The song of the day for Wednesday, February 26, 2014 is “Stranger in Paradise.”
About This Song
Tony Bennett pretty much single-handedly saved the 1953 musical Kismet, from which “Stranger in Paradise” was the major song of the evening. In a busy Broadway season, Kismet was opening in New York during a newspaper strike, which was and still is, the major venue for the advertising and public relations for a Broadway production. Instead the producers tried two new techniques to sell their show: advertising on television (!) and getting Tony Bennett to record “Stranger in Paradise” to take advantage of the radio play for a new Tony Bennett song. Bennett recorded the song in November and it was released immediately. By the time Kismet opened in December, the song was big hit and when it was sung in the first act, it stopped the show!
The music in Kismet was adapted from the works of Alexander Borodin, with lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest. In spite of a negative review from Time magazine, it won the Tony Award for Best Musical.
About This Version
Today’s version of “Stranger in Paradise” is the live version from Tony Bennett’s 1962 concert at Carnegie Hall. Both of us have been listening to this album a lot lately and wanted to choose a song from that concert for today. There is such a wonderful energy in his live performances, which thankfully comes through loud and clear in this concert recording. In “Stranger in Paradise,” you get a strong sense of the arc of the song building as the song progresses, a motif that one sees in Western adaptations and nods to Middle Eastern music (such as in Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine”). And then, in an instant, he switches gears as he moves on to “This Could Be Start of Something Big.” Here’s Tony Bennett at his very best.
“Stranger in Paradise,” as well as the complete Tony Bennett at Carnegie Hall concert, is available from iTunes.