Boy oh boy do i have to disagree... i love/hate this old movie for all its intense corniness and it is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. i have seen it more times than i could count... i have a fascination with Al Capp that is filled with simultaneous revulsion. i can't exactly explain it but the cheap, flat-footedness of the movie captures it for me. I almost wouldn't want to see it look better, (which I'm sure it could have).
As for the soundtracks, i can't vouch for the orchestration, (i don't have a great ear for that sort of thing) but i have to prefer the vocalizations of Imogene Lynne (overdubbing the gorgeous Leslie Parrish) as "Daisy Mae" way way WAY over the horrible hoarse croaking of Edie Adams in the Broadway one. Given that the rest of the main characters (with the execption of "Mammy Yokum") are right off the stage version, i don't see what much difference it makes. i wish like crazy there was a CD of the movie--"I'm Past My Prime" is wonderful. Compare those two tracks back to back and get back to me.
Will is right that Edie Adams was disappointing on the original Broadway album. She was actually a terrific singer, better than she usually got to show in her Broadway and TV appearances -- Leonard Bernstein wrote a coloratura part for her in Wonderful Town that she tossed off effortlessly, but which everyone else who has played the part of Eileen has pretty much crashed and burned on. But by her own admission she didn't like the part of Daisy Mae as written in the show (it's not much of a part, she was right about that) and she isn't in good voice on the cast album.
Which brings up a sticky point about Broadway cast recordings in general: a lot of them have the singers in poor or tired voice. This is because of the way they were recorded. Because of a combination of two factors, union rates and the need to get the album out as quickly as possible, most Broadway cast albums are recorded in one marathon session on the first Sunday after the opening. The producer can and does try his best to schedule the recording in such a way as to make sure that each performer gets some rest between numbers (and the overture is usually recorded last, after the singers have gone home). But you've got performers who've been rehearsing for a long time, have just gotten through the difficulty of opening the show, and will soon go back and do more stage performances. And you're asking them to record, for posterity (tm), all their musical numbers from the show in one day. It's a wonder that these albums don't sound worse than they do.
Now, here's the thing: I like the way Broadway albums sound. And I think a lot of Broadway buffs do too. Yes, the performers sometimes sound hoarse. Yes, there are mistakes that the producer doesn't have time to correct. (On the Li'l Abner album, in "Put 'Em Back," you can hear one of the girls start to sing at the wrong time; it was left in because there wasn't time for a re-take.) Yes, the style of these albums is relentlessly loud, brash and driving. But all that kind of describes a Broadway show as well. And there's something exhilarating in the intensity that performers bring to a cast recording, when they don't really know for sure if the show will last and they've spent an immense amount of time and energy getting it to this point. That's why the original cast recording of My Fair Lady, recorded a week after the premiere when it was only just starting to sink in that they were a smash hit, has a vitality that was never replicated on any other recording.
Broadway cast recordings are raw and kind of desperate; they contradict the stereotype of Broadway musicals as over-polished, over-careful. And by comparison, movie soundtrack albums just seem too slick. This is also why I prefer the rougher orchestrations of Broadway shows to the lush big-orchestra sound that most of these movies (not Li'l Abner) were treated to in the movies. Rodgers and Hammerstein just sound less syrupy with canny use of a relatively small orchestra, than with Alfred Newman's over-use of a huge orchestra.