Friday, May 27, 2011

Les Mis album comparison VI

It's been forever since I did the last one of these. (Edited to add: this is indeed the last entry in the album comparison series. Sorry for not finishing, if you enjoyed this...)
I don't know how many people read this blog, and I don't know how many of them care about comparing Les Mis cast recordings, but I want to finish what I started. So, Les Mis album comparison, part IV.

On My Own
I'll start this off by confessing two things:
The first time I saw Les Misérables, I literally thought "oh, I hate this song so much because it's the traditional sad unrequited love song and she's just moping for three minutes - but I'm still going to sing along this a million times when I get the CD". I was right.
Nowadays, one of these On My Owns is the Les Mis song with most hits in my iTunes.

London 1985
Francis Ruffelle as Eponine.
Starts softly, slower than what I'm used to. From the beginning, the instrumentals are pretty and mournful - they remind me of a cold wind, someway.
I know everybody doesn't like Frances Ruffelle, but I have always liked her Eponine. She's got an unique voice - I don't know why, but I love listening to her. And I really like this recording. When she starts the song softly and quietly, I feel like I'm walking next to Eponine in the dark streets, listening to her troubles. And the more powerful part's not half bad either. Great transition from huge "I have never know" to soft "I love him".
All in all, a gorgeous version.
7 points

Vienna 1988
Jane Comerford as Eponine.
The beginning has a couple of disorienting moments, a weird quick drum and a sound I can only describe as scratching a tile with a rusty nail. Mostly it's pretty though, and Jane Comerfold's Eponine sounds very pretty too.
The orchestration is very simple at some points, with just one wind instrument offering little notes in transitions. I like that. And the further the song is progressing, the better I like Comerfold's voice! How come I haven't listened to this more! The orchestration may get a little too loud by the end, but this is not a bad rendition by any means.
5 points

Paris 1991
Stephanie Martin as Eponine.
This beginning is maybe a bit too thin for my tastes, the previous two had a fuller sound. Same goes with the whole song, actually, except for the very end maybe.
I don't know if it's the language or what, but this Eponine seems a little bit more whiny than the previous two. Martin has a good voice, yes, but it sounds to me like she's complaining from time to time. The previous two held their misery with a little more dignity.
2 points

Denmark 1992
Birgitte Raaberg as Eponine.
Raaberg has a weirdly thin voice. It's pretty, but it does sound a little... I can't find a good word. Not suitable for this song. Also, further proof that Danish is one of the less attractive-sounding languages (I still love Denmark though!)...
And, oh, the orchestration tries to down the singer again, this time with a beat I swear escaped from Do You Hear the People Sing... But yeah, I don't really feel this is Eponine singing here - I think Raaberg might make a more believable Fantine instead.
Also, fail points for mashing four syllables in the space of three by the end.
1 point
Despite all I've said, + for this CD for including Javert at the barricade. He sounds nothing short of awesome when he rants on whatever Javert rants at the barricade in Danish, and the instrumental's are pretty snappy for a change.

10th Ann. 1995
Lea Salonga as Eponine.
Salonga's Eponine is more Eponine-ish than the previous one, but I think I prefer a bit more unique sound for the role. Don't get me wrong, I think Lea Salonga has a beautiful, even gorgeous voice. But it's, maybe, a little bit pretty-princessy for Eponine, the girl whose voice the book the musical is based on describes with quite distinctive terms...
The orchestration and mixing are gorgeous here as always, though. I don't really get the same feeling of intimacy as with some of these CDs, but this sounds good nevertheless.
4 points

Dutch 2008  
Céline Purcell as Eponine.
Purcell has a bit of a shrill tone in her voice that bothers me sometimes, but she's good otherwise and shows some strong emotion through the song.
I think the orchestration has pretty much reached perfection by this point, there's not a part where it wouldn't work. It's grand, of course, maybe too grand for some - but I like some spectacle every now and then!
3 points.

Live! 2010
Rosalind James as Eponine.
I admit, this is the one I've been looping pretty much to no end. I don't know why I like this - maybe James's voice just suits mine the best when I'm belting along the songs? Pretty harmonies, that's what singing along musicals is all about...
Compared to the other Eponines I've heard today, James isn't really the most Eponine-like. She has a great voice, but I remember thinking she's too modern when I heard this the first time, and even though I really like this now... I admit she might not be how most fans imagine the character. The riff she does with "pretending" sounds good, yeah, but, thinking about the nature of Les Mis, is very out of place. This one's hard to rate - I really, really love this as a song, but as Eponine and part of Les Mis... Something's not quite correct.
The orchestrations are as good as the Dutch ones though!
6 points - sorry, personal preference overrides sense this time.

Drink With Me
Guess who thought A Little Fall of Rain is not important at all?
Well, yeah, you know who. Those pølse-eating little... 

London 1985
The lovely, calm feeling I got from On My Own continues here. I can see the barricade boys in my head so clearly and am almost sitting there at the barricade in midst of them. There's a perfect calm, sad tone here.
The female chorus is a bit shrill, though, but the males do a great job. Maybe you could give a little minus from that the song is so beautiful, so calm, that you don't even notice Grantaire's part actually mocks their whole mission... But this is so good for the ears.
4 points

Vienna 1988
The prominent guitar's not a bad add. It might take some thoughts to songs sung by the campfire - but that's what this song essentially is, isn't it, even if the shadow of quick death is looming above them...
This Grantaire sounds a little angrier than the rest. Maybe he's kind of blaming himself. What is he doing here! He doesn't believe in the whole thing and is still killing himself for it!
Male and female choruses sound perfect together.
4 points

Paris 1991
Like the previous two, this had a beautiful, calm mood. The singers have great voices. And, oh, Grantaire... He's perfect. Just the right amount of aggression, not believing they can really stand behind this ridiculous revolution... I can see him, apart from the others with his bottle, alone and angry... And Marius finishes this one beautifully. Many good performances here!
5 points

Denmark 1992
The prominent guitar is back, to my enjoyment. And, for once, the Danish boys and girls do a good job I've hardly anything to complain about. This is beautiful like the previous ones. Their Grantaire is not very strong or different from the rest, but as a whole I think this is almost as good as the London one.
Too bad the overall quality so far is this high - I've a feeling even though this is one of the CDs best songs, it won't get that many points...
4 points

10th Ann. 1995
These soloists sound a bit more like normal people as opposed to many previous CD's great singers. They're not bad here, just more realistic! A good Grantaire again - not too much emphasis on anything, but it can be heard he's bitter for whatever reason.
A good version. Not very special, but a good example of a nice way to do this song.
4 points

Dutch 2008  
The recording makes the revolutionaries kind of closer to me than any before incarnation. And they sound good too! Argh, this is too hard to rank - there are no real weak links! Maybe Grantaire is a little bit too much just one of them here...
Maybe the loud orchestration that works beautifully with some songs is a little disorienting in quiet songs like this one, but the cast soungs very good.
3 points

Live! 2010
The first guy could sound a little calmer, but the others are great again. And this has my favourite Grantaire moment! He really takes all out of his lyrics (you can just see him smiling mockingly and then turning simply hateful there!) and is, thanks to this being a live recording, responded with a "okay, that's enough!" A great, great add.
The chorus sounds a little smaller as it is often with this CD, but here it just brings realism to this scene. There's a little loud orchestration problems here, too, though.
4 points - sorry. I was forced to cheat. These all are great versions and the differences are so minimal it's almost impossible to rank these. So we have a winner, the French, a loser, the Dutch, and everybody else is in between.

Rankings time!
London 1985: 35.5 + 7 + 4 =46.5
Vienna 1988: 20.5 + 5 + 4 = 29.5
Paris 1991: 20 + 2 + 5 = 27
Denmark 1992: 20.5 + 1 + 4 = 25.5
10th Ann. 1995: 48.5 + 4 + 4 = 56.5
Dutch 2008: 44 + 3 + 3 = 50
Live! 2010: 35 + 6 + 4 = 45

The sixth part's final results:
#1: 10th Ann. 1995: 56.5+
#2: Dutch 2008: 50+++
#3: London 1985: 46.5+
#4: Live! 2010: 45++
#5: Vienna 1988: 29.5++
#6: Paris 1991: 27++
#7: Denmark 1992: 25--

I really want to get my hands on the new Polish and Spanish CDs!
I won't be doing all this again, though, when I get them...


  1. I liked these. You're much more discerning than I am!

    One thing that struck me about the OLC was how slow all the songs seemed. They got sped up for the OBC. I'm glad they did...

    My favorite is the TAC. Just top to bottom, I love it. My next favorite is the 2010 Spanish cast! I love it, but it drives me nuts because I know just enough Spanish to pick out certain phrases and go "OH!" and then go back to not knowing a word again. But when I do understand, I like what I hear. There was a bit in "Javert's Suicide" where I literally jumped up, stopped the song in its tracks, and skipped back to hear it again. And then again just to make sure I'd understood right. And oh boy. I think I like it better than the English lyrics! Javert's such a philosopher! Then I learned "Stars" in Spanish and that was all I was listening to for about three weeks.

    But when I told my mom and sister that I'd gotten the album in Spanish, my mom looked at me funny and asked, "WHY?" I told her it sounds amazing in Spanish! She laughed and said that I should have gotten it in French. She was joking. I told her that I had gotten it in French, and she just laughed at me more. *sigh*

    I am dragging them to the movie when I see them for Christmas.

    1. Aww, glad to hear you liked!
      I'm a bit sad I didn't finish this, but around this point of the series I got both the Polish and Spanish CDs and some third one... So I didn't feel motivated to continue anymore, there'd been too many CDs I own not featured here suddenly.

      The Dutch one is actually my all-time fav... But the Spanish one is very nice too! I don't understand any Spanish though... But I've heard before the lyrics are good, and now again, so I suppose they are! :D

      Hope your folks enjoy the film, then!