore singing those Berlin melodies before she found her mark on television. A rare recording that is worth the listen.

William Ruhlmann (All Music): Call Me Madam … was Irving Berlin’s final hit Broadway musical. It was also his second collaboration with Ethel Merman, who had starred in his most successful show, Annie Get Your Gun. … Unfortunately, there was a glitch. The show had been financed by RCA Victor Records, who claimed the cast album. But Merman was an exclusive recording artist for Decca, one of RCA’s major rivals. The result was two albums: RCA replaced Merman with Dinah Shore, while Decca made its own recording with Merman and a few hired hands, including Dick Haymes. … Shore is an odd fit with the stage cast on the RCA material. Paul Lukas (“Welcome to Lichtenburg”) and the rest of the actors perform in character, but Shore sounds like the pleasant, noncommittal pop singer she is, never bothering to create any believable characterization, even when she’s speaking dialogue.

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