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Try and find the 1988 CD Release
on January 23, 2010
I have just listened to a copy of the first CD release of this score. I am told this first CD release was transferred from the 78 masters (must have been acetates because there is next to no surface noise). The mastering (uncredited as far as I can tell) is superb. On this older CD the recording sounds better than many tapes from the early to mid 1950's, and can be truly considered one of the first mass-market, high-fidelity recordings. This was also the first original-cast LP to be issued in both the then-standard "album" of 10-inch 78 rpm discs, and also in Columbia's new LP format. The Sony/Columbia transfer of the 1947 Finian's Rainbow is good (although there is surface noise that probably could have been eliminated), but not this good. South Pacific was, I believe, also the first to be recorded using both the standard method of direct-to-disc cutting and on magnetic tape (a medium that became known only after WW II).
I am told that up to the current remastering, all previous releases of this recording had used the 78 transfers, not the tape. Now I know why. The sound is not only better, it is SIGNIFICANTLY better on the earlier CD release. On the new release the frequency range is quite limited; on the earlier release you get the full range up to 20K hz. Further, the grainy, harsh sound on this newer release, and some tape drop outs, are either due to a significant deterioration of the tape over 50-60 years, or the fact that tape technology was still rapidly evolving, and this was Columbia's first serious foray into the medium, or both. Apparently the technology for the 78's was significantly improving as well, but that medium was doomed, due to the limitation of the length of a side, and the fact that one could edit tapes.
Comparing the two CDs:
The First Release: Wonderful Sound. Downsides: Slight amount of reverb added, no bonus tracks, and on one track, You've Got to Be Carefully Taught a phrase right at the end of the song is cut, which is jarring to those who are used to it being there, and the song as written and performed has it. Why it is missing is a mystery.
The "Remastered Release: Mediocre sound, that's harsh on the ears. Bonus tracks: The ones by Martin and Pinza are nice to have (especially Loneliness of Evening, and My Girl Back Home which had been cut during the tryouts). The Suite complied by Robert Russell Bennett, however, is just a medley and musically pretty forgettable. My Girl Back Home was put back in the movie and the current Broadway revival. Loneliness of Evening has found its way into staged versions of R&H's Cinderella, where it fits.
If you love the score and also think that the original is still one of the, if not the, best recordings, see if you can find a used cc of the earlier CD release somewhere. It is out of print now.
You can reference it here: