YES, RECORDS – AND THAT’S VINYL! By Peter Filichia
Did you miss National Vinyl Record Day?
You probably did. It’s not a day on which mail is halted or when parades flood the streets. But August – a month that has been holiday-deprived, at least in these United States – now has, on the 12th of the month, National Vinyl Record Day.
We have Gary Freiberg of Los Osos, California, to thank for it. In 2001, his choice of August 12 wasn’t arbitrary; it commemorated the day in 1877 on which Thomas Alva Edison finished inventing the phonograph.
Little more than 100 years later, CDs entered the marketplace. Although long-playing vinyl records had been losing sales to cassettes (and even 8-tracks), compact discs proved a lethal blow to LPs. No clicks! No pops! No scratches!
And, complained many audiophiles, no warmth. The ultra-crisp chilliness of digital renditions left them – well, cold. No matter how many CD lovers needled them for preferring a needle to a laser beam, they wanted that warmth.
Lately, vinyl has been outselling CDs. So, if you have a greater interest in analogue recordings, the following titles will offer links to where you can most easily acquire them.
THE SECRET GARDEN, one of Broadway’s most tender, lush and romantic scores, truly profits from the sound that the two-record vinyl set gives it. Rebecca Luker and Mandy Patinkin sound wonderful on CD, yes, but even more moving on vinyl.
Now you can pre-order five titles that are being re-pressed in new color variants, prior to a December 9 release: The 1996 revival cast album of CHICAGO; JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR LIVE! (with Sara Bareilles, who’s been a sensation as The Baker’s Wife this season in INTO THE WOODS); and the original cast albums of HAIRSPRAY, ONCE and WEST SIDE STORY.
The soundtrack from the 1961 film of WEST SIDE STORY has been available on vinyl for a while, so now the 1957 stage version joins it. But the old chestnuts aren’t the only re-releases on records. Both the original cast and soundtrack albums of THE PROM and tick, tick … BOOM! are getting the vinyl treatment.
THE PROM has plenty of “Zazz,” to use a word the show coined (it means pretty much as it sounds); tick, tick … BOOM! was never expected to reach the stage and get a cast album, let alone a film, given that Jonathan Larson’s extraneous songs were expected to die with him. Both have since triumphed.
Longtime Broadway observer Donald Tesione says he especially enjoys HAIRSPRAY on vinyl. As he says, “I feel that when I listen to a show set in the ‘60s – especially with a song called ‘Welcome to the ‘60s’ – I should be listening to a record, as I would have in the ‘60s.”
Tesione is, of course, well aware that vinyl literally keeps him on his toes. Not many minutes pass before he must ease out of his easy chair and ease on down to his turntable to either flip over a side or put on a new record. That’s especially true with new vinyl, which uses wider grooves (for better sound), necessitating two records where one used to do.
But the exercise will do him – and you – a world of good. You’ll both smile as you put on side four of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, for the song title – “Could We Start Again, Please?” – describes what you’ll be doing: starting the music once again.
There’s a reason that many big-box stores sell 12-inch-by-12-inch picture frames; people use them to display their favorite album covers. And while you can’t judge an album by its cover, in the heyday of vinyl, people were known to saunter into their record stores and, on impulse, buy – as John Reardon sang in DO RE MI – “albums for lovers with hot, sexy covers.”
More often than not since the 1950s, cast albums have put their shows’ logos on their record covers. THE SECRET GARDEN has one that’s well worth framing; so does CABARET, with its George Grosz-like image that shows the fun and decadence of Roaring ‘20s Berlin.
When CABARET was originally released as a long-playing vinyl record in late 1966, it was a single jacket affair, with nary a picture on its back cover. Now in its gatefold double-jacket set, there are pictures to remind us of the ornate original production.
Although a picture may not be worth a thousand lyrics, the photographs inside these gatefold 12-inch-by-12-inch jackets are substantially larger and more pleasing than they are in CD booklets; there, performers could be mistaken for trained fleas.
Sony Masterworks Broadway’s most recent vinyl release is “Morocco,” and three other singles from the upcoming musical ALMOST FAMOUS. If you remember the 2000 film on which the musical is based, Penny Lane (not her real name) tells new acquaintance William that she’d like to go to this African country.
The music is by Tom Kitt, who collaborated on the lyrics with Cameron Crowe. Although we’ve known Crowe since FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH and have seen him do well with SAY ANYTHING, JERRY MAGUIRE and VANILLA SKY, ALMOST FAMOUS has been the highlight of his career. It got him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and a Grammy for (hold on – this is going to be a long one) Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. If the Tony committee and voters smile on him for his lyrics and his book for ALMOST FAMOUS, he’ll have the third ingredient of the EGOT.
Kitt is even closer, for he’s only an Oscar away from his EGOT. Add in his Pulitzer and we can say that he already has a PEGT.
“Morocco” is sung by Solea Pfeiffer and Casey Likes, both of whom will make their Broadway debuts when ALMOST FAMOUS begins previews at the Jacobs Theatre on October 3, with an opening set for November 3.
And nine days to Christmas, on December 16, Sony Masterworks Broadway will release what’s known as “ALMOST FAMOUS The Musical: The 1973 Bootleg EP 12-inch vinyl.” (You’ll understand the context of “bootleg” once you have it.) Four songs from the show will be released in a strictly limited-edition package set that’s now available for preorder.
All these are appetizers for the upcoming original cast album. Broadway’s ALMOST FAMOUS will have every opportunity to become famous, given that it will be released on CD, digital service and, of course, vinyl.
And isn’t vinyl appropriate for ALMOST FAMOUS, considering that the film starts with the sound of a needle being placed on a record?
Peter Filichia can be heard most weeks of the year on www.broadwayradio.com. His new book – The Book of Broadway Musical Debates, Disputes, and Disagreements – is now available on Amazon.