CD Send in the Clowns: The Ballads of Stephen Sondheim (CD 4676753),
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Send in the Clowns: The Ballads of Stephen Sondheim

  • Additional Info
    Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 749276

  • Credits

    Includes liner notes by Daniel Guss.
    All tracks have been digitally remastered.
    When one thinks of ballads, one generally thinks of love songs, which may be one reason why Stephen Sondheim's songs have resisted being separated from the shows for which they were written to become pop hits. Sondheim has written many ballads in the sense of songs that have strong melodies, slow tempos, and reflective lyrics, but he hasn't written many straightforward love songs. This collection, drawn from RCA Victor's catalog of cast albums and other Sondheim-related recordings, gives a good indication of the kind of subjects that interest the songwriter. As annotator Daniel Guss suggests, several of these songs have attracted numerous cover versions -- "Not a Day Goes By," "Not While I'm Around," and "Losing My Mind," in particular -- but only the title song is what can be called a hit or a standard in the general sense. Even when a song seems to express a simple romantic sentiment, those aware of the context in which it used in the show know it is masking something darker. "Pretty Women" is sung by the murderous barber Sweeney Todd with Judge Turpin, whose throat he is preparing to cut; "Not While I'm Around" is a duet in which Mrs. Lovett, another character in Sweeney Todd, decides she'll have to dispose of Toby, who is singing the song to her; and "Unworthy of Your Love" is a duet by two presidential assassins explaining the perverted devotion that leads them to their desperate acts. On the other hand, "Finishing the Hat" is a triumph of romantic restraint in which Georges Seurat justifies painting over living a normal life. This is not, then, an album of conventional love songs, but it is an album containing some great theater songs, sung by some of the theater's greatest performers of the last quarter of the 20th century. ~ William Ruhlmann

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