Promises, Promises

Promises-OBCOriginal Broadway Cast, 1968 (United Artists/MGM/Kritzerland) 3 Stars (3 / 5) Based on the film The Apartment, this show was the only Broadway effort of pop songwriters Burt Bacharach (music) and Hal David (lyrics), who had written such hits as “Alfie,” “One Less Bell to Answer,” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” As originally released, the cast recording of Promises, Promises was one of the most problematic ever from a performance standpoint. The usually wonderful Jerry Orbach sounded pitch-shy as Chuck Baxter in several cuts, especially in “She Likes Basketball” and two duets, “Our Little Secret” (with Edward Winter as J. D. Sheldrake) and “A Young Pretty Girl Like You” (with A. Larry Haines as Dr. Dreyfuss). In those last two named songs, it was hard to tell who was singing farther below pitch, but at any rate, both cuts were almost unlistenable. As Fran Kubelik, the young woman caught between Baxter and Sheldrake, Jill O’Hara displayed a raspy voice, coarse and unequalized throughout its range. And, in the original mix of the album, there was an excessive amount of reverb in the vocals, while the percussion sounded too heavy and the strings remote. The happy news is that a latter-day remastering of this album for the Kritzerland label addressed and ameliorated these problems (other than the quality of O’Hara’s voice and the reverb in the vocals) through skillful remixing and pitch correction, greatly improving the overall listening experience. The score itself is marred by David’s often ham-fisted lyrics, but the good songs (“Half as Big as Life,” “Knowing When to Leave,” “I’Il Never Fall in Love Again,” the title song, and others) finally outweigh the stinkers. Note: According to the album credits, you can supposedly hear Donna McKechnie singing along with Baayork Lee and Margo Sappington in “Turkey Lurkey Time,” but it sounds to me like the number was actually recorded by the show’s “orchestra voices.” — Michael Portantiere

Promises-LondonOriginal London Cast, 1969 (United Artists/Kritzerland) 3 Stars (3 / 5) This recording was out of print for years, until it finally received an excellent if belated CD transfer and release by Kritzerland. The two leads, Tony Roberts and Betty Buckley, were just starting their careers in 1969 but are now established Broadway stars. Roberts is charming in Baxter’s songs, and if Buckley’s steely belt/soprano won’t appeal to everyone, she’s solid from a technical standpoint. Another plus of the recording is its superb technical quality; Jonathan Tunick’s orchestrations sound magnificent, and the voices are recorded with a great deal of presence and no annoying reverb. Note: Donna McKechnie traveled to London with the show and is again credited on the cast album, but I don’t think she actually sings in “Turkey Lurkey Time” here, either. — M.P.