St. Louis Woman (1998 Original New York Cast Recording) by Various Artists
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After it flopped in 1946, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's musical about nightclubs and jockeys featuring an all-black cast had simply vanished. The original cast album was long out of print, and, worst of all, no orchestral scores had survived. After lengthy sleuthing, New York's Encores! team brought the show back to life. From pulsing big-band dance stomps to a cakewalk to near-operatic blues (yes, it works) the score is breathtaking, and both orchestra and singers rise up to the challenge, obviously exhilarated by the material. A special mention goes to Vanessa L. Williams, who confirms her natural affinity for Broadway ("Come Rain or Come Shine" with Stanley Wayne Mathis, "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home"). Original cast recording of the year for 1998, bar none. --Elisabeth Vincentelli