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Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, November 2010

Moving steadily onwards, we now arrive at volume eight in the McCormack edition from Naxos, and find ourselves deeply embedded in songs of wartime and Irish sentiment. There are no ‘classical’ songs as such, excepting the Messager song which has undergone Anglicisation.

My Irish Song of Songs is a charming entrée, though his ascent to the head voice here (and elsewhere) is a rather overused way to end songs. Gitz Rice’s Dear Old Pal of Mine is a particular example of a general trait around this time. There are two versions of Wilfred Sanderson’s God Be With Our Boys Tonight. He essays a trio of songs by Haydn Wood. In Love’s Garden of Roses the legato freshness of his voice proves admirable. Dream On, Little Soldier Boy from Irving Berlin’s show Yip! Yip! Yaphank was not issued at the time, but first saw the light after McCormack’s death. His Irish brogue adds an interesting gloss on Berlin’s song, the first by the composer that he recorded. When You Come Back is a militaristic opus in Broadway style, rousingly declaimed. Naturally we have Roses of Picardy, but of more discographic interest, perhaps, is the song by his loyal accompanist Teddy Schneider, Only You.

McCormack’s communicative spirit almost manages to salvage The Road That Brought You to Me from its pervasive air of potboiling lachrymosity—almost, but not quite. Throughout the disc his colleagues in the Victor Orchestra directed by Josef Pasternack provide decent support. There are also accompaniments by some well known recording artists of the time. Violinist Howard Rattay even gets a solo on That Tumble Down Shack in Athlone. His rather thin-toned presence, and that of his colleague John Witzmann, can also be felt in Harold Craxton’s Beneath the Moon of Lombardy. A more lasting part of the tenor’s repertoire was The Bard of Armagh which he sings, despite the cumbersome orchestral arrangement, with moving scena-like intensity—though he was arguably more moving still in later recordings.

In the main however, unruffled charm and affectionate lingering dominate. The transfers are first class and there’s an unusually full and interesting booklet note to keep one company as one listens to the great Irish tenor.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2010

John McCormack was the singing idol in the first three decades of the 19th century, his strong Irish brogue adding to his unique tenor voice. Born in 1884, and originally self-taught, he was advised to seek professionally training in Italy, and it was there that he started his career in provincial opera houses. On his return to the UK he was taken into London’s Covent Garden company, though it was at New York’s Metropolitan Opera that his success story took wing. He tried to shake off that Irish tang that ruined his attempt to sing in Italian, and, by his own admission, he was a dreadful actor. Those two considerable drawbacks persuade to withdraw from the opera stage while still in his mid-thirties. From a financial point of view it was a wise decision, and doing nothing more than singing popular ballades he enjoyed enormous popular acclaim and made a profusion of top selling discs. The present CD covers the period from 1918–20 when his voice was still in prime condition, and looking back it was surprising that one so vocally blessed could descend to these musical trifles with their banal words. But for his legion of fans he sang Little Mother of Mine, Roses of Picardy, The First Rose of Summer, When You and I Were Young, Maggie, Somewhere, Sweet Peggy O’Neill and Wonderful World of Romance, all of which appear in the disc’s 26 tracks. There are those ringing high notes that thrill, but McCormack’s voice became an acquired taste that belongs to an age long past. Very good transfers, the accompaniments coming from the Victor Orchestra.






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2:23:51 PM, 29 July 2014
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