Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Les Misérables - Original London Cast Recording (1985)


BROADWAY WEEK (SEPTEMBER 6-12, 2011)

Music: Claude-Michel Schönberg
Lyrics: Alain Boublil
English translation: Herbert Kretzmer

Note: this release was originally purchased as a cassette tape, later replaced by a CD.

I first saw this show in Dallas during the summer of 1990. I was so blown away by the material and the staging that I stopped by the Sound Warehouse on Mockingbird on the drive home from the theater to buy a copy of the cast recording. I was a full-on t-shirt-wearing fan. In my mind, this was soooo much better than Cats or Phantom Of The Opera. After purchasing the commemorative program, I bought a copy of Hugo's book (still unread), I listened to the original French recording, and made plans to see the show on Broadway. Then, as it often does, life got in the way and I didn't listen to this for a while. When I finally returned to it, all I could hear were bad lyrics and analog synths (also see my band experience below). I have absolutely no idea why I replaced my cassette tape with a CD. Admittedly, I'm in a minority: the show is the longest running show in the world, having over 10,000 performances in London where it is still running, so they must be doing something right.

I know that cast albums are hastily thrown together in a studio, but there are some obvious tuning issues here that should have been addressed during the recording process. We've come to expect brilliant performances from Patti LuPone and she doesn't disappoint here as Fantine. Other than that, it is humorous to hear this French story told with Cockney accents. When I saw the show in 1990, the program promised a film version in 1991. Obviously that didn't happen; the latest movie rumors have a 2012 release with Hugh Jackman as Valjean and Russell Crowe as Javert. I can't say I really care because I don't think I could sit through it.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #106

Tracks: I'm trying to step back and remember how much I liked this in 1990. The best songs are At The End Of The Day, I Dreamed A Dream, Castle On A Cloud, One Day More (a rehash of I Dreamed A Dream), On My Own, and Bring Him Home. The most grating songs are Lovely Ladies, Master Of The House, Little People, Red And Black, and Dog Eats Dog.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: One of the reasons I can't stand this music anymore dates back to the fall of 1990 when I started a new job as a band director at the same middle school I once attended as a student. Part of my responsibilities included helping out with the high school marching band. That year, to my initial delight, the director had chosen a marching show with music from Les Miz! Unfortunately, nothing ruins your love for a certain piece of music quicker than hearing it butchered for three months by over one hundred teenaged musicians. To make it worse, the arrangements the director selected weren't very good. Going to the high school in the mornings made me miserable (pun intended), but I enjoyed the job once I got to the middle school every day.

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