Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Les Miserables Original London Cast [1985]

I have too much time on my hands! :D
So anyway, we went library-hopping* a few weeks ago, and I came out of it with a stack of musical CDs. And The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide. But anyway, one of the many, many (okay, four) CDs I found was the Original Cast Recording of Les Miserables, which is pretty cool, I've never heard it before.
This recording is so different from recent versions of the musical, and that's what made it fun to listen to. The most obvious differences are that Cosette has a different solo (!!!), Stars is before Look Down/Paris, and Little People is... I wish I could forget. So! Let's get down to business, give me a sec to track down all the cast members names, then we can get started! (Wait, who's 'we'?)

Jean Valjean- Colm Wilkinson
Javert- Roger Allam
Fantine- Patti LuPone
Cosette- Rebecca Caine
Marius- Michael Ball
Eponine- Frances Ruffelle
Monsier Thenarider- Alun Armstrong
Madame Thenarider- Susan Jane Tanner
Enjolras- David Burt
Gavroche- Ian Tucker

Originally, I was going to go through this track by track, but that would have taken a super long time. So I'm just going to ramble. :P
The instrumentals are really synth-based, kind of like the Complete Symphonic Recording, but even more so. This didn't really bug me, except in Stars. The synth instruments sounded really obvious and kind of bad there. Which is too bad, because Stars is awesome... staaaaaaarrrzzzz!!!
As mentioned above, there are two songs that were changed/replaced later. In this one, Cosette has a really nice solo called I Saw Him Once. The tune is beautiful, and so are the lyrics. It's really too bad that they cut this from the musical! The extended Little People on the other hand... I'm so glad it's gone. Because that song is irritating as a bamboo shoot being shoved under your fingernails.
Grr, anyway, the performances. I wasn't too blown away with most of the singing and acting, if I had to pick a favorite performance I might actually pick Cosette, because her voice is amazing. Her high notes are very clear and sweet sounding, and I wish there had been more of her on this album!
Jean Valjean's actor was allright. There were things I liked and things I didn't, but overall I preferred him in the 10th Anniversary Concert. Javert was pretty good, I mostly liked him. Mostly, I just wasn't too fond of his super growly voice. That's just me being picky, though. :)
I wasn't too thrilled with Eponine, either. I know, I know, wistful quietness and stuff. Nothing wrong with playing Eponine that way, but for the love of heaven! Don't make her character so whiny sounding! She's the only Eponine that strikes me as being self-pitying, and that's... not good. And then there's Fantine. No acting, whatsoever. Listen, I'm not a fan of actors sobbing their way through their lines. But there is this little thing called acting, and it's where you put inflection and emotion into your role, and it's a good way of making people care about the character you're playing! Or, you know, being completely bland is good too. Enjolras was also excessively bland too, but I won't get into that, because this review is sounding so negative! Well, Marius was really good sounding! Michael Ball plays him here (Yet again), and he does a very fine job with the character.
The Verdict: B-
I'm not reviewing the musical as a whole, I'm just focusing on this particular recording. Because I'm a nerd. The thing is that this recording sounds very low-key and well, calm! Even the bits that should be passionate and loud (such as Look Down/Paris) aren't that passionate and loud. That, and the iffy performances, left me with kind of a 'meh' impression of this album. I did really like Rebecca Caine as Cosette and Michael Ball as Marius. I thought Grantaire sounded really good too.
Oh, and all the cockney in this album made me think of Henry Higgins. Why can't the English... ;)
Favorite Song: I Saw Him Once
Runners Up: ... Pass!

*Library Hopping! Like Bar Hopping, but with less benders and more piles of books that you'll never have read in time for their return dates.


  1. This is the first version I ever heard, so I am particularly fond of it, even though I agree it's not the best one over all. I spent hours and hours listening to it while studying my German homework in college, and now when I hear this version, I start conjugating German verbs in my head. Not as annoying as it sounds, I assure you :-)

    1. Yeah, the first one I ever heard has a rather iffy cast , I suppose, but it's still my favorite just because it's 'my' cast.
      Haha, that's so cool about the German! :D

  2. The 10th anniversary concert is definitely the best Les Mis cast recording - in my opinion! - and I do think that this version is too low-key and calm at times. But it's still my second favourite recording. I share your feelings on Patti LuPone and David Burt but I do love Colm Wilkinson, Roger Allam, Michael Ball, Alun Armstrong and Rebecca Caine. I'm glad you loved Rebecca Caine so much! She's one of my favourite Cosettes and I love her solo I Saw Him Once. It's a lovely song and I can't believe that they took it out of the show! Rebecca Caine is one of my favourite Christine Daaes too :)

    I love Frances Ruffelle's Eponine now but she had to grow on me. I think her voice is an acquired taste. There was a time when I couldn't stand her Eponine but now I find her take on the role really interesting and I actually think that she sounds lovely on this cast recording (the Broadway cast recording on the other hand...)

    Have you listened to the Original French Concept Album? That album's so different to the English language Les Mis that it's almost a completely different musical!

    1. Hi Hannah!

      I'm just extremely brainwashed by the recording we've had since before I was born, So I'm probably not the right person to try and review other ones because the one I grew up with is the only one that sounds completely 'right' in my brain. Took me ages to acclimatize to the movie!

      I agree, it's too bad that they removed I Saw Him Once! Oooh, my sister is a huge Phantom of the Opera fan, and she loves her Christine! I especially like how she manages to take the volume down on the high notes. It makes them sound very light.

      It's not so much Frances Ruffelle's acting that bugs me, it's the way her voice squeaks all the time and produces kind of a whiny sound. Not quite sure how to explain it. I've got a weird brain. :P

      Oh, I've heard of the French Concept Album, I'll have to sit down and give it a listen sometime! Wow, a lot of changes were made, huh?

  3. Oh, the French Concept Album is really different to the current musical. The show was extensively rewritten for the West End production. A lot of my favourite songs from Les Mis aren't even on it. There's no Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, no Bring Him Home, no Stars. And it's Fantine who sings the On My Own song! But there is a lot of cool stuff on that album too. It's awesome to hear the songs in French and there's a great version of Look Down. It's got Marius's grandfather and aunt on it. Eponine's sister Azelma gets a mention. And Eponine gets a different song called L'Un Vers L'Autre on the album which is quite lovely. The French Concept Album isn't as good as the current musical but I like it a lot :)


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