After seeing the wonderful new Broadway production of Hair, I spent a brief period of boredom just randomly searching some obscure Hair cast recordings via Yahoo! and iTunes. Amid my ennui I stumbled upon a recent CD reissue of DisinHAIRITED, the “sequel” to the original Broadway cast recording, recorded by the Broadway cast in November 1969 and released soon after. It’s available through arkivmusic.com and downloadable in MP3 format on both iTunes and Amazon.
If you’ve never heard of DisinHAIRited, here’s a (hopefully!) brief synopsis. In late 1969, the current Broadway cast of Hair, along with authors Gerry Ragni, Jim Rado, and Galt MacDermot, recorded a collection of songs that either were in Hair but didn’t make the Broadway cast recording for various reasons (such as “Electric Blues” and “Going Down”), songs that were once in the show but dropped when it reached Broadway (including “Exanaplanatooch” and “The Climax”), and some songs that were not really songs used in the show but dialog from the show set to music (such as “I’m Hung” and “I Dig”). Unlike the original Broadway cast recording, this album wasn’t a rush job, and as a result sounds much more like a raw rock’n'roll record than the Broadway cast recording was, and more than likely is closer to how the songs actually sounded when performed on stage. The album was released at the tail-end of 1969 and has been out of print since, although it’s a fairly easy album to find in used record stores and eBay for pretty cheap. I always enjoyed this album, especially as Gerry Ragni’s voice wasn’t nearly as whiny and tinny as it had been on the Broadway and off-Broadway cast recordings, but much more manly, and the songs that I am familiar with are often offered with interesting twists and interpretations, especially “The Bed,” which normally raucous on stage is performed very quietly, almost as a lullaby, on DisinHAIRited.
So…about the new CD reissue…I must say the artwork and liners are very disappointing. The original vinyl release was in a gatefold cover that opened vertically (like Off The Wall, Pacific Ocean Blue, and Frampton Comes Alive), and if you looked closely at the opened gatefold, you’d notice that the two Indians on the cover are sitting on a jetliner. Unfortunately, the two pictures of the album cover included in the CD — in the liner notes and under the clear CD tray — are cropped so that you only see the folded version. I feel bad for Jim and Gerry, who designed the cover, as it was a pretty creative design, especially with the album’s title and composers spelled out in a style reminiscent of ransom notes. It pains me that arkivmusic.com couldn’t include a complete picture of the cover, yet there were two new (uncaptioned) pictures that weren’t in any prior release of the album.
The original liner notes from Nat Shapiro are reproduced pretty much in full, albeit with at least one typo. Missing, however, is the centerfold picture of the cast, nude (sort of!) and holding hands, along with each of the cast’s three-word descriptions of themselves. I also noticed how the verbiage about the album being recorded “in the spirit of communism” meant that all of the cast would share the profits equally was painfully absent; I guess the members of the cast (or, sadly, in some cases, the estates of some members of the cast) will not get any of the profits.
But it’s all about the music, right? arkivmusic.com says that the CD was sourced from the original master tapes. Great, I’m thinking, because since I first found the album in 1990, I was limited to different copies on vinyl, each in various degree of wear and tear. It turns out that the surface noise that opens many of the songs on my cleanest vinyl copy isn’t surface noise at all — it’s present on the CD reissue. So either there are glitches in the actual master tape, or they happened to master the CD from my vinyl copy. (Which wouldn’t be out of the question — I did send my vinyl copy to someone years ago to put on a CD for me, before I had the technology to do it myself.) The EQ leaves much to be desired — too much middle and bass, not enough treble. I guess one of the only sonic improvements on the CD would be that I actually could hear more percussion instruments in “So Sing The Children On The Avenue” than I ever heard on my cleanest vinyl copy. Also, the original vinyl pressing, there was a severe tape slowdown during part of “The Bed,” in which it’s obvious that the line “Find your cock in bed” was censored in post-production to “Find your sock in bed.” While the CD reissue doesn’t fully correct the problem, it is much less noticeable.
Overall, the CD reissue of DisinHAIRited is a let-down. The album artwork is not reproduced in full — including the full cover shot — and the sound just doesn’t cut it. But considering the relatively small audience that must exist for DisinHAIRited, I shouldn’t be surprised.
History has shown that the RCA albums do get a CD reissue. Both the off-Broadway and Broadway cast recordings are available on CD as a single package. The movie soundtrack, also an RCA album, has been issued on CD numerous times. Even the 1970 Tokyo cast recording had a (very limited) CD release. After DisinHAIRited, if my count is accurate, the only remaining RCA cast recording of Hair that hasn’t been released on CD yet is Divine Hair / Mass In F from 1971. If the day comes that this album is released on CD, and if it’s done right, it will be worth the cost of the whole CD just to hear Robin McNamara’s haunting reading of “Where Do I Go.” Let’s just hope they do it a lot better than arkivmusic.com did with DisinHAIRited.