Sunday, March 1, 2015

My thoughts of CATS Selections From The Original Broadway Cast Recording

I love listening to show music. Unfortunately my obsession sometimes leads to spending money on a CD which I technically already have in my collection. This is one such purchase.
The Original Cover of the Selections From The Original Broadway Cast Recording
I became a fan of CATS when my friend Tom took me to see it while we were in NYC in 1992. At the time, the only song I'd known from the show was Elaine Paige's rendition on my cassette tape of Andrew Lloyd Webber The Premiere Collection. After Tom and I saw the show, I HAD to have both 2 cassette versions the Original London Cast and Original Broadway Cast recordings of CATS. When I saw there was a highlights album of the Original Broadway Cast, I had to have that also.
The selections albums strays a bit from the complete album and contains some odd inclusions and omissions. The first thing that struck me odd is the fact the album doesn't include the famous Overture which opens the show. What cast album ignores and overture? The open track is Jellicle Songs For Jellicle Cats followed by a 41 second track entitled Solo Dance. 15 tracks on an album, missing the overture but they include an odd little interlude???

The rest of the tracks are all obvious choices for a highlights album, with the exception of Grizabella. Rather than using the complete rendition of Grizabella the Glamour Cat, the version that appears on this album is the "reprise" featuring 2 lines of the tune followed by the abridged act one version of Memory.

As with most Andrew Lloyd Webber cast albums, he included a few "single" versions in hopes of generating radio airplay and more record sales. The renditions of both "Jellicle Ball and "Memory" have been specially recorded with different orchestrations than those used in the theatre and on the Complete Original Broadway Cast Recording. The rendition of the Jellicle Ball is the same version used for the 1982 World Cup and Memory, or as she pronounces it "Mamory" sung by Betty Buckley seems to mimic the original Elaine Paige orchestrations and lyrics though without a flute playing along with the melody.

Though I love the show, the Original Broadway Cast Recording always had a very sparse and echoey reverb sound that gave it a cavernous sound similar to the echo you would hear on early karaoke machines. Just an odd thing my ear seems to catch.

The performances? The voices are top notch. We are treated to a few "Before they were starts" moments which makes the recording a bit more exciting. The only performer that I never cared much for, in spite of her popularity and amazing ability to convey emotion from a whisper to full on belting, is Betty Buckley. Much like my own voice, hers was made for theatre. While powerful and effective, I just never though it was a pretty voice. For a song like Memory to be a complete package, the voice not only needs to hit every note, which she does, the tone needs to be spot on and Buckley's tone just sounds odd in my opinion. This doesn't mean I don't enjoy her portrayal of Grizabella, I can understand why she walked away with a Tony award for it, I just wish they included her theatre orchestration rather than a "pop" version. If Lloyd Webber really wanted a radio airplay version on this album, he should've just included Barbra Streisand's version as a bonus track.

Would I recommend this album? Sure but only if you are looking to supplement the complete Original London Cast Recording.. BTW, after the material from this album and complete Broadway Cast Recording were recorded, some of the orchestrations were tweaked and changed a bit. Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer reverted back to it's original duet version as heard on the Original London Cast recording. If you're looking for a GREAT recording of the complete score of CATS, in English, bypass both the Original London and Broadway Cast Recordings and check out the Original Australian Cast Recording from 1985...it's got a vibe of it's own.

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