There have been countless LP and CD incarnations of West Side Story, and rightly so as it remains one of the two the greatest serious stage musicals – the other being My Fair Lady. This latest release is a new version of the original 1961 film soundtrack album, now expanded to 79 minutes with several previously unreleased instrumental cues. The new material – which of course has long been available in many other versions – consists of the 'Overture', 'Mambo' (from the 'Dance At The Gym'), 'Intermission Music', 'Finale' and 'End Credits', totalling 18.48 minutes.
Surely no comment is needed on the music, which is simply fantastic, fusing jazz with orchestral scoring, spanning tender melodies and explosive melodrama, or the performances, which are vibrant, full of life, and immensely passionate and touching. One might note that the cast listed above is of the performers who actually sang on the soundtrack, rather than got their names in lights (Marni Nixon also sang for Audrey Hepburn on My Fair Lady a few years later).
The sound is better than previous issues and is thoroughly impressive for its time; the film was a huge budget spectacular shot 70mm with a 6 track magnetic stereo soundtrack. The album comes with useful notes by Broadway expert Richard Ridge. Little more needs to be said bar the fact that this release now stands as the definitive version of this particular soundtrack. Those who have previous versions, or stage recordings featuring the now restored instrumental cues may however find it hard to justify the outlay for yet another West Side Story. Those that do will find an impeccably produced addition to Sony's Legacy series, which this month also offers the 1954 A Star Is Born and John Barry's The Chase and Dances With Wolves.