Rob Kapilow, the composer, conductor, and host of the hit NPR music radio program What Makes It Great? turns his ear to the Great American Songbook, bringing many of our favorite classics to life through the songs and stories of eight of the twentieth century’s most treasured American composers―Kern, Porter, Gershwin, Arlen, Berlin, Rodgers, Bernstein, and Sondheim.
... engaging and instructive ... Sixteen gems by eight American masters of song are analyzed and set into historical and cultural context, resulting in a greater appreciation of these American musical masterpieces. Songs reflect the world in which they are created, and their back stories reveal much about the songwriters and the milieu in which they plied their craft. The songs selected for examination make for a musical theater fan’s ultimate playlist. Readers who don’t read music will be glad to hear that there is a companion website on which you can see and listen to the musical examples printed in the book. A treat for music fans and a great addition to any performing arts or popular culture collection.
Though at times effectively making a direct connection between the music and its settings, for the most part, the author isn’t as successful. He describes songs that offer stilted views of issues such as race and songs by Porter, Gershwin, and Berlin that ignored major events including the Great Depression to create escapist fantasies ... While Kapilow doesn’t quite make his case, he has written an engaging, informative, and provocative book that is recommended for fans of Broadway musicals.
... lyrical prose ... Kapilow works in musical notations in each chapter to illustrate the ways that the music itself incorporated various styles as it developed. Kapilow’s melodious writing hums with the vibrant music of American history and American popular culture.