As we eagerly await the new cast recording from the critically acclaimed current revival of Hair from the good folks at Ghostlight Records, those of us who love the score to this landmark show can certainly make do with extant recordings, of which there are many.
Of course, the essential recording of Hair is that of the original 1968 Broadway cast, re-released in 2003 by RCA Victor in a deluxe package that includes a separate CD of the 1967 Off-Broadway cast recording. This release represents an unprecedented chance to compare the two versions of the show in one sitting, as it were, and both remain vital as the years pass.
There's also the soundtrack to the somewhat maligned but nonetheless fascinating 1979 movie version of Hair. This was my first exposure to the score, when I was in high school, and it remains the watermark version for me, irrespective of its objective quality. I keenly recall watching the movie and being mesmerized by Twyla Tharp's arresting and iconic choreography, and transfixed by Treat Williams briefly in the buff. (Woo woo.)
More recently, we saw an all-star studio cast album of Hair, the proceeds of which went to benefit the Actors Fund of America. Despite the repugnant cover (see left: pubes, anyone?), this recording features a lot of terrific renditions of these now-classic songs. I find myself particularly compelled to listen to Gavin Creel's version of "Going Down" and Ana Gasteyer's "Dead End." There are also some...er...curiosities on this recording, including Charles Busch's coquettish rendition of "My Conviction," and Harvey Fierstein's (perhaps appropriately) raspy version of "Air."
I have at least a half dozen more recordings of Hair in my collection, including the London, Australian, German, and Israeli versions, but I was especially pleased to discover that RCA had struck a deal with ArkivMusic to offer disinHAIRited, among numerous other previously unavailable titles, as an on-demand CD release. (See my previous post about ArkivMusic's on-demand releases here.) Just seeing the admittedly drab cover (see left) of this release takes me back to my days of scouring used record stores for cast recordings on LP, and coming across this quirky album in a dusty bin in some Harvard Square basement-level shop.
The album disinHAIRited features a raft of songs that were cut from both the original Off-Broadway and Broadway versions of Hair. Some of the songs wound up making their way back into the show, but not onto the Broadway cast recording, including "I'm Hung" and "The Bed." The recording also features alternate versions of some numbers that did wind up on the Broadway recording, including "Electric Blues," "Going Down," and "Dead End."
This new release offers a fascinating glimpse at the development of the show, along with cautionary revelations of the pretension and earnestness that could easily have enveloped the show had it not been for the guiding hand of original Broadway director, Tom O'Horgan. Most of the good stuff on this album resides in the aforementioned reinstated material, but there are some unearthed gems as well, including "Mr Berger" and "Manhattan Beggar." The main attraction here is Galt MacDermot's urgent, tuneful, and compelling music, although it's often paired with subpar James Rado/Gerome Ragni lyrics. But there are touches of poetry and inspiration in even the most self-consciously psychedelic and repetitive of the pair's words.