"I got too big...too noisy. Time to step back into the shadows."
-- The Eleventh Doctor, Doctor Who
It's been a year since we penned an About Us column: a big year that included Broadway cast recordings of Follies and The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (both, to our surprise and delight, Grammy-nominated), a newly restored studio cast album of George Gershwin's earliest surviving show, Sweet Little Devil, and a two-disc set of the Encores! production of Sondheim and Furth's Merrily We Roll Along. We joked once about the emails we receive, which range from the odd ("do you carry Seussical?") to the reasonable ("my CD arrived with a torn booklet") to the caustic ("I can't believe you're recording Merrily when there are already three other recordings" -- we got several of those). But in the past year, we’d say we've gotten more kind, flattering, enthusiastic notes to our site than in the previous eleven years combined.
Follies, Lord knows, touched a nerve, and it remains as gratifying an experience as any we've had. But Sweet Little Devil was probably our most lauded restoration: a riot since it came together more quickly than any other vintage recording we’ve done; folks seemed to feel that it truly captured the spirit of an era. And then Merrily came along and quickly quieted the early nay-sayers. We watched the Encores! production and thought, "This is it: the culmination of three decades of work by Sondheim, Furth, Tunick and Lapine -- we need to preserve it" -- and once the album was released, we were flooded with emails from folks who saw what we saw, that the Encores! Merrily represented a precise, great moment in music theatre history that needed to be captured on disc. If Follies is the most fan mail we've ever received for a CD, Merrily comes in second -- and that was both surprising and enormously pleasing.
Tommy had produced all of our releases since the spring of 2011, and by the time Merrily wrapped, he was exhausted; we took some time this past summer to rest, regroup, and to deal with some logistical issues that had cropped up along the way, including the unfortunate shuttering of our longtime replicator. We also wanted to catch up on submissions that had been sitting on our desk for almost a year. And we wanted to take a little time to assess our catalog.
We’ve spoken often about how, when we founded PS Classics – with no idea how to run a record label – we had no intention of doing big Broadway cast albums: that just sort of happened when our pal Maury Yeston asked us to bid on the Broadway revival of Nine: The Musical and, to our astonishment, our bid was accepted. And it all sort of snowballed from there. Suddenly Fidder came along, then Assassins, then Grey Gardens and Company and Xanadu, and now, in 2013, we find ourselves with nearly fifty cast albums in our catalog and eight Grammy nominations for Best Musical Show Album. But our original impulse with PS Classics was simply to continue making the kind of albums Tommy had been recording at other labels, to keep preserving the kind of music we both loved, and that meant (at the time) solo albums and songbooks. But last summer, when we sat back and looked at our recent output, we realized we hadn’t gone into the studio to record a solo disc or songbook in over two years.
And we missed it.
We wanted to address that, and so, this fall, we recorded and released David Loud’s wonderful two-disc Kern songbook The Land Where the Good Songs Go, and then followed it up with Rebecca Luker’s solo disc, I Got Love (Songs of Jerome Kern). Last week, Steven Suskin at Playbill.com called Rebecca’s album “one of those CDs you can listen to over and over again … the perfect combination of composer and singer.” He predicted, “You’ll want to listen to it repeatedly, immediately,” and suggested, “Maybe if we buy lots of copies of I Got Love, Rebecca and her pals at PS Classics will take a second foray into the still treasure-laden Kern songbook.” We were thrilled for Rebecca, one of our dear friends and favorite artists, but we were also mighty proud ourselves. The joy we had in making I Got Love, and the rapturous reception it’s received (including a marvelous piece on NPR), reminded us how much we want to be doing more of these kinds of albums, how much they matter every bit as much as the big Broadway cast recordings we do.
In a few weeks we have another songbook coming out, Noël and Cole, with some of our favorite singers taking on some music theatre classics. It was an opportunity to put together a disc and go, “OK, whom have we loved working with, that we'd love to team up with again?” And we thought about Elizabeth Stanley, who was so gifted and gracious on Company and Merrily; and Euan Morton, to whom we had said, when we finished Sondheim on Sondheim, “Let’s do something together again sometime.” And dear Barbara Walsh, with whom Tommy has been working on-and-off since she went into the original production of Nine (for which he was vocal director) back in 1983. (They were both fourteen at the time.) Noël and Cole streets on February 26th, and meanwhile, we’re hard at work on four solo discs, and we’re having the best time. This doesn’t mean, heaven knows, that we won’t be back in the studio doing another big cast album – probably sooner than we think – but we also look forward to varying our diet a bit this year, and in particular, to showcasing some extraordinary artists with whom we’ve been anxious to work – or work again -- for a while.
So as we enter 2013, we look forward to casting our net a little wider, to making sure we don’t get so focused on cast recordings that we miss out on some wonderful, more intimate projects that are just as worthy. You know, we never wanted to be a “big” label – we’ve loved keeping PS Classics small because it affords us the opportunity to only green-light projects that really excite us. We’re always amused when we get emails that say things like, “Could you direct me to your vice-president of international licensing.” (Typically, Tommy gets to the mail first, then yells to Philip in the next room, “You want to be vice-president of international licensing?”) We’ve come to realize that, because we’ve brought out so many “big” albums in the last ten years, folks sometimes think we’re a “big” label. But to seriously misquote Norma Desmond, "We are small. It's the albums that got big." This year, we’re going to redress the balance: to find a little better blend of the big and the small, the familiar and the obscure, and make sure we don’t lose sight of our mission: to preserve the Great American Songbook in whatever form that takes. Join us!
— Tommy Krasker & Philip Chaffin, February 2013
Tommy Krasker, Executive Producer for PS Classics, can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Philip Chaffin, A&R Director, can be reached at email@example.com.