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Half A Sixpence – The Original Demo Recordings review

Tommy Steele sings on early demo recordings of a West End classic.

Half A SixpenceThe latest addition to the Stage Door catalogue is a previously unreleased collection of demo recordings from what would go on to be a very successful musical – Half A Sixpence.

Recorded in 1962, a year before the show hit the West End, these songs are a snapshot of a popular musical in the process of being honed. This is a fascinating insight for fans of the show and of musical theatre history; however, the songs are stripped down versions mostly with only piano accompaniment and the occasional bit of bass and drums joining the singer. The finished quality is excellent, and the tapes have been digitally remastered so that they sound like they were recorded yesterday.

It’s Tommy Steele’s show, and it was developed with his involvement assured. He plays Kipps, an orphan who unexpectedly inherits a fortune, before enjoying himself in the spending of it (if you can’t fathom the plot, writer Beverley Cross narrates a potted summary on the final track). The musical style is a tribute to the London music hall tradition, and if chirpy Cockneys are your thing – you’ll find them here in abundance. Tap your foot along to the likes of Half A Sixpence (remember to drop the ‘h’), If The Rain’s Got to Fall and Money to Burn.

Although the most famous number from Half A Sixpence is Flash, Bang, Wallop!, you won’t find it here until the bonus tracks, where it’s performed by Paul Rich (who is joined by Leoni Page for the last songs). The hit was not part of the original show. Conversely, there are songs on the demo recordings that had been cut by the time they opened on the West End. Listening to them now, you wonder why. Were they difficult to realise on stage? Did they not move along the story sufficiently? If you’re familiar with the finished production you can decide for yourself.

This release is a tribute to David Heneker’s popular musical (which enjoyed a revival in 2016). The previously unheard sound of a hit musical in development, featuring talented West End performers of the day, makes Half A Sixpence an appealing release and a fascinating curiosity. It just goes to show what you can find hidden in composers’ garages.

Track Listing 1. Ladies Wear – Roy Sone 2. Mr. Shalford’s Drapery Emporium – Rita Williams, Joanna Rigby 3. All In The Cause of Economy – Tommy Steele, Beverley Cross, David Heneker, Rita Williams Singers 4. Half A Sixpence – Roy Sone, David Heneker 5. We Don’t Like Not To Be Engaged – Rita Williams, Joanna Rigby 6. If You Dress Like Mr. Pearce – Rita Williams, Joanna Rigby 7. Pure Coincidence – Beverley Cross 8. Money To Burn – Tommy Steele, Rita Williams Singers 9. The Oak and the Ash – Joanna Rigby, Rita Williams Singers 10. She’s Too Far Above Me – Tommy Steele 11. I’m Not Talking to You – Rita Williams, Beverley Cross 12. If The Rain’s Got To Fall – Tommy Steele, Rita Williams Singers 13. The Old Military Canal – Rita Williams Singers 14. The One Who’s Got Away – Tommy Steele, Beverley Cross 15. Long Ago – Rita Williams 16. How Fashionable and Amusing – Rita Williams Singers 17. I’ll Build A Palace / I Only Want A Little House – Tommy Steele, Rita Williams, Roy Sone, Rita Williams Singers 18. I’ll Build A Palace / I Only Want A Little House (Reprise) – Tommy Steele, Rita Williams, Roy Sone, Rita Williams Singers 19. How Fashionable and Amusing – David Heneker 20. I Don’t Believe A Word Of It – David Heneker 21. Flash Bang Wallop – Paul Rich 22. Long Ago – Leoni Page 23. Half A Sixpence – Paul Rich, Leoni Page 24. She’s Too Far Above Me – Paul Rich 25. If The Rain’s Got To Fall – Paul Rich 26. Beverley Cross Narrates ‘Half A Sixpence’ – Beverley Cross Released By: Stage Door Release Date: 29th September 2017

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