Minnelli show tallies some `firsts'

The live recording of Liza Minnelli's three-week stint here at Carnegie Hall (May 28-June 18) is a first in more ways than one. Not only is it Miss Minnelli's first live recording in eight years; it's also the first time that Telarc, a company known for its natural- sounding classical recordings, has put out a pop album. At a press luncheon here last week, the diminutive and youthful Minnelli expressed her satisfaction with both the sound quality and the contents of the double album: ``The Telarc people are so perfect.'' And, about the songs: ``It's all American writers - it's a pure American program, and I like that.'' When asked if that was her idea, she replied, ``Yes.''

``Liza Minnelli at Carnegie Hall,'' which is available on vinyl, CD, and cassette, includes all the songs from the program (which was written by Fred Ebb and arranged by Marvin Hamlisch, with musical direction by Bill LaVorgna), as well as her spoken remarks on stage. Most interesting of all is Minnelli's choice of material, which runs the gamut of the American popular song and includes many lesser-known numbers among chestnuts such as ``New York, New York,'' ``Cabaret,'' and ``Liza With a Z.''

Among others are Sonny Bono's unusual ``You Better Sit Down, Kids''; Jerome Kern's ``Lonely Feet,'' from his failed 1934 show ``Three Sisters''; the Al Jolson hit ``Toot Toot Tootsie,'' from ``The Jazz Singer''; Jule Styne's comical ``If You Hadn't, But You Did''; and Harold Arlen's seldom-heard ``I Never Has Seen Snow.''

Minnelli does the best version yet of ``Somewhere Out There,'' from the recent movie ``An American Tail,'' and several songs from her Broadway and Off Broadway debuts, respectively Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin's ``Best Foot Forward'' and John Kander and Fred Ebb's ``Flora, the Red Menace.'' In fact, much of the program features the songs of Kander and Ebb.

Overall, the sound quality is impeccable without sounding cold, Minnelli is in good voice, and her performances are powerful, touching, dramatic, and entertaining. The Minnelli charisma comes through as she creates a different character for each song.

The musical arrangements are impressive, serving not only as backgrounds for Minnelli's vocals but actually propelling the musical moods in specific directions.

Minnelli has left for Europe to tour France, England, and Germany, then Australia, for seven weeks. When she returns to the United States, she'll be working on a TV special with Fred Ebb and a follow-up to the movie ``Arthur.''

The album is attractively packaged in all three versions, with informative liner notes about each song and Minnelli's career. A thoughtful addition is notes explaining some of the audience responses (gasps, laughter, etc.), to what Minnelli was doing on stage.

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