When compilation producer Didier C. Deutsch was charged by the Sony Broadway imprint to assemble a collection of recordings by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II from the catalog of Sony Music Entertainment to create a CD called The Rodgers & Hammerstein Songbook in commemoration of the celebrated songwriting team's 50th anniversary in 1993, he only had the archives of Sony's flagship label, Columbia Records, to root through. Although Columbia had been much involved in the "original cast" album business during Rodgers & Hammerstein's reign on Broadway in the '40s and '50s, the songwriters never contracted with any one label for more than one of their shows at a time, instead parceling things out evenly among the three majors. So, while Columbia got South Pacific, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music, Decca Records handled Oklahoma!, Carousel, and The King and I, and RCA Victor Records happened to be stuck with the team's three least successful shows, Allegro, Me and Juliet, and Pipe Dream. Thus, in 1993, Deutsch did not have access to the original Broadway cast albums of six of Rodgers & Hammerstein's nine musicals. Happily, Columbia also had made a practice of recording its own studio cast recordings of many musicals so that, for example, there was in the vault a 1952 version of Oklahoma! featuring Nelson Eddy, as well as a 1964 album of The King and I with Barbara Cook. Deutsch borrowed from those and added in selections from the soundtrack to Cinderella (Rodgers & Hammerstein's sole TV musical) and a New York Philharmonic recording of "Carousel Waltz" and came up with nearly 77 minutes of music from these various sources.
Sixteen years later, here is another album, also called The Rodgers & Hammerstein Songbook, boasting almost the same cover designed by Howard Fritzson (the earlier cover is reduced in size and surrounded by a white border). It's also nearly 77 minutes long, and Didier C. Deutsch is again listed as the compilation producer. But this turns out to be an entirely different collection from its predecessor. The major change over the years, of course, is that Sony merged with and later absorbed BMG, which controlled the RCA Victor catalog, giving Deutsch access not only to three more original Broadway cast albums of Rodgers & Hammerstein shows, but also to many revival cast albums. Beyond that, however, the producer simply has started from scratch. Even when he delves into the albums he used previously, he sometimes picks different tracks. For example, the 1993 album used four songs from The Sound of Music, one of which was "My Favorite Things." This one also uses four songs from The Sound of Music, but "My Favorite Things" has been replaced by the show's title song, and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" now comes from the 1998 Broadway revival. There are still two selections from Flower Drum Song, but "Sunday" has been replaced by "Love, Look Away." Elsewhere, Deutsch has trimmed his choices (there are only two songs from South Pacific instead of four, and one of them is taken from the 2008 Broadway revival), the better to make room for "The Gentleman Is a Dope" from Allegro and "No Other Love" from Me and Juliet, for example. And he has replaced the four selections from that Nelson Eddy Oklahoma! with four from the 1979 Broadway revival recorded by RCA. In total, the two different versions of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Songbook share only five tracks out of 20. The result of all this shifting around (none of which is acknowledged anywhere on the album cover, by the way) is a slightly improved selection of Rodgers & Hammerstein songs in the 2009 version, notably one that includes songs like "If I Loved You" and "You'll Never Walk Alone" (drawn from a 1965 Broadway revival of Carousel recorded by RCA) that were missing from the 1993 edition. This still isn't the ideal single-disc collection, however, and maybe it won't be unless Sony someday merges with Universal Music Group to bring those old Decca albums under the same umbrella. Then Deutsch could take yet another whack at it.