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Stephen Sondheim
Recommended Recordings



Sondheim: The Stephen Sondheim Album
Another Stephen Sondheim tribute album? Yes, but this one has a few distinguishing points. Most notably, it's the first release from Fynsworth Alley, the label that producer Bruce Kimmel formed after he left Varèse Sarabande. Fortunately, he brought along his usual stable of Broadway veterans, including Liz Callaway, Alice Ripley, and Ally McBeal's Jane Krakowski, singing both familiar and unfamiliar Sondheim tunes--among the latter is Brent Barrett's "Make the Most of Your Music" from the London version of Follies--and MTC Wild Party composer Andrew Lippa even makes a vocal appearance on Saturday Night's delightful "A Moment with You." The lightning rod of controversy is Dame Edna's half-sung, half-howled rendition of one of Sondheim's most tender ballads, "Losing My Mind." Kimmel has said that there was no point in a conventional take on the song because Dorothy Collins recorded the definitive version in the original cast of Follies. That's probably true; however, one could say the same thing about Yvonne De Carlo's "I'm Still Here," but that doesn't prevent Dorothy Loudon from posting an excellent (and fitting) take here. Regardless, even if Dame Edna's attempt at humor is an acquired taste, rest assured that it's only one skippable track on an hour-long disc of enjoyable Sondheim. (review by David Horiuchi)

Take Me To The World - Sondheim: Songs
(Alfred Heller, Marc Heller, et al. )


West Side Story: The Original Sound Track Recording
(1961 Film Soundtrack)
Leonard Bernstein's musical update of Romeo and Juliet, with a young Stephen Sondheim's brilliant lyrics, had already galvanized Broadway with its vivid reinvention as a parable of racial intolerance and generational conflict. But director Robert Wise's lavish widescreen presentation broke fresh ground by taking the story to its most impressionable audience, the teenagers who could identify directly with Tony and Maria, and opened up Jerome Robbins's kinetic choreography through bravura camera work. The original soundtrack album was not merely a huge seller but a unique touchstone for an otherwise rock-oriented audience, and its release on CD benefits from an expanded program untenable in its initial LP release, as well as a 20-bit digital transfer. With Richard Beymer, Marni Nixon (Hollywood's vocal doppelgänger of choice, here standing in for Natalie Wood), and Rita Moreno dominating, the show's bounty of terrific songs and exciting instrumental pieces remains an ear-filling treat, mixing operatic passions, tart social commentary, and high comedy. From "Tonight" to "One Hand, One Heart," "America" to "Here Come the Jets," this is a landmark in American musical theatre and film beautifully realized on disc. (review by Sam Sutherland)

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