This article is from the Theatre FAQ, by aku@leland.Stanford.EDU (Andrew Chia-Tso Ku) with numerous contributions by others.
The "original" CHESS recording is the black & white "London" CHESS.
This is the concept album, recorded when they were touring with the
show in England as a concert to raise money to stage it. They got the
money, songs became top 10 hits, and they put it on as a musical with
Michael Bennett as the director. They ended up with most of the
touring singers as the actors, so they did not record the London Cast
Album even though there were changes to the show. Michael Bennett fell
ill shortly before the show went up, and Trevor Nunn was hired. He
did not like Bennett's work, and when the show moved to Broadway he
took the opportunity to re-work the show in his own style. Likewise,
the politics of the show were updated to reflect the current
situation. The Broadway version, with a new director, new cast, plot
changes, and some songs added and dropped, was recorded as "the
Original Broadway Cast Recording". This recording has the red, white
and blue logo with the figures running. The show didn't do as well as
hoped (closing after running only a few months), so the next few
productions did more plot changes and more song re-arranging. None of
these productions has been officially recorded.
Andrew Lloyd Webber often released albums of the music in order to
gauge the reaction and raise money. JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and EVITA
were handled this way. Since Tim Rice had worked with ALW, he knew
the "Original Concept Album" was a Good Thing.
Current licensed productions of CHESS are based on the Broadway
production. Changing the show to be more like the London Concept
Album is considered a breach of copyright, and the show will be shut
down. (see archives on CHESS)