I love CATS. I love the musical, but like many people, I saw the video before buying the soundtrack, which I knew even at the time would let me down when hearing the original soundtrack. I was expecting the differences. But the difference was too much to be able to forgive to give this 5 stars. There was no 'Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles', one of my favourite songs, and 'Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer' was very different. The newer version they came up with was much better. The original Munkustrap did not act through his voice like Michael Gruber did. This soundtrack was slightly unsatisfying after watching the video. I only have myself to blame. The booklet was a bit of a disappointment, yes it has the lyrics but the presentation looks cheap and has no design whatsoever, it doesnt even tell you which character is singing which part, you are left to guess that much. 'The Rum Tum Tugger' has no John Partridge in it, but its nice and entertaining all the same (I like the meows at the beginning but they werent in the original). Elaine Paige is there singing the famous Memory with conviction, accompanied by Sarah Brightman who plays Jemima with the most beautiful voice (an up on this version). I had never heard of Growl tiger before and I can't say I really like it. I think that I must of seen it to appreciate it. Despite all its drawbacks, this soundtrack is 'CATS' and there is no denying that, which makes it great. I give it four stars, because although very different to the video version, it still has the beautiful music by Webber and wonderful and humourous lyrics based on T. S. Eliots text. Ive also given it four because I know that I am biased towards the video version. Maybe if I listened to the soundtrack first then watched the video, I would complain about the videos version! The London version in my opinion is better than the Broadway version, so get this one and enjoy!
The first time i saw and heard Cats was on the DVD and so when I bought the original soundtrack I expected it to be different from the movie because obviously it would have changed over the past 20 years or so. Anyway I loved this album. I loved the old style version of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser and I could really feel the engery of the cast in Jellicle songs for jellicle cats. Brian Blessed puts in a great performance as Bustopher Jones and Old Deuteronomy and, in my opinion Paul Nicholas beats John Partridge hands down. Stephen Tate and Susan Jane Tanner had me in tears in The Ballad of Billy McCaw it was so beautiful. I didn't really like Jeff Shankley as Munkustrap, he didn't seem to have much to sing as alot of the narratve was sung by Wayne Sleep as a charming Mistoffelees. I do think that the invitation to the jellicle ball could have been a bit longer at the end but all in all an absolute fantastic song. Elaine Paige really took my breath away though as Grizabella. I can't imagine her in any other role as this one seems to have been put together especially for her and I could really feel the despair in her voice.I think she was truly brilliant. This CD is the absolute best ever of Cats and it surpasses the original australian cast who were also truly spectacular.
In many ways Cats was a turning point for Andrew Lloyd Webber. At the beginning of the 80-is he was already a hugely successful musical theatre composer, thanks to his work with the lyricist Tim Rice on "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita". In the early 1980-is he decided to part ways with Rice and many people predicted him a quick downfall, even more so when he decided to use T. S. Eliot's book of children's poetry called "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" as a basis for his next musical. He used then a relatively unknown musical director Trevor Nunn and Gillian Lynne as a choreographer. Cats was imagined as a mixture of pop songs and ballet; by that time an unseen combination for a musical, so it is no wonder that Webber and his producer Cameron Mackintosh had trouble finding financial backup. The show opened in London and became a phenomenon in its own right. It closed in London after exactly 21 years of running in May 2001. The same thing happened when the show came to Broadway in 1982; it closed after 18 years of running, in 2000. Cats thus became the longest running musical in the history of both West End and Broadway. So you may wonder what it's all about. It's quite simple really. Many people say that Cats hasn't got a story. It's certainly true that the plot is very simple and that's part of the appeal for the audiences. We are presented with a group of special cats, known as Jellicle cats. They meet once a year to decide who among them is worthy to get a chance to be reborn and start a new life. Since we meet them at that precise night, each of them tells us about their lives and habits through the musical numbers. There is one character among them, Grizabella the Glamour Cat, once of great beauty, but now an ugly and dilapidated thing, because at some point in her life, she decided to leave the others in her tribe and get to know the outside world; a move which eventually led her to prostitution. Because of that she is repeatedly rejected by other cats when she tries to make an entrance and compete as a candidate for a new life, determined to change her life style and pursue a happy life style she once knew. So besides the fact that we meet all kinds of different characters that often have characteristics very similar to human ones, Cats at the same time is a wonderful story of redemption and forgiveness. Besides the story the audiences loved the excellent choreography and dancing together with beautiful and distinctive feline makeup each character of Cats had. It is a show that is suited for the young and the old. It is surprising that the longest musical in history can boast with only two recordings, the London and the Broadway one. The London recording in question here certainly has its merits after all these years, yet because the show was somewhat changed with time, it can't be considered definite. That honor would go to Cats DVD that was filmed in London in 1997. The song interpretation, orchestrations and the cast are spotless there. The lyrics are included in the booklet. This recording here is almost complete, with only a short narrative song missing. It is remastered, so the sound quality is excellent. There are many great songs a listener will enjoy. Some of them are: "Old Gumbie Cat", about a nice and warm house cat; "Rum Tum Tugger", a naughty and never satisfied cat played by Paul Nicholas; "Bustopher Jones", an aristocrat among cats, "Skimbleshanks: The railway cat" and many more. Of course, by far the best known of all the songs and melodies from Cats is "Memory", which, I dare to say is among the top five songs Andrew Lloyd Webber has ever written and one of the best known and most beautiful songs ever to be found in musical theatre. It is preformed by Grizabella character, here played by the one and only first lady of the British musical theatre, Elaine Paige. Ms. Paige made her name several years prior to Cats, with her portrayal of Eva Peron in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita. She joined the ensemble of Cats at the last minute as a replacement for the badly injured Judi Dench, thus confirming her talent and stardom status. Although many people sung the role after Elaine, Betty Buckley including, her rendition is still considered by many to be definite. That is confirmed by the fact that when the show was filmed for TV and DVD, Ms. Paige was called once again to reprise her role after 16 years. Her performance on this CD from 1981 captures the longing and desperation of the character. With time, Ms. Paige's vocal abilities have matured and her best rendition of "Memory" can be heard in that Cats DVD or in her latest compilation entitled "Centre Stage: The very best of Elaine Paige", which was released in May this year. That recording of "Memory" is for sure the best to date, because of her voice and the fact that the score is played by the 80-piece orchestra. Among other interesting thing in this recording is Sarah Brightman's debut as Jemima; her voice being very young and full of innocence. Although this recording may sound a bit dated in some aspects, it's nevertheless a gem and should be heard by everyone who have interest in modern musical theatre. But if you want to experience Cats in all its glory, buy yourself the CATS DVD.
Not because it's the best album in the world (let alone the best show in the world) but because, arriving as it did in 1981 and being the daddy of all Cats recordings, this is the only version with a single shred of originality. Obvious perhaps, seeing as it came first, but it's actually quite unique.
This is why:
It's the only album with sufficiently powerful orchestrations - listen to the Overture or the Jellicle Ball to see what I mean. At the same time there is shade and subtlety not found on other recordings.
It's the only album to feature the original, full length versions of Bustopher Jones, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, Old Deuteronomy, The Ballad of Billy McCaw and - most significantly - Memory, which was subsequently torn to bits for Broadway and other productions (sadly even London).
It's the only version to pull together such a mass of new and established talent - Bonnie Langford, Sarah Brightman, Jeff Shankley, Brian Blessed, Paul Nicholas, Wayne Sleep, Elaine Page.
Finally, it's the only version of the show which has an individual, un-sausage-moulded sound, be it orchestrations, musicianship, production, or vocal interpretations. Almost all other albums which followed are identical to each other, but this one stands out. The possible exception is the Broadway cast album, in which Betty Buckley tears Memory to shreds. Dreadful perhaps, but at least it's memorable!
Cats is supposed to be, and be about, magic, and this album has it.
Given that it's now nearly 30 years since Cats was released, and the soundtrack album has been released on LP, Tape, and now 3 times on CD, you could be forgiven for thinking that this 2005 release is the best quality, most complete version of the album available. After all, it's been remastered at Abbey Road (according to the label), hasn't it?
Sadly, no. This release is nothing more than the 1998 discs with new packaging. As for the recording itself, that's identical to the original CD release, which has a shorter running time than the original LP!
This is due to a large part of the Jellicle Ball being cut from the original CD master and on every CD release since.
30 years on, and the best available version of this album is STILL only found on the LP...
Really disappointed bought this for my daughter for her Birthday as we went to see the musical and the first CD is so scratched ! It was me who put it in the CD player so I know it wasn't my daughter being rough!