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Reviews: My Fair Lady - Original Soundtrack

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Reviews: 2

Review by gonzostick December 20, 2010 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
The sound of Rex Harrison screaming into a lavalier microphone...

Jack Warner decided to buy the greatest musical of its time on Broadway and turn it into a 70mm roadshow spectacle. He cast Rex Harrison to recreate his Broadway role and hired Audrey Hepburn, who was not an accomplished, professional singer, to play the role created and made, justifiably famous, by Julie Andrews, on stage, in New York and London.

What is here is the Motion Picture Soundtrack album, taken from the studio mag recordings, with Andre Previn at the helm, and Marni Nixon singing for Audrey Hepburn. For the record, Marni Nixon also sang the female lead in the motion pictures of "West Side Story" and "The King and I."

This film, like most of Hollywood's patrimony of film, was allowed to decay for decades and was restored by James Katz and Robert Harris for video and theatrical release. What they found was what leads to my critique of this disc, which preserves a great performance in difficult sound.

Most Hollywood musicals are filmed after the musical numbers have been recorded on a sound stage with the actors lip-synching to the playback. In this case, by looking at the 70mm negative, Harris and Katz found that Rex Harrison had refused to record in the studio, performing his role LIVE for the cameras as they ran, with a lavalier microphone concealed under his chin at his chest. The playback from the recording sessions was played over loudspeakers concealed around the set so Harrison could hear and sing.

The singular problem with this recording is that Harrison performs the role just as if he were acting for the back row in the theater, which he was trained to do, which makes this performance a very difficult thing on a recording. His sound is strident, screaming, and completely too loud. It was also obvious to them that the quality of the sound of his performance did not match that of the other leads.

Harris and Katz, in their restoration, were able to adjust the mix and take the edge off Mr. Harrison's voice, plus compress the shouting. I have that mix on Laserdisc and DVD, and the performance sounds much better than here. I wish that SONY had gone to the restorers and remixed this disc from the multi-channel, restored Dolby Surround stems, but we just get the same stereo mastertape derived from the original LP master. The sound quality is bass-shy and Rex Harrison's phenomenal performance is best not played loudly, as he uses every bit of his stage voice with a microphone that is inches from his chin. The is also the dry studio-based sound and it is nasty.

As it stands, fans of this show should have this, as it is much better than the CBS LP, and it preserves Harrison's LIVE performance, just like he did it on stage.

SONY has a huge amount of Broadway shows recorded in the heyday of quadraphonic sound, like "COMPANY," "CANDIDE," "NO, NO, NANETTE," and "THREE-PENNY OPERA" that would transfer beautifully to surround SACD.

Still, the cretins that chose what SONY put out on SACD should be stripped and sprayed. Then, of course, since the SACD format did not sell like Michael Jackson, they abandoned the format and are now pushing Blu-Ray for everything.

The industry is run by morons who hate music. They own it, but do know know WHAT to do with it. So, access is always limited. UGH... The Empire Strikes BACH...

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Review by Lawrence Schulman December 21, 2010
Performance:   Sonics:
I fully agree that the sound on the My Fair Lady SACD is highly disappointing.

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