Various Artists

Send in the Clowns: The Ballads of Stephen Sondheim

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When one thinks of ballads, one generally thinks of love songs, which may be one reason why Stephen Sondheim's songs have resisted being separated from the shows for which they were written to become pop hits. Sondheim has written many ballads in the sense of songs that have strong melodies, slow tempos, and reflective lyrics, but he hasn't written many straightforward love songs. This collection, drawn from RCA Victor's catalog of cast albums and other Sondheim-related recordings, gives a good indication of the kind of subjects that interest the songwriter. As annotator Daniel Guss suggests, several of these songs have attracted numerous cover versions -- "Not a Day Goes By," "Not While I'm Around," and "Losing My Mind," in particular -- but only the title song is what can be called a hit or a standard in the general sense. Even when a song seems to express a simple romantic sentiment, those aware of the context in which it used in the show know it is masking something darker. "Pretty Women" is sung by the murderous barber Sweeney Todd with Judge Turpin, whose throat he is preparing to cut; "Not While I'm Around" is a duet in which Mrs. Lovett, another character in Sweeney Todd, decides she'll have to dispose of Toby, who is singing the song to her; and "Unworthy of Your Love" is a duet by two presidential assassins explaining the perverted devotion that leads them to their desperate acts. On the other hand, "Finishing the Hat" is a triumph of romantic restraint in which Georges Seurat justifies painting over living a normal life. This is not, then, an album of conventional love songs, but it is an album containing some great theater songs, sung by some of the theater's greatest performers of the last quarter of the 20th century.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
A Little Night Music, musical
1 3:48 Amazon
Follies, musical play
2 4:12
Evening Primrose, musical play
3 3:10 Amazon
A Little Night Music, musical
4 5:07 Amazon
Anyone Can Whistle, musical
5 4:31 Amazon
Merrily We Roll Along, musical
6 3:34 Amazon
Sweeney Todd, musical play
7 2:01 Amazon
Follies, musical play
8 3:01
Into the Woods, musical play
9 3:51 Amazon
Sweeney Todd, musical play
10 2:01 Amazon
Saturday Night, musical play
11 3:02 Amazon
Company, musical
12 3:33 Amazon
Follies, musical play
13 4:57 Amazon
Sunday in the Park with George, musical play
14 3:24
Sweeney Todd, musical play
15 3:58 Amazon
Merrily We Roll Along, musical
16 2:44 Amazon
Assassins, musical
17 3:29
Anyone Can Whistle, musical
18 3:03 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick