Belle's Domain
Starlight Express

Ever wondered what recordings of Starlight Express are available? No? Well, here's the various recordings anyway!

The Original London Cast - 1984.
This 2 CD recording is essential for all Starlight fans to know where the show came from! However, as cast recordings of a show go, it's not exactly perfect... about 1/3 of the stage show is missing, and sometimes the cuts aren't obvious. For example it sounds like Poppa's "Only believe son, the Starlight Express will help you..." is the introduction to "Starlight Express". In fact, race heats 2 and 3, the scene where Poppa takes Dustin, and Laughing Stock is all cut from there... but it's one track on the CD and blends very smoothly. Sounds good to listen to, but makes no sense! This was because it was originally released on record, so each act was trimmed down to fit on LP.
Also, various tracks are not the stage versions - "He Whistled At Me", "AC/DC", "No Comeback", "Only He" are all the studio versions, recorded for single release. Lloyd Webber was desperate to repeat the chart success of "Memory" with SOMETHING from Starlight Express, but it didn't work. And for some reason, "Rolling Stock" and "Pumping Iron" are S-L-O-W! They didn't drag onstage, so why did they end up slow on the cast recording? I know not.

This recording was re-mastered in 2005, I think it was? The sound quality is notably better, I love the clarity of the piano riff in "AC/DC". It also comes in lovely packaging! Looks great autographed too, I happened to see Ray Shell in a show the day I bought mine. Pure co-incidence, but it was great to meet him and get his signature!

It's not perfect, but this recording is still amazing and gorgeous. LOVE!

"New" London - 1993

I have to confess, I can't be impartial about this recording... I HATE it. Most of the cast I dislike strongly, I don't feel they portray the characters well. Also technically, this is a very, very poor recording! I, at school level music technology, could make a better studio recording than this. Notably, in "Next Time You Fall In Love", Pearl actually sings over herself in cutting the verse and chorus together. The whole atmosphere is very dry and flat.
The song selection suggests that this album is meant as a companion to the Original London Cast. Numbers which were not significantly altered in the 1992 re-vamp, such as "Lotta Locomotion", are left off this recording. This has unfortunately led to the assumption that the number was cut from the re-vamped show. This recording is by no means a complete representation of the "New" London show. The races are tedious, and also edited down from the full live show. However - "Rolling Stock" and "Pumping Iron" sound better than the OLC!

This recording was re-packaged and sold at the Las Vegas production. The Vegas show sounded quite different, with different arrangements and song lists. Only Greg Ellis and Reva Rice, as Rusty and Pearl, were involved in both productions. That's not Greg and Reva on the CD cover, but a couple of models hired for the photoshoot.

Music and Songs from Starlight Express - 1987

The Concept Album.
This recording was released instead of a Broadway cast recording. I don't know what they were thinking - possibly Lloyd Webber still hunting chart success - but this recording has nothing to do with the Broadway production! It's a real shame a proper recording of Broadway was not made, as it was hugely changed from the London production. Each song was re-arranged and had lyric changes to make stand-along pop songs, reeking of the 1980s cheese. Some were more successful than others -"There's Me" has a lovely vibe, and "AC/DC" is very interesting sung by a woman. It's still more commonly available in the States than any cast recording, and it's a pity because it has only the slightest tangental relation to the stage show. If you like Starlight and already have cast recording, it's worth getting for curiousity's sake. But don't consider this as a recording OF Starlight Express.

Japan/Australia Tour - 1987.

This is a recording that is inescapably 1980s. It is Retro-Fabulous! Excellent cast, I'm particularly fond of Nikki Belsher's sweet, young voice as Pearl. She sounds about 13, which makes for a very naive, confused character, much more appealing than an older, self-aware Pearl. This recording is also almost exactly the German show, sung in English. Unfortunately it's out of print, and even Ebay only occasionally offers it. But if you can trace a copy, it's well worth it.

Bochum, Germany - 1988

This recording is a "Concept Album" with studio-recorded pop arrangements, rather than a live recording of the performance. However, bar "Du Allein", it is sung by the original Bochum Cast. I adore the arrangement of "Hilf Mir Verstehn", it's so pretty! It's another incredibly 80s cheese sound - not that that's necessarily a negative. However this recording was hugely over-shadowed by the next German recording.

Bochum, Germany - 1989

The complete, live show, on double CD. This recording is now multi-platinum or something, it just keeps selling! It went out of print briefly, but then they re-released in 2003 with the dynamic, action cover. It's an essential recording, as the only legal way to hear the complete show! It has a wonderful atmosphere of the live performance, full of energy and enthusiasm, even if on occasion this compromises the vocals. Even if you speak not a word of German, Starlight's not exactly hard to follow in a foreign language...

Bochum, Germany - 1991

I have to confess, I don't quite get why this recording was made. I love it, Koffi Missah as Electra is my total favourite, and this features him in fine form. But two years after a hugely successful live album, why make a studio recording? There were no significant alterations to the show (Rocky 4 had been lost by this point), and it doesn't really have anything new to say. Electra fans need this recording... anyone else, not so vital.

Bochum, Germany - 2003 "New Songs"

This recording, 12 years after the last, is essentially an EP of just the new songs. Five tracks are: Crazy, Starlight Express (not new, but you can't make a recording without it!), Allein im Licht der Sterne, Mega Mix, and the Boyband version of Starlight Express. So, actually, 3 new songs!
"Allein Im Licht" is adorable! Danni Kearsley-Wooller and Jamie Golding are possibly the cutest Pearl and Rusty combination ever, and while "Next time You Fall In Love" bugs the hell out of me in English, the German lyrics are so, so much sweeter. Jamie also sounds excellent in "Crazy", and the Megamix is so bouncy and fun. The Boyband version of Starlight Express updates the cheese factor to 21st century cheese, don't take it seriously and it's FABULOUS! It's LOLworthy. The Boyband comprises Rusty and his understudies - Jamie Golding, Richard Woodford, Pharic Scott, Anthony Kirwan, and Greg Castiglioni. They performed this number live at the 2003 Open Day, ohh, it was fabulous.

As of summer 2008, this recording is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the current German show. "Crazy" has been re-orchestrated to sound notably unlike this recording, less Motown, they've cut the do-wops. "Starlight Express" is now the London version translated into German, so the verses are very different. "Allein im licht" has been replaced by "Nur Mit Ihm", entirely different... however the Megamix is pretty much intact! I won't be surprised if there's a new German CD out soon, starring Kevin Kohler, who won the role of Rusty in a Reality TV show and is very, very good!