February 2004 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings / February /

Hair - Broadway Deluxe collector's edition
Music by Galt MacDermot,
Book & Lyrics by Gerome Ragni & James Rado
  Available on RCAVictor 82876-56085-2
Disc 1 67.47 - Disc 2 61.35
Total running time: 129.22
Amazon UK   Amazon US


This really is a deluxe edition - with 2 full cast recordings, showing how different the off-Broadway and Broadway productions were from each other, a new interview with Galt MacDermot and a solid booklet of information, including the psychedelic meanderings that were the liner notes to the 1967 off-Broadway cast recording. I was surprised by the omission of the questions from the recording of the interview with the composer Galt MacDermot - it made disjointed listening out of what was an interesting conversation. This was the only disappointing section of the discs - for real enthusiasts only.

The 1968 Broadway version has the exquisite production values I've come to expect from Victors' "Broadway Deluxe Collector's Edition" range. In the famous numbers I can hear so much more depth of orchestration - including trumpet solos I didn't know existed.

I had wondered whether "Hair" would have dated - would it all seem rather tame nor or would it still have the capacity to shock? Then I heard the Sodomy song , for the first time. To begin with, it sounded like a valid protest against the establishment view of sex as something "dirty" - and then they included pederasty - at which point I was shocked. Some of the songs are still not something I'd be comfortable listening to in public, nor would I like to have to explain it to my mother. This is strange when you consider it was first presented 3 months after I was born.

The music had a tuneful certainty which carried a conviction of its own. Despite the unconventionality of the composition, it's very effective and surprisingly memorable. The lyrics by contrast remain a mish-mash of naive optimism, the conviction that the young have all the right answers and are going to change the world, and cynical satire of the American establishment. In style, the anti-Vietnam sentiment is similar to the conviction and energy which Godspell later put to a more conventional moral use. There are also some nonsense lyrics that didn't add anything positive, though I was later irritated to find how catchy some of the nonsense sections are when I found myself singing "early morning singing song!" several days later.

On the 1968 version the voices are clear and musically good, without losing that edge that separates musical theatre from classical singing. They are definitely more polished than those of the 1967 off-Broadway version, which are abrasive and used primarily to communicate and only secondarily to make a beautiful sound.

This musical encapsulates the decade that brought you the generation gap through the symbol of long hair, exemplifying the problem with the protests of the 60's. That they were too universal, and because undirected eventually became meaningless, instead of selecting battles that were worth fighting. The energy that produced this musical dissipated with it, leaving memories of a time when people believed in the goodness and potential of the young - and fought against the old to prove it. It is noticeable however that feminism isn't even on the radar.

Listening to Hair today, does it still have a message? It seems of its time and past its time - and then in the middle of a quiet number, the hairs prickled on the back of my neck.

Penny Hill

*** 3

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: