Broadway: The Great Original Cast Recordings

by: Various Artists

To commemorate the end of the century, Sony Music assembled the gargantuan 26-disc box set Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century. The title was imposing, as was the idea behind it -- to chronicle the life of the oldest record label in the music industry. To be clear, Sony Music has not existed for 100 years, but the heart of its catalog, Columbia Records, was founded early in the 20th century. Sony acquired Columbia and its various subsidiaries in the late '80s, purchasing one of the richest catalogs in pop history, as the box set proves again and again. Sony realized that most consumers wouldn't invest in a 26-disc box, no matter how impressive it was, so they simultaneously released a series of 12 genre-specific double-disc sets that culled highlights from the box. That left two discs exclusive to the box, which was appropriate, since anyone who spends over $300 on an album deserves a little bonus. As it turns out, the double-disc sets are every bit as impressive as the big box, perhaps more so, because they're easily digestible. Even so, the scope of the 41-track Broadway: Great Original Cast Recordings is impressive. Columbia and its subsidiaries were always at the forefront of Broadway cast recordings, which is evident from this set, which captures highlights from an amazing number of shows, including selections from Show Boat, Kiss Me, Kate, South Pacific, Pal Joey, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Gypsy, The Sound of Music, Bye Bye Birdie, Camelot, Cabaret, A Chorus Line, Annie, and Will Rogers Follies, among others. These are all taken from the original Broadway casts and, as such, provide a good capsule history of the Great White Way. Yes, some major performers and musicals are missing, but this gets the essence of its history, while being enormously entertaining. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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