As of January 1, 2001, the original Broadway cast album of Guys & Dolls remained in print on MCA Records (having been released initially on its predecessor label, Decca Records). But since that album had been recorded on December 3, 1950, it entered the public domain in Europe, where copyrights on recordings extend for only 50 years, opening the door for reissue labels to put out their own unlicensed versions. Those labels vary considerably in the care they give to such discs, and Naxos, which waited nearly three years to release a Guys & Dolls album, is at the high end of the scale, employing digital restoration to obviate the loss in sound quality from mastering off an old vinyl recording; providing extensive annotations in the CD package; and assembling a collection of bonus tracks to fill out the disc to CD length. All of that care has gone into this release, with the tracks transferred from a Canadian pressing of a set of 78s of the Decca album that producer David Lennick calls "the best-sounding source for this transfer." They do sound good, if not quite up to the legitimate MCA album, but the real benefit here lies in the bonus material. The regular album runs about 41 minutes and is followed by nine tracks, running another 27 minutes, of additions. These include first a couple of interesting alternative versions of songs from the show, first Dinah Shore's "The Three-Cornered Tune," which turns out to be a version of "Fugue for Tinhorns" with entirely different lyrics, and then Morey Amsterdam's novelty version of "Sue Me." Six of the remaining seven bonus tracks actually chronicle the show that songwriter Frank Loesser did just before Guys & Dolls, Where's Charley?, and they are especially valuable because, due to a recording ban called by the musicians union in 1948, no original Broadway cast album of this musical was ever recorded. Ray Bolger, the show's star, went into a studio just after the ban ended in February 1949 and cut two songs from it, "Once in Love with Amy" and "Make a Miracle" (a duet with Allyn McLerie), and such artists as Johnny Mercer and the team of Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae did cover versions of other songs, also included here. Finally, Loesser himself, with his first wife Lynn Loesser, recorded "Make a Miracle." And the CD closes with the Loessers' famous party number, "Baby, It's Cold Outside," which eventually was interpolated into the motion picture Neptune's Daughter and went on to win the Academy Award for best song. The add-ons make Naxos' version of Guys & Dolls a valuable sampler of some of Loesser's best work of the late '40s and early ‘50s.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann