Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris [1994 London Revival Cast]

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Great Britain's Jay Records prides itself on issuing "complete" versions of the music from vintage stage musicals (usually featuring either studio casts or the casts of London revivals), which is to say, albums containing all the songs from a musical, not just the ones that fit onto an LP when the show was first produced, plus, in many cases, underscoring and some dialogue. As a result, the label's releases often run to two CDs. Accordingly, annotator Julian Woolford, who directed the 1994 London revival of the musical revue Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris that gives rise to this album, claims that this two-CD set presents "the show in its entirety for the first time." Strictly speaking, he is correct. When the revue was first produced Off-Broadway in January 1968, it contained 25 songs, 22 of which were included on the two-LP box set released by Columbia Masterworks Records (and subsequently reissued on a single CD). This recording includes the three missing songs, "Girls and Dogs," "Statue," and "Middle Class," along with an overture not heard on the initial album. But the question of completeness is a bit more problematic if you compare it with the original motion picture soundtrack for the film version that opened in January 1975. That two-LP set (released by Atlantic Records) also contains 26 tracks, but there are variations. "My Childhood (Mon Enfance)," "The Taxicab (Le Gaz)," "Ne Me Quitte Pas," "The Last Supper (Le Dernier Repas)," and "Song for Old Lovers (La Chanson Des Vieux Amants)," none of which were heard on-stage (and none of which appear on the Jay album) have been added, while "My Death (La Mort)," "Girls and Dogs," "Fanette (La Fanette)," and "You're Not Alone (Jef)" are missing (along with the overture). There would have been plenty of space on the two Jay CDs to add the movie material in the name of justifying the claim of completeness. In any case, this is a strong performance of the show, if not quite as strong as the original cast or soundtrack recordings that featured Mort Shuman, who adapted the songs with Eric Blau. Stuart Pendred steps up to the task of replacing Shuman on such vociferous songs as "Mathilde," "Amsterdam," and "Next (Au Suivant)," while Michael Cahill is a winning tenor and Liz Greenaway handles such emotional songs as "I Loved (J'Aimais)" and "You're Not Alone (Jef)" well. (As in the original production, the second woman, here Alison Egan, has less to do.) Any of the major recordings of this show are recommended, and this one does represent the complete show as heard on-stage.

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