“PHILIP CHAFFIN: WILL HE LIKE ME?” RELEASED BY PS CLASSICS
PS CLASSICS, the label that celebrates the heritage of Broadway and American popular song, has released its groundbreaking new recording Philip Chaffin: Will He Like Me? today, Friday, November 9. The album is featured in The New York Times “2018 Holiday Gift Guide,” which raves, “From ‘When I Marry Mr. Snow’ to ‘I Got Lost in His Arms,’ Chaffin tells a familiar story that has never sounded so new.” With Will He Like Me?, Chaffin, the label’s co-founder – joined by his husband and producer Tommy Krasker – reimagines the Great American Songbook for the post-marriage-equality era. Will He Like Me? weaves together nearly a century of American popular song to tell a gay man’s love story that takes him from first date to final farewell. This collection reinvents 17 classic songs for the LGBTQ community by capturing them in a way they wouldn’t – and couldn’t – have been sung just a decade ago.
The impulse of Will He Like Me? is novel, but the resulting song cycle reveals once again, the true glory of the Great American Songbook: how it speaks to us all, evoking shared emotions and experiences that cut across gender, class, race and orientation. Songs range from forgotten gems (“Who Gave You Permission,” from the made-for-TV movie Queen of the Stardust Ballroom, the title tune from the 1966 Off-Broadway musical Man With a Load of Mischief) to much-loved standards that male vocalists, until recently, haven’t been able to sing (Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “When I Marry Mister Snow,” the Jerome Moross-John Latouche evergreen “Windflowers”). As Chaffin explores the bittersweet experience of searching for love over the course of a lifetime, and finding it, his rich baritone captures every nuance of emotion, reconceiving the songs of a previous era for the lovers of a new one. The album is conducted by Richard Carsey, with arrangements and orchestrations by John Baxindine.
Tommy Krasker, a 12-time Grammy nominee for cast albums ranging from Follies to Fun Home, describes the evolution of the project: “Although the idea for the album had been percolating for a while, it was actually a chance remark in 2013 by Steve Sondheim [for whom Krasker has produced over a dozen cast recordings] that kicked it into high gear. Philip and I were working on Philip’s fourth solo disc, a salute to lyricist Dorothy Fields, and he wanted to sing her classic ‘Remind Me.’ The refrain went ‘Remind me not to find you so attractive. Remind me that the world is full of men.’ It was written for a woman, and didn’t have an ‘alternate version’ for a man to sing. You couldn’t just change ‘men’ to ‘women,’ because it had to rhyme with two other words later. So I wrote to Steve, knowing how much he loved Dorothy Fields’ work, and asked if he’d supply an alternate lyric. And he was lovely and came up with two, which were wonderful, but he also said, ‘You know, it’s 2013. I think you should just sing the lyric as is.’”
“And that got me and Philip thinking about all the songs that we’d loved over the years – some of which we’d considered for other albums, but rejected because there wasn’t ‘a version for a man to sing.’ It’s always been common practice – when you take on the Great American Songbook – that men sing to and about women, and vice versa, and you adjust the pronouns accordingly. Men sing ‘I love her so’ and ‘She was meant for me.’ But we thought, ‘What if we didn’t change the pronouns? What if we just sing the songs from a gay man’s perspective – from our perspective?’ Suddenly a wealth of songs opened up to us. Songs Philip hadn’t been able to sing, because they were meant for a woman to sing about a man, or because the actions described – say, cooking breakfast for someone you love – didn’t conform to standard gender stereotypes.”
“We knew we wanted to do more than just record a set of songs,” continued Krasker. “We wanted the album to be a journey: a love story that began with a first date and first relationship and first break-up – and that then spanned some 30 years through the course of a lifetime, culminating in the true love that Philip and I have been so fortunate to find with each other. And then we wanted to take it one step further, addressing the inevitable heartbreak and loss that results when two people have spent a lifetime together.”
“We approached the project as we’ve tried to approach the other hundred discs on our label: with a measure of grace and integrity and restraint, and most of all with a deep love for the Great American Songbook, and its ability to move hearts. We were particularly pleased, being a gay-owned record label devoted to Broadway and Popular Song, that we could be the ones to tell this sort of story on disc: the life and loves of a gay man, told through the enduring compositions and traditions of this canon. I imagine the album will appeal in particular to the LGBTQ community, but I hope the themes – love and loss, hope and heartbreak – will resonate with everyone. After all, that’s the beauty of American popular song, and that’s why the genre has endured: the emotions expressed are universal.”
PHILIP CHAFFIN has received three Grammy Award nominations, for co-producing the Broadway cast recordings of Sondheim on Sondheim, Follies and Fun Home. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Chaffin moved to New York in 1997, and within two weeks was cast in his first Encores! production (the revival of Sweet Adeline, in which he sang the solo “Pretty Jenny Lee”) and his first Broadway musical, Alan Menken and Tim Rice’s King David. He released his debut solo disc, the big-band album Where Do I Go From You? in 2000. All Music Guide greeted the new artist as “a singer with a highly engaging voice who clearly loves what he is doing. His mellifluous-toned tenor fits this music like a formfitting suede glove, and he does so seemingly without any effort at all, like honey running off the tongue.”
His second album, Warm Spring Night, which celebrated a century of Broadway love songs, was released in 2005; When the Wind Blows South, which brought the sounds of the South to the music Chaffin loves best, followed in 2008. His fourth solo disc, Somethin’ Real Special (The Songs of Dorothy Fields) was released in 2013. It graced several “Year’s Best” lists and was featured in The Huffington Post and USA Today; Show Business cheered, “Chaffin’s gorgeous, soaring baritone will make you hear these old songs in a fresh and thrilling new way.” He currently divides his time between performing in and around New York and running PS Classics, for which he serves as A&R Director.
PS CLASSICS, founded in 2000 by Tommy Krasker and Philip Chaffin, is a nine-time Grammy Award nominee for its cast albums of Assassins, Nine: The Musical, Grey Gardens, Company, A Little Night Music, Sondheim on Sondheim, Follies, Porgy and Bess and Fun Home. The label’s catalog includes award-winning cast recordings; solo albums by such artists as Cheyenne Jackson, Victoria Clark, Steven Pasquale, Liz Callaway, Tony Yazbeck, Stephanie J. Block, Judy Kuhn and Rebecca Luker; and restorations of long-lost musicals, including Vernon Duke’s Sweet Bye and Bye, George Gershwin’s Sweet Little Devil and Vincent Youmans’ Through the Years. Visit www.psclassics.com.
CD TRACK LISTING
- Will He Like Me?(Jerry Bock & Sheldon Harnick)
- It’s a Nice Face/ When I Marry Mr. Snow (Cy Coleman & Dorothy Fields) / (Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II)
- Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love(Billy Rose & Henry Tobias)
- I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart)
- Man With a Load of Mischief(John Clifton & Ben Tarver)
- Charity’s Soliloquy (Cy Coleman & Dorothy Fields)
- An Occasional Man(Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane)
- Lovely, Lonely Man (Richard M. Sherman & Robert B. Sherman)
- A Tender Spot/ Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe (Ervin Drake) (Harold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg)
- Tom (Michael John LaChiusa)
- But I Could Cook (Harold Arlen & Dorothy Fields)
- I Got Lost in His Arms/ Don’t Ever Leave Me (Irving Berlin) (Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II)
- Who Gave You Permission? (Billy Goldenberg & Alan & Marilyn Bergman)
- Windflowers(Jerome Moross & John Latouche)