This 1994 British studio cast recording of Lionel Bart's musical Oliver! features a strong cast led by character actor Victor Spinetti, who has a long series of West End credits and a Tony Award, but who remains best-known to American audiences for his supporting roles in the Beatles movies A Hard Day's Night and Help! Spinetti's Fagin is a good, detailed portrayal, and it's matched by Bonnie Langford's Nancy. The score, of course, remains tuneful, and the West End Concert Orchestra conducted by Matthew Freeman plays lively arrangements, even if the chorus often sounds a bit too properly British to be believable as a bunch of poverty-stricken boys. Originally recorded for the U.K. Carlton Shows Collection, this version was reissued as a low-priced disc available in the U.S. starting in the spring of 2001. It is not in the same league as the original London cast album, the original Broadway cast album, the original soundtrack, or the 1994 London revival cast album, but it is a pleasant enough recording, especially at a discount price.
Michio Kurihara's sublime solo debut is an impressionist concept record that refracts the golden radiance of the magic hour, its nine songs drawing inspiration from nine different sunsets spanning across the calendar year. A largely instrumental effort, Sunset Notes is foremost a showcase for Kurihara's remarkable guitar work -- his leads soar like exotic birds in flight, brilliantly evoking the moods and colors of the solitary moments in time the songs capture.
As a celebration of "Tom" Jobim's 60th birthday in 1987, a Brazilian consort simply called the Organization sponsored an album that anthologized his output as a composer. Jobim made the final choices of 24 tunes, recorded them with his band of family and friends, and the results were released privately in a limited edition. Recorded at around the same time as Passarim, it's possible that Jobim did not want this retrospective to compete with his new material. Not until 1995 did the Brazilian arm of BMG put out a commercial edition of this project in a very handsome two-CD box with a beautifully illustrated 38-page color booklet (alas, the contents could have been easily squeezed onto only one CD). It's far from a casual project, obviously carefully rehearsed and polished; rather it's an intimate one, using a minimum of resources, backed only by Jobim's simply-stated piano on several tracks. There is the expected quota of greatest hits like "Desafinado," "One Note Samba," "Chega de Saudades," and "Wave," yet the bulk of the material is not very familiar, often dispatched in to-the-point slices that sometimes clock in at less than two minutes. Jobim also takes a personal flyer by including his countryman Heitor Villa-Lobos' haunting "Seresta No. 5," with just himself on piano backing Danilo Caymmi's vocal, followed by his own "Modinha." Jaques Morelenbaum provides the occasional string arrangements and cello solos, again keeping things uncluttered and decidedly less ambitious than Claus Ogerman's charts on a previous Jobim retrospective, Terra Brasilis. Sometimes the arrangements are unpredictable; "The Girl From Ipanema" omits the words of the first chorus, picking up the thread on the bridge, and the stunning "Estrada do Sol" shifts gears several times. The feeling of saudade is very much front and center on Jobim's birthday present to himself -- he later said that this was his favorite album -- and all of his connoisseurs should try to hunt it down in the import bins.