"Cities have many moving parts. Some with high profile. Some, fairly anonymous. Others quite obvious yet taken for granted or perhaps ignored because we have grown used to them, their texture and permanent presence a part of our familiar daily existence, like turnpike tolls and potholes. "But the Boston Pops and the Boston Red Sox tower above all..." - Mike Barnicle, liner notes
The Boston Pops released a new album on April 6 to coincide with the opening day of baseball, The Red Sox Album. It has charm, warmth, heart and joy, a rekindling of the feeling I remember growing up listening to the Boston Pops under the baton of Arthur Fiedler back in the 70's. Admittedly, I am not a Red Sox fan, but it's impossible to not cheer for a team who inspired such an album.
Fans were out in force eager for the first day, although the Red Sox Nation had to wait one more day for their opener, as rain delayed the game. But it was worth the wait as the Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3. However, Paul Holding, of Charlestown said it best, "...these are Red Sox fans. They'd come watch baseball in December if they could."
These loyal fans deserve something to show the kind of heart they have for their team. The charm of the Boston Pops Orchestra comes through in every aspect of their new album honoring their home team. With arrangements of The Star Spangled Banner, to God Bless America, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus really sets the tone of an American past time. The chorus even get into the act with a version of Sweet Caroline, a traditional fan anthem, and Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Both are done so well it's impossible not to sing along.
Broadway star Gregg Edelman gives a wonderful narration of "Casey at the Bat" with orchestral accompaniment. If there was ever a story that explored the hope and disappointment of the Red Sox fans, Casey is probably it and Gregg hits a home run with his retelling of Ernest Thayer's classic tale.
One of my favorite moments from the album was the Sousa march, The Stars and Stripes Forever. My first memory of this piece was back in the early 70's in one of the 4th of July Boston Pops concerts on PBS. Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops were already an institution in my home by this point and their rendition of The Stars and Stripes Forever permanently etched into my mind the joy expressed by the piccolo player during the performance. Keith Lockhart and The Red Sox Album brought back that same feeling of joy.
But don't think this album is just fun and frolicking music. For Example, the Dropkick Murhpys' "I'm Shippin' Up to Boston" while still a fast paced piece, the solid orchestral arrangement exploring the thrill of this music is worth the price of the album. Add to that the music from the film "The Natural," which shows off the versatility of the Boston Pops Orchestra, and you get a CD which hits all the bases and scores at every inning.
Even though I am not a Red Sox fan, I will continue to listen this album again and again. Fans of baseball, fans of the Boston Pops everywhere will enjoy the music.
I should also mention the liner notes are exceptional. They delve into every aspect of the music, explaining why each piece was chosen with details that give significance beyond the music. The album is wonderful without them, but with them The Red Sox Album hits it out of the park.