There were at least two versions of The Wizard of Oz on compact disc before Rhino issued this double-CD deluxe version. Those earlier CDs had been mastered, respectively, from the original LP master created by MGM Records| in the mid-'50s, or used a restored version of the finished film as the source for most of its content. But this set represents the first occasion on which the original unedited studio recordings of the score -- derived from the "angles" captured by various microphones used in the recording process -- have been assembled for commercial release; and, indeed, the first time these uncut recordings, of the music as it was conceived and written, before being edited to fit the final release cut of the movie, have been heard since 1939. The results are astounding, to say the least -- in addition to giving us a full account of the underscore for the movie in all of its finest nuances so that one can appreciate the action on the instruments and the fine details of the orchestration, it also reveals a wealth of subliminal detail in the music writing, a match in its depth and range for the finest operas of Verdi and Puccini. In fact, hearing the complete first disc and the first half of the second, which together comprise the soundtrack of the movie, is the equivalent of finding a new way to absorb the movie, regardless of how well one has known it up to this point: on that basis alone, fans of the movie will find this set essential. Additionally, the second CD contains alternate versions of portions of the score, and unused portions of the score that will be a revelation to anyone who enjoys the movie. And the accompanying booklet delves into the whole history of Oz as a literary, theatrical, and cinematic creation going back to the point where it was coming right off the pen of L. Frank Baum, plunging into ever greater detail as it approaches the 1939 MGM movie, where it goes into every aspect of the production with a special emphasis on the writing and creating of the songs and score. The package is extremely handsome as well as neatly devised, and it is clearly intended for serious devotees of the music and the movie. The one cautionary note is that this is probably not the version of the soundtrack that one would purchase for a child who was a fan of the music or the movie (unless it were a very sophisticated child), for whom a less ambitious release would be more appropriate.
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