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Guys & Dolls

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Album Review

The first Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls, which opened on July 21, 1976, was an all-black version starring Robert Guillaume as Nathan Detroit. It was generally well received by critics and enjoyed a modest run, but at a time when cast albums were not selling well it did not attract the attention of record companies until Motown, a newcomer to the field, decided to take a chance and record it on November 8, 1976. It turned out that this was a production that worked better onstage than it did on record. James Randolph as Sky Masterson, Norma Donaldson as Adelaide, and Ernestine Jackson as Sarah Brown all exhibited good voices and performed well. (The role of Nathan Detroit doesn't actually have much singing to test Guillaume.) But the change in ethnicity necessitated occasional lyric alterations, which offended fans of songwriter Frank Loesser, and the updated arrangements of Danny Holgate and Horace Ott did not improve upon the originals, especially when they ventured into disco territory with "I've Never Been in Love Before," a style that sounded out of place at the time and ridiculous in later years. Given the cast, the gospel-styled "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat" was a natural showstopper, and it was given its own extended coda onstage, but to fit that in on the LP, producer William Goldstein opted to edit the song itself, an unfortunate decision. One of Broadway's best-made scores, the music for Guys and Dolls simply does not reward tinkering, even if that tinkering made an individual production work better in the theater.

Customer Reviews

Best Version of Guys and Dolls Ever Recorded

I have loved musicals my whole life, but I've never really liked Guys and Dolls. Every recording I've ever heard sits so....flat. The songs are jaunty and funny and well written, but no one seems to be able to bring them to life (and don't even get me started about the movie with Marlon Brando--good LORD). Except for this version. This is a recording of the all-black version of Guys and Dolls from the 1970s and it is AMAZING. The songs come alive, all tinged with a mixture of old Broadway, Motwoan, jazz, and a real raise the roof gospel version of Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat. Robert Guillaume is amazing--I never realized he could sing. After being deeply disappointed in the album from the Guys and Dolls revival featuring Nathan Lane (the songs are all paced exactly the way--too fast--and utterly without personality or passion. There has never been a more lifeless Sarah). There is really no better version!


There are at least eight soundtracks to Guys and Dolls on iTunes. This is the only decent one. This is an all-black version of the amazing musical. I found this while looking for a decent version of A Bushel and A Peck. Most of the other versions I found had a high, squeaky quality that I didn't really like. But this one... damn! And That's nothing compared to If I Were A Bell. Seriously, buy this album. The only other good version I've managed to find is the London Theatre one (although I usually hate them).


I ordered this version accidentally, meaning to order the later Nathan Lane version. Well, it was my mistake, so I put it on to listen. The Overture began, and there was a wah-wah guitar part and a disco beat! This was a bad idea in the 70's, and sounds even worse now. It's a very traditional Broadway type of score, and "updating" it by pasting on non-period instrumentation just creates a clash of styles.

And, on top of the "seventies-ification" of the tunes, the singers are frequently flat on I'll Know, which takes a mediocre arrangement and ruins it.

I like the idea of making it an all-black show, but the outdated Lou Rawls singing is just awkward.

I still give it two stars, because some of it is good---but I'd recommend other versions over this. I'll be ordering a different one myself. Luckily I bought a used CD version of this--maybe I can resell it and earn part of the cost back.

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