Stephen Sondheim shares 18 demos from his private collection, a mix of songs written for television specials, college performances, musicals that never came to fruition, and even a few numbers written to celebrate special occasions with friends. It seems unlikely that Sondheim ever thought of releasing these demos, which were made to pitch songs or for private occasions, so it is easy to overlook his (at times) unsteady vocal pitch, though his piano accompaniment is very sure. "Pour le Sport" is an amusing song about golf for the never materialized The Last Resorts. "You're Only as Old as You Look (Jerry Beaty's Birthday Song)" is an absolute riot, kidding a friend about rapidly aging as he turns 39. The joyful "A Star Is Born" celebrates the birth of another friend's daughter, with tongue-in-cheek references to movie characters and actresses (by both their stage names and married names). His friendship with neighbor Oscar Hammerstein II helped encourage him in his choice of career path; included are two brief transcriptions that the teenaged Sondheim made for his mentor. The detailed booklet features a variety of vintage photographs, complete lyrics, a reference guide to the names mentioned in the songs, along with detailed, informative liner notes by Peter E. Jones. This collection, along with the preceding volume, will be of great interest to Sondheim's fans. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this CD benefits Young Playwrights, Inc., a nonprofit supporting the development of playwrights under the age of 18.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden