Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CD Odyssey Disc 111: Soundtrack

At this point I would like to remind you, dear reader, that not all the music in this collection is mine - some of it belongs to Sheila. So it is with this album. However, in the interests of full disclosure, I'll admit I enjoyed it.

Disc 111 is...Les Miserables
Artist: Original Broadway Cast

Year of Release: 1986

How I Came To Know It: I never gave musicals a second look, so it was Sheila who introduced me to this music. In fact, I went with her to see it at (insert voice of James Earl Jones) "The Ford Centre for the Performing Arts" in Vancouver. It was pretty fun, but didn't hook me on musicals.

How It Stacks Up: I have over 20 soundtracks, but we only have four musicals. Of the four, I'll say that critically, "Les Miserables" is by far the best, but it is only my second favourite (I have a secret guilty pleasure - but more on that when I roll it).

Rating: 3 stars.

At times on this album, I found myself wondering why all the characters felt the compulsion to sing everything. Oh, right - it is a musical; that's what they do. Not really my thing.

Having said that, as musicals go, this one is pretty strong. The music is catchy and rousing, and the singing is very strong. I mean, really strong - like these people could be on Broadway! Oh, right - they are on Broadway.

Anyway, this is a musical adaption of Victor Hugo's novel about revolutionary France. Everyone knows the basic story - there is a criminal named Jean Valjean, and he reforms himself, but is still pursued by his over-zealous jailor Javert. Along the way, Valjean takes in a dying prostitute's daughter (Cosette) and raises her as his own. Hilarity ensues (OK - not that last part).

Later there is some sort of love triangle between a grown Cosette, a revolutionary named Marius and another woman pining for Marius named Eponine. It gets a little complicated (Sheila had to explain it to me in the car three times) but the important thing to remember is this: The love story is like the story of Frodo and Sam in Mordor. It's boring, but it keeps up the dramatic tension for the more entertaining stuff, which is the struggle between Jean Valjean and Javert.

The music is strong throughout, with a gloriously bombastic end to the first half, which goes out with the martial "Red and Black" and the idealistic "Do You Hear the People Sing." I like these lines from the latter:

"Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the songs of angry men
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again
When the beating of the drums
Matches the beating of your heart
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes."

I really enjoyed listening to this in the car, although it is a little overlong. I wasn't even embarassed at stoplights, although I suppose I could've been.

A closing note that while I have yet to read the original Hugo novel, there is a good film adaptation from about 10 years ago staring Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean and Geoffrey Rush as Javert. Both are brilliant, and the movie is worth a watch.

The musical is worth a listen, too, even though the characters insist on singing all their lines.

Best tracks: Red and Black, Do You Hear the People Sing


Sheila said...

We saw it at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, actually, love. And I think mine is the London cast recording.

What about the great songs like "A Little Fall of Rain" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" or even "Master of the House" (silly though it is)?

Chris said...

Guilty pleasure = Hair, perchance?

Logan said...

No - the truth is far, far worse. You'll just have to wait to find out...