To begin, I will admit to hating musicals. Never liked
them. All those people singing. Opera too--nothing but a musical in
Italian... I never saw West Side Story-- neither the play or the movie.
But the music has permeated our culture to such an extent that I can
hum lots of it-- even though Ive never seen it or formally heard
it. And I wonder if there is anyone of my generation who cant
do the same... Maria! I just met a girl named Maria! is
about as deep in the culture as Oh! What a beautiful morning!
Oh! What a beautiful day! I have no idea what it is from, but
I sure know it!
Mike Perlowin undertook to do the
whole score to West Side Story using his steel guitar. This is not
Mikes head arrangement of what he thinks West Side
Story is. It is the score written by Leonard Bernstein, carefully
transcribed for steel, and other instruments-- some (piano, drums,
keyboard) played by others, and some (6 and 12 string guitar, banjo,
mandolin, autoharp) played by Mike. The song I Feel Pretty was played
on two non-pedal steels.
On some level, this might be considered
cheating-- I mean, can he get up on stage and play the
thing live? Bet he cant. But, then again, could Les Paul play
live any of the great numbers he did with his experiments with tape
speeds, echo chambers, and the like? Does that inability to re-create
it live, in its totality, take away from the magnificence of the work
itself? Obviously, Id answer with a no to that one.
What Mike did is absolutely brilliant.
He has explored the instrument we know and love with all its possible
textures, applied it to Leonard Bernstein's amzing score and woven it together into a cohesive whole. And when I
listen to it, Im not thinking, Gad! Its West Side
Story being played on steel, but rather, Its West
Side Story, and Ive never really heard it before!
From the introduction, which is decidedly
a-tonal and jarring (but exact!), to the smoothness of Maria and to
the excitement of America this CD shines. Mike told me that a lot
of his arrangements reflect the visual qualities in the movie, so
rent the VCR tape some evening, give it a look, and then go back and
listen to the CD.
One more admission here... I dont
listen to a lot of stuff. I usually get a CD, play it, and put it
in the collection. It is the rare CD that I will listen to over and
over. And those that I do give that privilege to are those that have
a simplicity (nice to hear) with an underlying complexity that is
constantly surprising-- whoo! what was that interval?
Didn't quite hear that before! And that is why I have
Mike's CD just lying out-- I play it a lot because I enjoy listening
I gather that the CD was about to be picked up for major distribution,
and then the deal fell through.-- which is a shame. It is available
for directly from Mike at 4140 Somers Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90065-3819.
Get it! youll love it.
Review //Next review