Grease [Original London Cast] - Soundtrack

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Grease [Original London Cast] - Soundtrack

1 CD(s) - Show - Label: Epic - Distributor: Sony Music/Arvato Services - Released: 09/1993 - 5099747463228

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Review of "Grease [Original London Cast] - Soundtrack"

published 30/07/2001 | DavidBedford
Member since : 28/03/2001
Reviews : 77
Members who trust : 19
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Super
Pro Fun score, great performances, surprising arrangements
Cons BAD version of Beauty School Dropout
very helpful
Originality
Quality and consistency of tracks
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How does it compare to the artist's other releases

"What if Bach and the Beach Boys wrote Grease..."

Of the numerous recordings of Grease in my collection of stage and film music (five), this is the one I listen to the most often and the one ‘most deserving of wider recognition.’ There are so many opinions here on Ciao of the film soundtrack and I feel I’m being a bit strange and different by writing on any of the others…

This is the most recent Broadway revival of the show, and they did some pretty radical things to the score for it. They didn’t write any new songs, nor did they incorporate any of the songs written for the film, which to me is a great relief. Don’t get me wrong, I love the four songs from the film, but they don’t fit in with the rest of the score. The original songs from the Grease stage show (six years before the film came out) are all pastiches of various kinds of music around in the late 1950’s, some of them rather clever pastiche. But the film songs, most notably Grease and You’re the One That I Want, betray their 1970’s origins too clearly. A non-original song IS included in this version – a song from the 1950’s called Since I Don’t Have You. And a great song it is too, very similar to Hopelessly Devoted – and yes, it is a solo for Sandy, lamenting her poor conditions of life without Danny. Quite what she sees in him is still as unclear as ever, though…

The liberties taken with the score are largely to do with the arrangements of the songs, presumably with the blessing of Jim Jacobs, the only survivor of the show’s authors. Only a few songs remain completely untouched, Summer Nights among them, since it is so well known. Greased Lightning gets some new dance music, but that is to be expected – since when has the song not benefited from a new dance arrangement? A reprise of the song also makes its first appearance on disc, though it could well have been floating around for a while. This is Rizzo’s response to seeing Kenickie’s love wagon, and it’s not exactly complimentary! It’s only short (57 seconds to be exact), but still manages to build up to a climax, and the dirty snicker which follows ‘you must be joking, you’ll be stroking’ is one of the details which make it crude but fun.

The ‘new’ show, and hence this CD, begins with an odd variation on the opening sequence which originally consisted of the Rydell school alma mater and a parody thereof, both rather clever. This CD follows the same pattern, but the alma mater consists of the well-known We Go Together sung as a many-part choral piece in the Bach tradition, which is then sung in its more recognisable form by the Pink Ladies and the Burger Palace Boys. This opening is inspired, but highly bizarre. Another bizarre track is the version of Beauty School Droupot, which has been reworked as an eight-minute long gospel number. This is an interesting idea, but it doesn’t work and the track truly outstays it’s welcome, despite the worthy efforts of Billy Porter as the Teen Angel.

A group of harmonising tenors, so very common in popular 1950’s music, is introduced for the songs which begin act two, about half way through the disc. This makes Shaking at the High School Hop, one of the weakest numbers in Grease, somewhat mellow and improves it no end. The group also duet with Sandy for It’s Raining on Prom Night – another odd choice which works better than it ought to. Much odder, and one of the most entertaining moments, is the next track – Born to Hand Jive. Originally sung by the Greaser ‘Johnny Casino’, who has no function outside the school dance scene, the song has been given instead to the nerdish Eugene and the headteacher Miss Lynch. Their discomfort at singing this pop song (which would not sound out of place on a compilation album from the period when sung ‘straight’) is quite clear and provides for endless amusement.

The rest of the changes to the songs are less radical than these, perfectly suiting the material and the period, but one detail should not go unmentioned. Sandy’s moment of realisation and reversal (Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee reprise) is given extra depth by the presence of Rizzo, who helps her come to the realisation that she must make some changes to win her man. This totally alters the relationship between Rizzo and Sandy and is about as touching as Grease is capable of being.

The vocal performances on the disc are uniformly good, much better than those on the original Broadway cast album. Susan Wood and Ricky Paull Goldin are all that you can ask of a Danny and Sandy, portraying those two well-known roles brilliantly, but the minor characters run away with things. Rosie O’Donnell is cast as Rizzo (which explains the extra bits for the character in the score) and is rather good. Her version of There Are Worse Things I Could Do is not exactly the best sung version out there (she has a little trouble with the higher notes), but she has the emotion spot on, and she certainly has the most fun with Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee that I’ve ever heard. As the aspiring star Doody, Sam Harris sings a stunning version of Those Magic Changes, my favourite song from the score. Hunter Foster is a charming Roger (which is very important to me, as I’ve played the role before – badly). My favourite performers, though, are the quartet led by Paul Castree’s Eugene, whose voices blend perfectly. Castree is hilarious in Hand Jive, too.

This is definitely worth getting as an alternative to the film soundtrack, and I would recommend it over the London revival recording if only because it features the songs Alone at the Drive-In Movie and All Choked Up. These all-but-disappeared when replaced in the film by Sandy and You’re The One That I Want, which also turned up in the London version. All Choked Up forms the major part of the Finale track here, and I think it’s a much cleverer song than its movie replacement. This is a highly idiosyncratic recording, but the enthusiasm of the cast is infectious and listening to it is probably the most fun you can have with your CD player, particularly if you skip over Beauty School Dropout.

Surprisingly frequently available in the places like HMV (most of whom probably ordered it by accident!) it’s on the RCA Victor label, catalogue number 09026 62703 2 and features a leather-jacketed Greaser on a pink background. The liner notes contain some details of the show’s history and a number of photos from the production. Am I the only person who thinks Jessica Stone (Frenchy) looks disturbingly like Nana Visitor (Kira from Star Trek: DS9)?


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Comments on this review

  • SweetTooth93 published 02/03/2009
    Fab xx
  • offy published 18/08/2001
    Superb review. I like hearing that 'different' things have been done with songs, but get annoyed listening to them in the car as I always want to sing the original version (badly!).
  • timmyotoole published 30/07/2001
    An excellently detailed opinion, although I doubt I'll be rushing out to buy the product. Congrats, Timmy.
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1 CD(s) - Show - Label: Epic - Distributor: Sony Music/Arvato Services - Released: 09/1993 - 5099747463228

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EAN: 5099747463228

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