ORIGINAL LONDON CAST RECORDING
Release year: 1986
First Night Records, 2LP's/2CD's, ENCORE1
Runtime: 1:20:27 [LP]/1:37:03 [CD]/1:37:38 [1998 Remastered CD]
Track listing [LP version]:
1. At the End of the Day
2. I Dreamed a Dream
3. Lovely Ladies
4. Who Am I?
5. Fantine's Death: Come to Me/Confrontation
1. Castle On a Cloud
2. Master of the House
4. Look Down
5. Little People
6. Red and Black
7. Do You Hear the People Sing?
1. Love Montage: I Saw Him Once/In My Life/A Heart Full of Love
2. One Day More
3. On My Own
4. The Attack
5. A Little Fall of Rain
6. Drink With Me
1. Bring Him Home
2. Dog Eats Dog
3. Javert's suicide: Soliloquy
4. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
5. Wedding Chorale
6. Beggars at the Feast
This spectacular double album was recorded at the tail end of the London production's initial run at the Barbican Theatre, between 28 October and 12 November 1985. While I do not have a firm release date, it can be conjectured to be sometime early in 1986. The Les Mis of this album is a particularly raw creation. The show has not reached its standard form, making some songs appear in markedly different places (or, in the case of "I Saw Him Once," at all); the tempi are slower, allowing some moments to breathe that would later pass in a heartbeat (the first third of "Valjean's Soliloquy" and the whole of "Confrontation" spring to mind immediately); and the show's signature DX-7 keyboards are mixed more loudly and fiercely than they ever would be in the future. Its cast range from relative newcomers at the time, such as Michael Ball and Frances Ruffelle, to veterans of the Royal Shakespeare Company, such as Roger Allam and Alun Armstrong, with Irish folk singer Colm "C. T." Wilkinson creating the role that would define his career for decades to come. Our friend Colm, like the show itself at the time, is raw and unpolished, making for one of the most impassioned Valjeans on record. Rounding out the cast is the legendary Patti LuPone, but I'll let a...curious...piece of promotional material handle that introduction for me later.
Moving along to the records themselves, they featured on the center label the familiar Cosette logo, and came slipped in picture sleeves printing the entirety of the album's lyrics (in lieu of a booklet).
The interior gatefold featured a magnificent spread of color pictures from the Barbican production, many of which have not been reprinted in subsequent CD releases, along with a series of superlative review quotes and a brief essay by Sheridan Morley:
The back cover featured, in tiny print, the full album and production credits on a grey background:
There were also several singles released from this album, namely "I Dreamed a Dream" on 7" and 12" (more on this later), "Bring Him Home" on 7", and "On My Own" on 7". There was also a maxi-single of "I Dreamed a Dream" featuring Patti LuPone's rendition in addition to Rose Laurens' from the concept album, and, if memory serves, either "One Day More" or the Finale chorus.
The album was released simultaneously as a double CD, including over fifteen minutes of material left off the vinyl release due to space, namely the Prologue, Thénardier Waltz, Plumet Attack, the first half of Dog Eats Dog, and Turning.
Track listing [CD version]:
1. Prologue (Work Song/Valjean Arrested/Valjean Forgiven)
2. What Have I Done?
3. At the End of the Day
4. I Dreamed a Dream
5. Lovely Ladies
6. Who Am I?
7. Fantine's Death: Come to Me
8. Fantine's Death: Confrontation
9. Castle on a Cloud
10. Master of the House
11. Thénardier Waltz
13. Look Down
14. Little People
15. Red and Black
16. Do You Hear the People Sing?
1. Love Montage (I Saw Him Once/In My Life/A Heart Full of Love)
2. Plumet Attack
3. One Day More
4. On My Own
5. The Attack
6. A Little Fall of Rain
7. Drink With Me
8. Bring Him Home
9. Dog Eats Dog
10. Javert's suicide: Soliloquy
12. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
13. Wedding Chorale
14. Beggars at the Feast
The enclosed booklet featured the complete lyrics as heard on the album, full credits, the Sheridan Morley essay, and a selection of photographs from the production. Throughout its entire history of releases and remasterings, this booklet has remained essentially the same:
In 1998, the album was remastered and re-released on CD:
Some minor changes were made to the cover, namely the replacement of the Newsweek quote with "The Musical Sensation," some gold embossing over the title, and a more pronounced "Original London Cast" across the top. As to the material itself, aside from an incredible leap in sound clarity, a track break was inserted between the Work Song and Valjean Arrested, and more significantly, At the End of the Day saw the removal of Patti screaming "Gimme that letter back!" and the insertion of the factory workers' "And the boss, he never knows/That the foreman is always on heat..." lines.
2004 saw a repackaging of the '98 Remaster boasting a new cover and two video clips from the Tenth Anniversary Concert:
This is the version that can be found currently at retail, which begs the question, why does the packaging still recommend that its buyers use Netscape?
Finally, just last year, a highlights edition was released. You can tell it's a highlights edition, because the show's full title is absent from the cover:
1. At the End of the Day
2. I Dreamed a Dream
3. Lovely Ladies
4. Who Am I?
5. Come to Me
7. Master of the House
9. Red and Black
10. Do You Hear the People Sing?
11. Love Montage
12. One Day More
13. On My Own
14. A Little Fall of Rain
15. Drink With Me
16. Bring Him Home
17. Javert's suicide: Soliloquy
18. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
The album cover is inspired by the poster designed for the Broadway Revival. A rather lush foldout insert card is included, featuring the full cast listing, a smattering of photos, and the usual suspects of superlative quotes along with Sheridan Morley's review for the International Herald Tribune, dated 16 Oct 1985:
Pieces of the OLC were also used in a promotional disc featuring a narrated synopsis from Sir Ian McKellan. I have no further information on this disc, but it sounds a particularly cool curiosity, speaking of...
Finally, as promised, a bit on the 12" Single of "I Dreamed a Dream" mentioned above:
I took a gamble and waited to create this post until this gem arrived at my doorstep today, and what I found inside was quite possibly the foundation for the OLC/OBC flame war that has raged through Les Miz fandom since time immemorial. You may notice that a letter from a gentleman at Relativity Records is included with my copy, which I can only assume was pat of a promotional batch sent to radio stations, record stores, and the like. The text of this message follows (as transcribed to the letter by my lovely wife):
"194-03 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard – Jamaica, New York 11434
"Tel. xxx/xxx-xxxx – Telex: xxxxxx MPORT – Facsimile: xxx/xxx-xxxx
"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
"She was unforgettable to millions as the Tony Award-winning face and voice of Eva Peron in Evita; she is a motion picture and television actress of wide experience; as Fantine, the luckless factory worker turned prostitute in the multi-honored London cast production of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, she took home more hearts each night than E.T. She’s Patti LuPone, and her rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream” became one of the emotional high points of the 3 ½ hour production of “Les Miz”.
"Unfortunately, Ms. Lupone has not repeated her role as Fantine in the current Broadway production of “Les Miz”. Her passionate performance, however, has been saved for posterity as part of the original London cast recording (available domestically on Relativity Records) and has now been released as a 12” containing both a full length and special edit version of “I Dreamed A Dream”.
"There have been, to date, three stage productions of “Les Miz” in Paris, London, and New York with several more planned around the world this year and next; however, it’s the London cast that has received the best reviews. The New York Times offered the view that “…the American supporting cast does not act with the consistency of its West End predecessors”. With worldwide sales in all formats exceeding 300,000 units, the public certainly seems to be in agreement. Now Patti LuPone, one of the key figures in that supporting cast, steps into the spotlight with a song that will claim your heart.
"For further information, please contact:
So, there you have it. The opening volley from Mr. Krumper, backed by a New York Times quote. Methinks the folks at First Night/Relativity may have been just a bit peeved that Geffen snagged the US recording rights at the time.
ETA 8 Feb 2011:
Just received an interesting curiosity recently -- Les Misérables: The Synopsis, narrated by Sir Ian McKellen, is exactly what the title would suggest.
Release year: (2000-2004, though narration probably recorded in 1985-1986)
Promotional, no catalog number
1. Synopsis, Part One [Features clips from At the End of the Day, I Dreamed a Dream, Lovely Ladies, Who Am I?, Come to Me, Master of the House, Look Down, Red and Black, and Do You Hear the People Sing?]
2. Synopsis, Part Two [Features clips from A Heart Full of Love, One Day More, On My Own, The Attack, Bring Him Home, Soliloquy: Javert's Suicide, and the Finale]
This disc features what sounds like audio taken off of an old 45 -- analog pops and clicks abound, leading me to believe that the narration is of a particular vintage. The spoken narration is underscored entirely by selections from the OLC, detailed above. The cover art indicates that this particular pressing/release is from the early 2000's, sometime before the show transferred from the Palace to the Queens. My understanding is that this disc was handed out as a promotional items to educational groups, as indicated by the band in the bottom right corner. The sleeve is a simple cardboard one, with the disc sleeved just inside. The back cover features promotion for the School Edition, as well as contact information for educational groups (blurred in the scan, as I have no idea whether the info is current):
And the disc itself features the Cosette logo and the title of the disc:
It's an interesting piece. Sir Ian McKellen's narration has all the strength and bombast that one would expect from the RSC veteran, and the choice of selections used to underscore/supplant the synopsis is very smart. Overall, a nice promotional item -- I'd love to hear a proper digital mastering of this, assuming the original elements exist.
ETA 15 Feb 2011:
A fellow fan was kind enough to pass along some images of another OLC promo disc, available (I think) in the early 2000's. This promo EP comes in a standard slimline CD-single case, featuring the Cosette logo on a dark blue background:
The inside of the insert features a track listing and a wide shot of the barricade:
And the disc itself features a beloved remix of the Cosette logo sporting some nice studio headphones: