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Henry Mancini: Two for the Road / Me, Natalie



In the canon of all-time great film composers, the name of Henry Mancini still looms large.  Cherry Red’s El imprint has brought two of his classic 1960s scores together on one CD: the original RCA Victor soundtrack album of Two for the Road (1967) and the Columbia Records release of Me, Natalie (1969) – the latter of which has only been previously available on CD as part of a large Mancini box set. Mancini scored four films for Audrey Hepburn – Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, Wait Until Dark and Two for the Road – and in doing so, created scores as spellbinding as the star herself.

Directed by Stanley Donen with a cast also including Albert Finney, Eleanor Bron and William Daniels, Two for the Road was described by The New York Times as a “bitter account of domestic discord amid surroundings that should inspire nothing but delight.”  The paper praised the film’s beautiful color cinematography and noted the director’s impressionistic and “fractured cinematic style” to chronicle the story of Finney and Hepburn’s marriage.  Mancini captured the darkness and the light of the central characters’ relationships in his striking theme (set to memorable lyrics by Leslie Bricusse) and the film’s varied cues.

While the original recordings as heard in the film were issued for the very first time this year by the Kritzerland label, El’s presentation reprises that of the original RCA album as re-recorded by Mancini (with many of the original musicians) for the record-buying market.  (Re-recording was a common practice not just for Mancini, but for many film composers of the era.)

The 12-track Two for the Road album is joined by the soundtrack to Me, Natalie.  Director Fred Coe’s film starred Patty Duke in her Golden Globe-winning turn in the title role, as well as James Farentino, Elsa Lanchster, Martin Balsam, and Nancy Marchand.  Young Al Pacino had a small, early role in the film.  Me, Natalie revolved around teenaged Natalie Miller’s quest to accept herself and find romance; Roger Ebert wrote that while the film was “conventional corny…Patty Duke, as Natalie, supplies a wonderful performance.”  Mancini turned to his friend, poet-songwriter Rod McKuen, to pen the lyrics as well as sing “We” and the theme “Natalie.”  The result was one of Mancini’s most underrated scores, and it quickly disappeared from view.

– Joe Marchese, The Second Disc

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