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May 13, 2017:

NO MINCED WORDS

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, being that I only got three or four hours of sleep I shall most likely be less than sparkling or witty or putrescent. I shall most likely be incoherent and brief in a long-winded way. I shall say it like it is and I will mince no words, although I may chop and/or grate some words. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, there will be no mincing of words around these here parts – frankly, I’ve had enough of minced words, haven’t you? And whilst I’m writing these here non-minced notes I am listening to yet another big ol’ box set of Shostakovich symphonies, this one conducted by a favorite conductor of Mr. Shostakovich, Kirill Kondrashin, here conducting a Russian orchestra. I’ve now heard quite a few renditions of each symphony, and complete boxes of about four conductors. While overall the Rudolph Barshai box is not only the most reasonably priced, it’s pretty great sound and the performances are mostly excellent. In any case, I was salivating after this 11-CD set and have been for a couple of weeks, salivating because it was in print only briefly back in 2006 and now goes for crazy prices. But I found an Amazon seller who had the most reasonably priced copy and I was able to actually give her some of our way OOP titles and it was a nice trade for both of us – she got stuff that’s worth much more than she was charging and I got what I wanted. I’d read absolutely marvelous things about this set, especially how authentically Russian-sounding it is, despite some caveats about the sound on some of it.

The comments were all correct. These are wonderful performances filled with fire and purpose, but evocative and haunting when they need to be. And they’re so right about the Russian “sound” – it is noticeable instantly – it’s the way they play, the way they’re recorded – it sounds like no other orchestra you’ve heard. I’m nine symphonies in and these are already some of my favorite versions. There is a fair amount of distortion on a couple of them, which is a shame, but others sound amazing and thankfully the most distorted of them are not my favorite symphonies, so that was nice. I’m enjoying the HELL out of this set, I must say. But that is not the only music I listened to today – no, I listened to the new cast album of Hello, Dolly! I’d already heard some low-rez mp3s and was none too happy with what I was hearing, but I reserved judgment until hearing the CD.

Now, obviously we must have a caveat here: I produced the Grammy-nominated 1994 cast recording with Carol Channing, and I’ve always been very proud of how it sounds. Some like the OBC better – I don’t because it was the typical RCA cast album where things are too distant for my taste. I like to hear the band and the singers and I like to hear the orchestration and orchestral detail. So, with that caveat firmly in place, I shall not mince words. I really do not like this CD. People have been complaining online, but not only blaming the sound, but blaming Ms. Midler for a lackluster performance on the recording. Well, it ain’t Ms. Midler who’s the problem. As I always say, as long as the album in competently recorded, it’s all in the mix. And people simply don’t know how to make a cast album sound like a cast album anymore. Everything I hear these days sounds small and dry – with no air and space and presence around the band and voices. It all sounds like it was recorded in an airless closet. On this album, they’ve added only a tiny bit of reverb, but it’s not good reverb and only emphasizes the dryness. This show has a band of over twenty and somehow they sound like ten. I find this all the time with new recordings. I could barely listen to the Follies revival recording – dry as dust, and the band sounding tinny. Listen to any Goddard Lieberson cast album – THAT is the sound of Broadway and cast albums, not this small, dry stuff. But the proof is in the pudding: Play this new version’s Put on Your Sunday Clothes, then immediately play my 1994 version and you tell me. It’s so obvious – one sounds muffled and tiny, and the other sounds big, bold, and brassy, where you hear every nuance of orchestration, every voice, all of it. Listen to both albums on The Waiter’s Galop and you tell me.

The fact is, I could probably take the multi-track digital recording and spend eight hours with it and make it sound like it should and I’ll tell you something else – the cast are just fine, including Ms. Midler. She sounds lifeless not because she’s lifeless but because there’s no air and presence around her voice. Add some and you’d be shocked that her performance would actually sound just fine. I listened once and I never need to hear it again, AND there is a LOT of missing music – no big finale, some dance music cut – fortunately, it’s all on our 1994 CD. That one isn’t perfect by any means, mostly due to Miss Channing’s ragged vocals, but the sound of it is everything I love in cast albums. It’s the only way I know how to do it, and you can hear it lovingly in my remixes of Promises, Promises, Sugar, and Follies. I could have taken the Follies original eight-track tapes and made them sound just like this version of Hello, Dolly – small and yucky. But I know better and that mix of Follies is pretty spectacular for all the right reasons. There, I promised you no minced words and there were none to be found. If others enjoy it, that’s perfectly fine, of course.

As I mentioned, I had terrible trouble falling asleep and got only three or four hours of sleep, so I was pretty well out of it all day. Fortunately, Kay Cole had to cancel our meeting, so I didn’t have to really do anything yesterday. I did more work on the Sherman Brothers script and smoothed out a really difficult sequence that came out pretty well. Now I’m up to a scene that I’m most like going to just cut in its entirety, after making sure there’s no information in it that I need to move elsewhere. It takes place in an opium den and is kind of a nightmare fantasy sequence that’s just way too weird and kind of pointless for this show – but I’m going to reread it a few times and make sure I’m doing the right thing. It’s like we’re suddenly doing Kabuki theater or something and it just feels so wrong, and I already know Richard agrees with me. Still, I don’t want to rush doing it without fully thinking it out.

At some point I made some Wacky Noodles and ate them all up. Then I picked up a couple of packages, watched a bit more of The Loved One (more than halfway through now), and then finally relaxed.

Today, I’ll hopefully arise after a good night’s sleep. Then I’ll be seeing the reading of a new musical’s first act. Then I have the rescheduled Kay meeting, and that should be it – I don’t think we have any auditions set for today. So, I’ll eat something and watch the rest of The Loved One.

Tomorrow I have no plans whatsoever, so I’ll probably work on the Sherman Brothers script, continue prepping the new musical script, but mostly I need to relax. Monday is my final day of prep on the new musical script, then on Tuesday begins the crazy schedule, although not as crazy as it will be a week later when I begin doing double duty. But this week it’s six days of six-hour rehearsals in a row, and I also have a Dial ‘M’ production meeting, and we’ll obviously be having a few more auditions, too.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, see the first act of a new musical, meet with Kay Cole, eat, hopefully pick up packages, and relax. Today’s topic of discussion: What do you think of today’s cast album recording vs. the classic cast albums of old, technically speaking? Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy to have minced no words in the writing of these here notes.

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