Friday, December 17, 2010

Les Mis Album Comparison III

Both a Thénardier-off and putting some Javerts into order today!

Master of the House
London 1985
Alun Armstrong as Thénardier, Sue Jane Tanner as Mme T.
The instrumentals start pretty meekly. Armstong's okay to listen to, and the costumers' voices in the background add some live feeling into the recording. The whole thing lacks a little speed, though - the chorus is big and loud, but the tempo of the whole song is a little slow.
Is that Patti LuPone laughing just before Mme Thénardier's part? It sounds just like her on the Sweeney Todd 2005 CD...
Tanner isn't bad neither, you could imagine Mme Thénardier sounding like this. Her "don't make me laugh" is a bit too exaggerated for my taste, though.
A good "standard" version of the song - nothing especially bad, if not so much anything especially awesome, neither.
3 points

Vienna 1988
Franz Csencsits as Thénardier, Susanne Altschul as Mme T.

Little meek orchestra part gives fast way to the singing, accompanied with an echo-y horn. Csencsits is nice to listen to too, and his voice has some emotion going, changing between excited, nice and evil-sounding.
The chorus sounds a little muddy, maybe some bad mixing.
Csencsits' "liver of a cat" and so forth sounds a little whisper-y, like he's sharing a secret with the audience. But now it's chorus time again, and to me this sounds like someone has put a huge lot of people into a tiny room and their voice doesn't quite fit in...
Altschul sounds pretty bitter and mocking, and her audience is heard symphatising with screams and laughter. Her performance is great, the final part almost made me laugh.
4 points

Paris 1991
Laurent Gendron as Thénardier, Marie-France Roussel as Mme T.
Gendron sounds okay too, but he's not as nice to listen to as some - I know it's a role where acting means more, but in a CD comparison... A little bit meaner than the previous ones, I'd say. The orchestration's pretty small, and somehow leaves me wishing for more. The chorus sounds pretty good, though.
Gendron seems to keep this "I'm mean and you can't trust me" tone going on for the whole song...
Multiple "shhh"s before Mme T. enters. She's not bad either, but I've heard better.
2 points

Danish 1992
Per Pallesen as Thénardier, Maria Stenz as Mme T.
Afraid already...
This begins bigger, with the little tune familiar from 10th Ann. concert and with the part with Thénardier and customers talking before the actual song beginning. What's the point of even recording this, especially if you don't record one of your main character's biggest songs? And it seems this part keeps going on forever... Pallesen has a pretty Thénardier-sounding voice from the first minute, though, at least in my opinion.
Ahh, to the real song! Haha, Pallesen is great, laughing meanly in between the lyrics! Just listening to him makes me smile, and I bet he did great justice to his part as the comic relief! And the chorus has such energy I almost feel like dancing!
I like how someone goes "shh" to silence the customers before Mme T. starts. And after she has sung her first line ("I used to dream that I would meet a prince...") Thénardier is heard going "awww", pretty much like saying "you got to be kidding me...", and he keeps saying "mm-hmm" to everything his wife accuses him of, just as to annoy her even more - before it gets to the "not much there" part, where his reaction sounds more like "hey, that was personal!" I actually laughed out loud.
This is awesome. And Stenz sounds very good for the role, too!
Danish Les Mis cast recording, congratulate yourself already. Whatever lies ahead, I think you've pretty much assured the seven points are yours.
7 points - told you so.

10th Ann. 1995
Alun Armstrong as Thénardier, Jenny Galloway as Mme T.
A bigger beginning, orchestra-wise, and a better beginning, Thénardier-wise, from the London CD where Armstrong also sings the song. I think he's gotten a lot better during the ten years between the recordings. In the beginning he sounds like a nice guy going out about how honest he is and such...
The chorus and the huge orchestra, as usual, sound great and make justice to this song.
Especially with this case, though, you remember that visuals are more than a half of this song - just remembering how hilarious Armstrong's performance on the DVD is makes me want to give him more points, even though you can't really hear it on the CD.
I love how audience gets wild just seeing Mme T. And Galloway is great, the best of the Mme Ts so far. Especially the "not much there" part, which she whispers. No wonder everybody's laughing! And I love how the audience just explodes into cheers at the end!
6 points

Dutch 2008
Carlo Boszhard as Thénardier, Marjolein Algera as Mme T.
No preludes here, but a nice big orchestration going on in the background or Boszhard, whose hoarse but pretty nice voice fits the character and whose energy is audible on the CD. He also laughs between some of the verses, which always makes me smile. And the chorus is not bad either.
Something about this song tells me Boszhard was just great to see live!
Mme T. enters, starts with a soft voice and changes her tone to make her audience laugh, getting louder as the song goes. Not bad at all! The final chorus sounds especially good.
5 points

Live! 2010
Ashley Artus as Thénardier, Lynne Wilmot as Mme T.
This is another of those CDs that have kept the conversation in the beginning of the song. I bet it's shorter than on the Danish CD, though, which is good.
Artus is somehow the Thénardier that's the hardest to listen to, his voice's too hoarse. Of course, the acting matters more, but again, this is a CD comparison... He has a funny accent, though, and this must be the happiest batch of customers laughing in the background... Even though the chorus sounds a bit messy, like someone's singing to a bit different beat and there's a little too much talk in the background. Wait, what, did I just hear someone throwing up? It sounded just like that, eww...
The live really comes through here, with the sounds from the props and whatnot. The orchestration's good, but that much background noise can distract you...
Enter Mme T. Wilmot isn't as big pain to listen to as Artus, but she's not the best either. A little too much screaming.
1 point

London 1985
Roger Allam as Javert.
The beginning has more violins than I remembered. And Allam has a gorgeous voice, very Javert-ish. Shivers are almost running down my spine.
And I think the calm, lovely orchestration does the song great justice. It gets big when it has to and keeps quiet when required, and sounds beautiful all the way.
The ending's a bit different than on the other CDs, he doesn't swear anything by any stars but just ends with "keeping watch in the night." I talked about this in deviantART with a friend, and I sort of agree with her - this ending fits the character better. But I still miss the big note.
It might get better than this, but not really much!
6.5 points

Vienna 1988
Norbert Lamla as Javert.
Not a bad beginning, even though I miss the violins from the previous CD. Lamla has a great voice too, but the orchestra almost overpowers him at some points - but then it gets back to quiet in such a lovely little translation I can't help adoring the instrumentals of this track. Even though that drum-thing is too much.
Lamla's good, but not as good as some. Still, if I had seen this live I surely wouldn't feel disappointed.
Hmm, a very mixed orchestration here...
4 points

Paris 1991
Partick Rocca as Javert.
The orchestration stars beautifully and peacefully.
But Rocca has definitely too much vibrato for the role. So much the song is almost painful to listen to. Some is okay, but this amount... Um. He'd be very Javert-ish if he could keep a note vibrato-less for more than half of a second... And that odd emphasis on "l'enfer" is a little, well, odd to me.
1 point

Danish 1992
Claus Kofod as Javert.
This voice doesn't fit the image I've got of Javert. He sounds somehow too much, I don't know, Santa Claus-ish to be the almost unfeeling, strict inspector we know. And hey, please, CD people: don't make your singers compete against your orchestra! Try to find a balance, will you!
Not to say Kofod would be bad, no, he has a good voice. It's just a voice I don't think quite fits the character, at least my vision of him.
2 points

10th Ann. 1995
Philip Quast as Javert.
The beginning is just beautiful with the harp. And when the song begins... I love Quast's voice. Still, after countless times of listening to this song, it manages to amaze me. Sure, there's some vibrato here too, but not so much to make this uncomfortable to listen to, as is the case with Paris CD.
I'm a little torn apart here, though - I love, love Quast's voice, but somehow Allam's fits my mental image of Javert better. This'll be a hard choice...
6.5 points - Impossible to decide. Call me a loser, but I'm dividing the first place.

Dutch 2008
Wim van den Driessche as Javert.
I'm torn apart here too - I'm not quite sure if I like van den Driessche or not. Somehow I do, he sounds good... But somehow this just doesn't make me think of Javert. I like how the orchestra plays some darker, deeper tones on the later part of the song, though.
Even though I usually love listening to Dutch, I think something about this translation is a bit disruptive. Too much hard consonants or something makes especially the ending a little uneasy to listen to.
3 points

Live! 2010
Earl Carpenter as Javert. I guess I can't give this CD any more bonus points for having seen him live...
The beginning's strings are a bit too shrill to me. But then again, Carpenter's voice is pretty much the voice I imagine Javert would have, so that doesn't matter much.
I don't know whether to be amused, confused or just happy about the emphasis Carpenter puts on the word "order." But it's definitely disturbing that the instrumentals lack some warmth some others have. This seems like a very "cold" moment to me, when I think it should be the moment that conveys the audience Javert is not actually a bad guy...
The only CD to have Gavroche's part, by the way!
5 points

So, today's ranking looks like...
London 1985: 18 + 3 + 6.5 = 27.5
Vienna 1988: 9.5 + 4 + 4 = 17.5
Paris 1991: 13 + 2 + 1 = 16 
Denmark 1992: 6.5 + 7 + 2 = 15.5
10th Ann. 1995: 24 + 6 + 6.5 = 36.5
Dutch 2008: 22 + 5 + 3 = 30
Live! 2010: 19 + 1 + 5 = 25

And with bonus points (none given this round, though):
#1: 10th Ann. 1995: 36.5+
#2: Dutch 2008: 30+
#3: London 1985: 27.5+
#4: Live! 2010: 25++
#5: Vienna 1988: 17.5+
#6: Paris 1991: 16+
#7: Denmark 1992: 15.5---

Way to go, Denmark! You'll reach Paris soon!
And if you've wondered, four bonus points make one point and four minus points take one point away. I'll count them in the final post of this series.

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