Berlin – Songs of Love and War, Peace and Exile – Songs of Brecht, Weill, Eisler, Dessau, Bleckmann & others – Theo Bleckmann, vocals/Fumio Yasuda, piano & arrangements/String quartet – Winter&Winter 910 138-2, 77:11 *** [Distr. by Allegro]:

This album, in the unique “hard cover” Winter&Winter packaging, may be packed with material time wise, but is lacking in some other respects.  For one thing, there is no libretto/translations provided for any of the 23 songs which are mostly in German – an irresponsible omission. There are five creative color photos, and that’s it – nothing about the history and stories behind these songs. To many it will be their first introduction to such cabaret songs of the Interregnum period, so that is inexcusable. As clever as the package design is, it encourages harmful scratching when sliding the CD in and out of its built-in holder, which suffers from the same abrasive qualities as the original JVC xrcd packages, which were finally corrected.

Next is the choice of vocalist. Many of these songs were sung by female artists such as Lotte Lenya or the several modern inheritors of her style. Bleckmann’s high male voice just doesn’t sound right to me, especially in songs such as Surabya Jonny, which is sung by  a woman to a man. Then there is the string quartet accompaniment. It works on a couple of the tunes but on most it sounds quite wrong instead of the ricky-tick piano and rhythm section of the original performances.

Some of the Eisler songs have been recorded by playwright Eric Bentley, and I actually prefer his untrained voice and delivery.  This new recording did send me searching the Net for more information on Eisler and Weill and it’s quite amazing how much there is and what a fascinating story about Eisler’s political woes.  The disc would probably only be a must-have for avid collectors of this particular era’s music.

1. An Den Kleinen Radioapparat
2. Das Deutsche Miserere
3. Ostersonntag
4. Das Lied Vom Surabaya-Johnny
5. Davon Geht Die Welt Nicht Unter
6. Maskulinum-Femininum
7. Ich Hab Dich Ausgetragen
8. Bitten Der Kinder
9. Ich Bin Von Kopf Bis Fuss Auf Liebe Eingestellt
10. Die Alten Weisen
11. Als Ich Dich In Meinem Leib Trug
12. Moon Of Alabama
13. Hotelzimmer 1942
14. Die Welt Verandern Wir
15. Friedenslied
16. Als Ich Dich Gebar
17. Hollywood-Elegie Nr.7
18. Der Bilbao-Song
19. Mein Sohn, Was Immer Auch Aus Dir Werde
20. Uber Den Selbstmord
21. I Build My Time
22. Lili Marleen
23. Schmidt-Lied

— John Sunier