When Stephen Sondheim's musical Follies opened in 1971, Capitol Records undertook to record the original Broadway cast album. But since the show had an unusually large score and the label opted for only one LP, a significant part of its music went unrecorded. Other labels have been trying to make up for that ever since. In 1985, RCA Victor Records recorded a concert version of the show specifically intended to right the initial wrong, and Follies in Concert covered two LPs. In 1987, a revised version of Follies ran in the West End, and when First Night Records issued the original London cast album, it had two CDs and was billed as "the first complete recording," even though it was missing songs that had been cut for this production. Eleven years later, TVT Records has recorded a celebrated regional production of the show from the venerable Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ. It's another two-CD set, and once again the album cover prominently displays the claim "The Complete Recording." Actually, the album comes closer to justifying that boast than any of its predecessors, though it doesn't quite do so. Regional stagings don't usually get cast albums, but they also don't usually have casts like this, full of Broadway and Hollywood stars like Donna McKechnie (as Sally, one of the four leads), Tony Roberts (as Buddy, another of the leads), Ann Miller (as Carlotta, singing "I'm Still Here"), and Kaye Ballard (as Hattie, singing "Broadway Baby"). Phyllis Newman and Liliane Montevecchi, meanwhile, return from Follies in Concert to repeat their specialties. Given the extensive revisions inserted into the 1987 London production, it is interesting to note that this version largely returns to the original. Lyrics that were altered for London have been changed back, and songs such as "Country House" and "Make the Most of Your Music," which replaced "The Road You Didn't Take" and "Live, Laugh, Love," have been dropped, with the earlier songs restored. The only "fix" that remains from London is the substitution of "Ah, But Underneath" for "Lucy and Jesse," Sondheim explaining in a sleeve note that the former song was written for London's Diana Rigg, who was more of an actress and less of a dancer than the "Lucy and Jesse" production number called for; here it is effectively performed by Dee Hoty. Adding to the "complete" aspect of this recording is the inclusion at the end of the second disc of eight cut songs (not including the other London ones), among them "Lucy and Jesse." These songs are often just as good as the ones in the show, and they are given superior performances. There would have been room left on the CDs for the London songs, which might have really made this "the complete recording," but at two hours of music, it's close enough.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2