Andrew Lloyd Webber
“I don’t know why you are even bothering to play it before you write the review. You know it’s going to be great,” my wife said to me as I placed the disc into the player. Yes, of course it was going to be great. If you like even a sampling of Webber’s long history of music, there is something for you on this disc. From Madonna’s acclaimed performance of “You Must Love Me” to the classic Patti Lupone rendition of “Don’t Cry for me Argentina,” you get two samples of the star of Evita. The disc opens with Murray Head singing “Superstar,” one of the liveliest tracks on the album, and always a favorite of mine. There is a track from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Donny Osmond. You get Barbara Streisand, Tom Jones, Mandy Patinkin, Jose Carreras, Glenn Close, and even Cliff Richard all on one album. You get the signature Phantom, Michael Crawford himself, and you get plenty of Sarah Brightman.
The sound quality is excellent, as should be expected from a collection such as this. Everything has been re-mastered. The classic tracks sound just as vibrant as the recent recordings. For those few minutes, you feel as if you are sitting in the theater as Charlotte Church sings “Pie Jesu,” a performance strong enough to make my wife weep.
But, alas, it is only for a moment. Therein lies my only problem with this disc — small samples. I realize that choices had to be made, some of our favorites left out, or this would quickly become a five-disc box set. However, hearing one or two songs from a show has the effect of making me want to listen to more from the show, if not the whole thing. There are eighteen songs from nine different shows on this disc, with Evita and Whistle Down the Wind getting three each. If these songs were selected because they were gold singles as the album title would suggest (I can only assume this is the case, as the included documentation was not clear), they can only include those high selling singles. However, knowing how successful ALW is, I wonder why the album isn’t Platinum? Another minor complaint about the documentation, while the booklet has a nice essay that includes the release/success of each song, I think the credits section should have included the show that the song comes from. I am not familiar with everything ALW has done, and it is frustrating to have to search through the essay to determine which show an unfamiliar song is from.
All in all, the songs are timeless, the performances superb, and the quality is excellent. You would be hard pressed to find a better introduction to ALW on one disc. The one down side is that it leaves you wanting more from your favorite shows. That said, I am off to buy the complete albums for Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, as my wife has taken possession of Gold.