Gordon Jenkin’s paean to The Big Apple, Manhattan Tower — which combines narration, dialogue, sound effects and mood music, along with the songs themselves — was a bold step forward, artistically speaking, for the phonographic medium. Could this be one of vinyl’s first “concept albums”? [Woody Guthrie‘s Dust Bowl Ballads of 1940 is often cited as the earliest concept album.]
On “New York’s My Home,” the album’s closing song (and B-side of single, “The Party“), the singer [Beverly Mahr] attempts to prove that all of America’s other great cities pale in comparison to Manhattan, though the shameful mispronunciation of a Chicago landmark – as “Soldier’s [sic] Field” – one might argue, reveals a certain provincial mindset on the part of the songwriter, ultimately:
Cash Box‘s album review from their October 15, 1956 edition —
Manhattan [Tower] is a Gordon Jenkins tribute to New York City and will be a 90 minute NBC Spectacular October 27th. Originally written in 1945, Jenkins has enlarged the work — a musical narrative of two young people in the city. This Capitol release presents the complete version of the opus and besides its sentimental pose, contains 10 easily digestible tunes. Best ballads: “Never Leave Me” and “Repeat After Me.” Cutest novelty: “Married I Can Always Get.” Many single releases of the score are planned and in view of the millions who’ll see the TV version, sales should be excellent.
[Note = limited number of singles actually released in 1956 suggest, perhaps, that sales were not as strong as originally hoped].
Sammy Davis, Jr. would release “New York’s My Home” as a Decca single in 1956 and see it climb to #59 on the U.S. pop chart.
Gordon Jenkins –
“Crescent City Blues” Gives Birth to “Folsom Prison Blues”
From Robert Hilburn‘s recent biography of The Man in Black, I learned that Johnny Cash was rather taken with Gordon Jenkins’ 1953 musical fantasy concept LP, Seven Dreams, while serving a stint with the Air Force in Germany as a radio operator. So taken, in fact, that Cash would later adapt much of the lyrical imagery in Jenkins’ “Crescent City Blues” when crafting his signature song, “Folsom Prison Blues.” In the 1970s, Cash reached an out-of-court settlement with Jenkins over his unauthorized use of “Crescent City Blues.”