(June 2011) Last fall, The New Adventures of Old Christine went into syndication, and as we starting watching it and TiVo'ing it and burning favorite episodes to disc, our opinion of the show instantly shot up. We'd always enjoyed it, but we came to realize that of the 88 episodes produced, there were nearly 25 that we wanted to have on disc, to enjoy repeatedly. And to quote from repeatedly, which readers of this column know is a passion of Tommy's. We quote a lot from Old Christine: there's "I don't know any of the people in your story" (from "Open Water") and "Let's put it on the board" (from "Come to Papa Jeff") and "I don't feel bad" (from "What Happens in Vegas Is Disgusting in Vegas") -- all the way to the final episode, where Christine decides to go back to school (she feels she needs to "Get Smarter": episode title), and when her fiance Max tells her not to do it for him, she replies something like "I'm not doing it for you. It's for I this time." (We use that quote a lot, when we're hashing out the reasons for green-lighting a project, or deciding whether to go to a concert in the city or just take the night off, or when we're going a little above-and-beyond the norm in our packaging and it's going to cost a fortune -- one of us will say "just don't do it for me" and the other will say "it's not for you -- I'm doing it for I this time.")
Anyway, back to Old Christine: we were watching, and as noted, were impressed that we considered one-quarter of the episodes to be "classics" -- and it got us thinking about our own catalog (we just hit album 100) and how many of those discs will withstand the proverbial "test of time." TV makes us think about our catalog a lot. We were speaking a few weeks ago with a colleague at TV Guide; Season 6 of Doctor Who had just premiered, and the episode, "The Impossible Astronaut," sort of blew us both away, and Tommy mused to our friend that as much as we love the creative side of what we do, it's so deeply collaborative and in some ways restrictive -- we often wonder what it must be like to be the show-runner on a hit TV series and be limited only by your own imagination. That kind of freedom must be so exhilarating. And then our friend reminded us that we only see the final product on our TV screen, but behind the scenes, of course, there's all kinds of budget limitations and network interference and scheduling issues that impact the show, and the aim -- as with our albums -- is to take all those fiscal, collaborative and practical demands, hold true to your vision, and make the end result seem personal and compelling.
"Personal" and "compelling" are qualities to which we aspire -- and qualities we admire in many of the TV series we watch (and it's a disparate lot, ranging from Doctor Who to The Good Wife), as well in a lot of the films we catch -- or revisit -- on Netflix. (Recent rentals include Agnes Varda's Cleo from 5 to 7, Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna's Made for Each Other, and Bo Goldman and Alan Parker's Shoot the Moon.) You watch them and you think, there's a voice there -- someone's goals were realized, someone's words came through. Those moments inspire and invigorate us. And they challenge us, too, to keep pouring as much of ourselves into our recordings as we can. (Tommy's been producing discs since 1989; whenever he starts to feel a little burned out, he just has to watch a handpicked TV episode scripted by Veena Sud, or Carol Barbee, or Sarah Goldfinger, and bask in their flair for language, and his creative juices start flowing again.) Years ago, in one of our earliest columns, we wrote, "We hope that in hearing our CD's, you get to know a little bit about what makes us tick"; after 100 CD's, we hope you know a whole lot about what drives us -- and even if you don't share our passion for every project (and heaven knows, we don't expect that our customers will), we hope that that passion is felt.
In February, we announced that we were going to be putting out a set of CD's this spring and summer that were "as exciting, as unexpected and as unconventional" as any set of releases in our catalog. Between late June and late August, we'll be releasing six discs, and we couldn't be more proud. If a half-dozen releases had to stand for what we believe in -- not just in terms of "celebrating the heritage of Broadway and American popular song" or continuing to blur the boundaries between what's "old" and what's "new," but also in terms of preserving the music that moves us most, music that really means something to us -- it might well be these six. We love each of these discs.
You want a Broadway classic? Try George and Ira Gershwin's 1930 Broadway score to Strike Up the Band, a project that began recording over twenty years ago and then -- with the passing of Mrs. Ira Gershwin in 1991 -- got shelved for a generation. Want a real discovery? Check out Vernon Duke and Odgen Nash's long-lost 1946 musical Sweet Bye and Bye, which Tommy's willing to chance his arm and call the greatest forgotten score in Broadway history: a show we've been aching to restore and record since 1993. Want something written more recently? How about Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman's eloquent, witty and graceful The Trumpet of the Swan, which a reviewer just this morning called "as unique and wondrous a creation as its subject." Listen with your family and be reminded how great music still has the power to cross generational boundaries. Want to hear a composer demonstrate, with his second score, that he has just what the theatre craves: a distinctive musical voice? Then don't miss A Minister's Wife, the latest cast album from Joshua Schmidt, whose first show, Adding Machine, remains one of the highlights of our catalog. (The lights came up after the performance of A Minister's Wife, and the two of us gave each other a look that said, "We need to record this." Sometimes it's that simple.)
Or if your taste runs more to solo discs, we've got a couple of doozies. First there's Kate Baldwin's joyous, heartfelt celebration of Sheldon Harnick, She Loves Him, in which the master lyricist not only tells some indelible stories but joins Kate onstage for a half-dozen selections. If you know Kate, you know she throws her heart and soul into every project; add Harnick himself to the mix, partnering with Kate on "Dear Sweet Sewing Machine" (cut from Fiddler on the Roof) and "In My Own Lifetime" and others, and you've got a doubly delectable treat. And second there's Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway's Boom!, their salute to the songs of the Baby Boomer generation. Liz and Ann were each influenced by different songs from the '60s and '70s; those songs shaped their adolescence and shaped them as artists. Now they share them with the audience and with each other, and what unfolds is not only about the lasting impact of great music, but about the power and richness of a shared experience, and about sisterhood, too. It's as exhilarating a project as any we've taken on.
In the last few columns, we alluded to the problems facing the music industry, especially our own niche market. Those problems haven't abated, not by a long shot, and although a couple projects came our way this past year that were a little "safer," a little more "mainstream," we ended up turning them down; we're probably numbskulls, but we knew from the way we responded to the material that our heart wouldn't be in them, and after a hundred albums, we're still not willing to go there. In fact, here in year eleven, maybe we've only gotten more stubborn; our resolve to keep digging deeper with each subsequent release has only strengthened. So we just plow forward, working feverishly to master the ever-changing rules of retail and digital distribution (like Old Christine, we keep trying to "get smarter") while holding true to our mission.
So we leave you now -- and close this "About Us" column -- with a half-dozen new releases that not only speak to us, but that have something to say, well, "about us." We'd like to think no other label would offer up quite this slate of releases, because as much as these albums showcase the gifted singers and songwriters whose names emblazen the front covers, they also -- in a way -- define us. We handpicked these six from the dozens we considered green-lighting this past year. We feel a genuine passion for each one; they're labors of love. You might say, with these albums, maybe more than any previous set, we're not doing them for the money, or for the prestige, or for the artists, or for the songwriters, or even, forgive us, for you, the customers.
We're doing them for we this time.
— Tommy Krasker & Philip Chaffin, June 2011
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.