Originally Published on CastAlbums.org.
For years, the 1962 remake of State Fair was considered the worst film in the Rodgers & Hammerstein canon, and were it not for the 1998 animated atrocity committed upon The King and I, it might still hold the title. Yet despite its many shortcomings, chiefly that it’s slow and bloated, it produced an enjoyable soundtrack notable not only for performances by Ann-Margret, Bobby Darin, Alice Faye, and Pat Boone, but also for the couple of new songs Rodgers (post-Hammerstein) added to the score. Now, Stage Door Records has given the original soundtrack album its first CD issue as part of their limited edition Collector’s Series, so Rodgers & Hammerstein devotees should act quickly before the edition sells out.
I can already hear some of you protesting that Varèse Sarabande put out the soundtrack on CD in 1999. As someone explained in a forum post on this site years ago, the Varèse disc was drawn from original multi-track masters and remixed for then-current sensibilities. This Stage Door release returns to the original Dot soundtrack album, using a stereo reel-to-reel tape as its source. Some audiophiles may wince, but the album sounds more or less as its original producer meant it to, including the ever-present reverb so popular at the time. (To my ears, it sounds right for music of this period and not nearly as invasive as it did on the fake — excuse me, “electronically enhanced” stereo releases of the era.) The sound is about as good as you’d expect for an album sourced from a commercial reel-to-reel; there is some slight distortion audible on “More Than Just A Friend,” but the sound is otherwise clear if not extraordinary.
If the score isn’t start-to-finish top shelf Rodgers & Hammerstein, the soundtrack nevertheless has its pleasures, including Anita Gordon‘s (dubbing for Pamela Tiffin) sweet “It Might As Well Be Spring,” a sexy “Isn’t It Kinda Fun” in which Ann-Margret and David Street are joined by swingin’ bongos and horns, and the enormous 20th Century Fox orchestra under the direction of Alfred Newman, complete with the sounds of carnival music. And of course, the title song and “A Grand Night for Singing” have become standards for good reason.
For this Collector’s Edition issue, the good people at Stage Door have filled out the album with fifteen bonus tracks, including two singles the stars of the film released of pop versions of their songs (Pat Boone’s “Willing and Eager” and Alice Faye’s “Never Say No To A Man“), two choral medleys of songs from the score performed by The Michael Sammes Singers, and the entirety of an easy listening album of songs from the score played by The 20th Century Strings Orchestra conducted by Sonny Lester. While none of these are essential — they are bonus tracks, after all — they are a lot of fun and a nice added value to the purchase.
As with other releases in the Collector’s Edition line, the packaging is reminiscent of the original LP sleeve, with the disc styled to look like a record. Album notes are unfortunately sparse.