Two albums to listen to: a classic broadway production and a debut for a rap trio

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Editor’s note: In this recurring column, music writer Chris Duncan suggests two albums to listen to this week. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @chr_dunc, and your pick might appear in next week’s article.

West Side Story — Original Broadway Cast

“West Side Story,” which originally debuted in 1957, not only reinvented dance patterns in Broadway musicals for decades to come, but it also helped revolutionize Broadway scores. The score for the play, also called West Side Story, incorporated up-tempo energy with Bernstein’s classical sensibility, which Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal orchestrated with direction from Leonard Bernstein.

Stephen Sondheim, a relatively unknown composer at the time, attempted and succeeded at creating a modern, fresh interpretation of this Romeo and Juliet-esque musical. His incorporation of common slang amongst blue collar New Yorkers often pushed the limits of what could be said on a Broadway stage during the 1950s.

This musical is a dance production above anything else, so only a small portion of its genius can be appreciated through a soundtrack. Yet the original Broadway recording, featuring Larry Kent as Tony and Carol Lawrence as Maria, is more than enough to understand West Side Story’s importance to Broadway.

Tracks to listen to: “Something’s Coming,” “Maria,” “Tonight”

 

Live from the Dentist Office — Injury Reserve

Injury Reserve’s debut album, Live from the Dentist Office, is an exploration of what it means to work collaboratively rather than a loose association, revitalizing what it means to be a rap group.

The trio’s producer, Parker Cory, pulls off each beat with surprising ease. Ritchie with a T and Steppa J Groggs don’t take themselves too seriously, creating a jazzy feel with their lyrical flow and delivery. Both use humor to address their problems, such as when Ritchie says he’s confused that people love him in live performances but aren’t surprised when they see him the next day working at Foot Locker.

Outkast and Kanye West’s influence on this record is glaring and sometimes a bit corny, but, by ignoring a few minor slip-ups, Live From the Dentist Office could be the debut album of the year.

Tracks to listen to: “Yo,” “Whatever Dude,” “ttktv”