Howard Keel: Bless Yore Beautiful Hide - A Centenary Tribute, His 28 Finest Soundtrack Recordings 1950-1955

Retrospective pays a centenary tribute to the late, great singing actor Howard Keel (1919-2004) with a wonderful array of the famous songs from his magnificent 50s film musicals. Keel was one of the most famous faces on the silver screen. Following on from stage success in Oklahoma!, Keel’s booming baritone and rugged good looks made him a big star of a whole string of marvellous 50s MGM musicals. Later, he trod the 70s and 80s nightclub circuit before achieving fame for a new generation as “Clayton Farlow” in Dallas. With his rich, powerful voice and commanding stage presence (he stood 6’4”), he was dubbed a “singing Clark Gable.”

As a homage to one of the truly great musical stars, we present Bless Yore Beautiful Hide. This was perhaps Keel’s best-known song, from his greatest triumph Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954). But there are also 27 other musical highlights drawn from the soundtracks of this and 10 other films of the 50s, including Annie Get Your Gun, Show Boat, Calamity Jane, Kiss Me Kate, Rose Marie and Kismet. Also featured are his co-stars Kathryn Grayson (in seven duets), Betty Hutton, Doris Day and Jane Powell.

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Born in Gillespie, Illinois, USA, on 13 April 1919, Harry Clifford Keel’s 100th anniversary was imminent at the time of writing this review in mid-March 2019. That he had a voice was early evident but his fanatical Methodist mother was “opposed to all forms of entertainment, but after hearing Lawrence Tibbett at a Hollywood Bowl concert when he was 20 inspired him to venture into vocal training...The early 1950s were his great years as movie star, featuring in the eleven musical films represented on the present disc and some less than successful productions as well – an enormous workload within five years.

The 28 songs recorded here during his early 30s of course find him in youthful voice, it is beautiful, steady, he can be quite expressive and he has a lot of nuances in his vocal armoury. There are several great musicals here with music by some of the greatest composers in the business: Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Harry Warren, Cole Porter, Rudolf Friml and Sigmund Romberg – and the two final tracks are from Kismet, where all the melodies – almost – are adapted from Alexander Borodin’s works. I can’t help feeling that the musical taste almost 70 years ago veered towards the sentimental. The orchestral arrangements are sometimes rather sickly-sweet and the singing also a bit sugary with quite heavy rubatos – but beautiful it is. Among the highlights are without doubt the excerpts from Annie, Get Your Gun, where also Betty Hutton, “The Blond Bombshell”, is quite amusing in the title role, singing really ugly – intentionally of course – in Anything you can do. She was actually a late replacement for Judy Garland. Kathryn Grayson, who appears in several productions, including Show Boat and Kiss Me, Kate, where especially Wunderbar is wonderful with charming trills. In this musical Howard Keel is very good in Where is the life that late I led?, a number that never disappoints with a good singing actor.

It is also worth pointing out that the recently deceased André Previn conducts the excerpts from Kiss Me, Kate and Kismet. The former music was recorded when he was just 24. As a memorial of his early work in Broadway musical this issue is also valuable. But of course the main reason for acquiring the disc is the singing of Howard Keel.

- MusicWeb-International

The subtitle of this collection confirms that the period of Howard Keel's ascendancy in the world of film musicals was only a brief period in time but the contents of the CD on the other hand are timeless in the longevity of their appeal. Mostly MGM musicals like ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, SHOWBOAT, KISS ME KATE and SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS had so many highlights featuring Keel's virile baritone that as one succeeds another on this CD one can only reflect how very lucky we have been to have experienced these moments of cinema magic. CALAMITY JANE, may have had Keel playing second fiddle to Doris Day's defining title role but he still made his presence felt with 'Higher Than a Hawk'. There is not room for one of his minor efforts - it would have been nice to have been reminded of JUPITER'S DARLING – but his swansong in KISMET is ample compensation. It might have been the end of the line as far film musicals are concerned but of course he reinvented himself as an actor in mainly westerns, then came 'Dallas' and the opportunity at last to make solo albums so late in his life. However, this collection really does represent a golden period for both Keel and the film musical and as such is very welcome.

- InTune Magazine

“Bless Yore Beautiful Hide” - offers 28 songs from eleven of the films in which he starred between 1950 and 1955.  He was a towering presence on screen, with a majestic baritone voice that compelled attention.  Many of these songs were penned by the best songwriters of the time: Berlin (“Annie, Get Your Gun”), Kern (“Show Boat” and “Lovely to Look At”) and Porter (“Kiss Me, Kate”) amongst them. He was born in 1919, and this reissue is a most welcome centenary tribute.  


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