ON THE RECORD: Follies, Once More; Original Cast Album Gets Refreshed

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09 Sep 2012

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This week's column discusses the newly-mastered release of the original Broadway cast album of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's Follies.

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Follies [Kritzerland KR 20023]
After writing a two-column survey of Follies cast albums last fall (Part One  and Part Two) plus a review of the cast album of the 2011 Broadway revival, I kinda thought that in terms of Follies, I went about as far as I could go. For now, anyway, but here comes a sonically enhanced new version of the original 1971 recording. This limited edition sold out its 1,500 copies so quickly that I decided against reviewing it, on the assumption that it would already be unavailable by the time this column was posted. But a second pressing of 1,000 has been rushed through, so I suppose there is reason to discuss Follies once again, here and now.

Many cast album reissues on CD — and reissues of reissues — are at least cleaned up by the sound engineers; when the original materials from the recording session have been located and are in good condition, the album can be remixed altogether. That is to say, they can start from scratch with the very same material that the engineer had back when the album was recorded. Back in the old days, cast albums were rushed affairs; recorded on Sunday, mixed on Monday, sent off to the manufacturing plant on Tuesday, and on sale the following week. Which means that the mixing was done in a rush, and the engineer didn't necessarily have much of a feel for the score. (Recordings from Columbia Records — the king of the original cast album, at the Time — usually sounded very good, presumably because producer Goddard Lieberson had a staff which specialized in this sort of thing.)

Bruce Kimmel, of Kritzerland, has a long history of bringing Broadway cast albums to CD; he seems to have been the first person to license out-of-print titles and give them new life, back before the labels realized there was enough of a market to make them financially feasible. Of late, he has been doing limited licenses of lapsed shows; in two cases, Promises, Promises and Sugar, he fully remixed the recordings from the original tapes. Why, he wondered, not Follies?



The original cast album of Follies was, famously, problematic. Long-playing records could hold just under 60 minutes-worth; enough for a fair representation of most musicals, but not enough for the musically-bountiful Follies. (Most shows have well more than an hour of music, but few listeners mind when you leave off dance music, ballets, unimportant reprises, etc.) Yes, you could make it into a two-record set, as had been done for shows like She Loves Me and the Follies-competitor Two Gentlemen of Verona.

But Follies was not at Columbia — which due to their success with Sondheim's West Side Story, Gypsy and Company — were perhaps likelier to stretch the budget. They were at Capitol, which despite a number of impressive best-sellers in the past (led by The Music Man and Funny Girl) was by that point a small-fry in the cast album field. Looking at the outsized costs — and observing that the reaction to the show in Boston and during New York previews was far from enthusiastic — Capitol made the decision to stick to one LP. Which necessitated cutting several numbers ("Rain on the Roof," "One More Kiss," the instrumental "Bolero d'Amour" and "Loveland") and — more damagingly — severely truncating several others. Add this to what we might call haphazard recording and engineering, and we were left with a recording that was remarkable for the songs and performances it contained but something of a bandaged invalid.

Visit PlaybillStore.com to view theatre-related recordings for sale.

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