A satirical mixture of genre movie clichés, sexual deviance, and rock & roll, The Rocky Horror Show is not your average musical. But you'd think it was in this studio cast recording from Great Britain's Jay Records, part of a series of recordings of popular musicals. The Jay Original Masterworks Edition series boasts the use of the original, book, music, lyrics, and orchestrations. But almost every recording of The Rocky Horror Show, as well as the movie soundtrack, has employed Richard Hartley's original orchestrations, which are pretty basic rock & roll arrangements. The issue is not so much the orchestrations as how they're played, and the NSO Ensemble, presumably a subset of the National Symphony Orchestra, plays these ones as tamely as possible. Producer John Yap then compounds the problem by mixing the music low and pushing the vocals up front. The cast members include several stage veterans who have appeared in many companies of the show around the world but have not been heard previously on record, notably Howard Samuels in the key role of Frank'N'Furter and Tim Flavin as Brad Majors. There is also some stunt casting, led by Christopher Lee as the Narrator. While Lee, who appeared in many of the Hammer horror films Rocky Horror is spoofing, would seem like an ideal choice, he usually sounds like he's about to fall asleep. Queen's Brian May has been cast as Eddie, which is to say that he was allowed to make his own recording of Eddie's song "Whatever Happened to Saturday Night?" May gives the song a souped-up production and a bravura performance, which makes the track sound totally out of place on this otherwise under-produced, becalmed album. Kim Criswell, who has not previously had any experience with Rocky Horror but has done a number of stage musicals and appeared on a lot of studio cast albums, manages to avoid embarrassing herself as Janet Weiss, but she doesn't make the necessary transition from innocence to sexual awakening the part requires. On the whole, this version of The Rocky Horror Show is a miss.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann