Sony BMG has good news for Sondheim fans: they've released remastered versions of four original cast recordings. (Read about it here or here -- scroll down to "For the Record.") Of course, I'm not entirely thrilled about this, because I already own three of the four albums. Can I justify replacing them? Maybe I could give my old copies to a home for underprivileged musical theatre fans?
The remastered discs -- with bonus tracks! -- are Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. I've been waiting for the Sweeney rerelease for years, ever since the dubbed cassette I'd been overplaying died on me. I keep checking Amazon.com to see if it's available yet, and they keep offering me the recent Broadway revival recording instead. I've heard just enough of that to decide that the John Doyle version of the score was best experienced live, or not at all. And then there's the overpriced Philharmonic recording, which I already have and never listen to, because if I wanted to hear Mrs. Lovett's and Toby's material sung completely off-key, I would do it myself and save on electricity. So this OCR remastering and rerelease is happy news indeed, as the Beadle would say.
It turns out the "bonus tracks" are mostly cuts from the terrific Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall recording, which I also already own. And which is apparently out of print now -- I'd recommend that you buy it used, but as soon as you do they'll probably rerelease that, too. The Into the Woods bonus tracks sound interesting, though: according to Playbill.com, they are "Giants in the Sky," performed by John Cameron Mitchell; "Back to the Palace," performed by Kim Crosby; and "Boom Crunch," performed by Maureen Moore.
We could have a whole other conversation about the video and DVD versions of these shows... and perhaps we will! I've seen the raggedy yet compelling video of the original Sweeney Todd, but never the Philharmonic one. However, I did enjoy this.