Freddie Matthews writes from London: I first reported on the all-new The War of The Worlds on this website back in September and finally it’s here in its full glory to pleasure our minds and ears alike.
Actor Liam Neeson leads the cast of the updated Jeff Wayne’s The Musical Version of The War of The Worlds, some 33 years after it was first released on 9 June 1979. Take That front man Gary Barlow is The Sung Thoughts of The Journalist – performing two of the hit production’s most infamous songs, Forever Autumn and The Eve of the War. Maverick Sabre plays Parson Nathaniel (originally Phil Lynott), Joss Stone is Beth Nathaniel, Ricky Wilson is The Artilleryman, and The Voice of Humanity is Alex Clare. Other names associated with the tour are: Jason Donovan, Marti Pellow, Keri Ellis and Will Stapleton, although these performers aren’t included on this – the brand new double cd spectacular.
Totally irrelevant but did you know that in 1984 there was even a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, War Of The Worlds video game, or so computer games were called back in the early 80s. I’d imagine the 8-bit, 16kB of memory didn’t do much if anything for the graphics.
If you’re a hardened fan of the original, as I am, you will enjoy this The New Generation version in places; although I found myself scrambling for the original to put my mind at rest. The New Generation version brings a whole plethora of new ideas, sounds and samples, narration and lyrics but what’s very important here is that the Martians still sound exactly the same. The more I listen the better it gets.
Liam Neeson’s narration isn’t as authoritative and powerful as the original Richard Burton performance. At times he seems to be too quiet and I struggled to tell what he was saying some of the time. I like the new synthesizer effects. There are some very clever new ideas such as when the narrator avoids the laser fire by jumping into the water. The music at that time becomes muted and muffled as if we are actually there under the water with him. That’s a brilliant touch.
My disappointments are mostly the new characters and I’m afraid Irish singer Maverick Sabre does absolutely nothing for me as Parson Nathaniel. Where’s the emotion? It sounds as if he’s just singing a song instead of acting out the part within the performance. There’s absolutely no comparison to Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott on the original. This is a real shame as his vocal ruins what is a promising remake for me. However, if you’re coming to this WOTW New Generation without prior knowledge of the first version, there will be no comparison to worry about. I’ve never been a Joss Stone fan but her vocal as Beth, Parson Nathaniel’s wife is incredible. You honestly won’t recognise her.
War of The Worlds, originally a novel by H.G. Wells, was written in 1895-97. It’s one of the earliest novels to detail a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race. 69-year-old Jeff Wayne, originally an advertising jingle producer, created his Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds based upon the original book in 1978-79 and former Elton John lyricist Gary Osbourne wrote most of the lyrics on the original album. The long-running musical was first recorded by Jeff Wayne in 1978 and spent more than 330 weeks in the charts. It reached number one in 11 countries and sold more than 15 million copies.
Jeff Wayne’s production went on to win two Ivor Novello awards for Best Recording and Best Science Fiction and Fantasy and it wasn’t until 2006 that a stage show to tour the world was produced.
Jeff Wayne has accomplished a feat that many a composer dreams about. He’s taken his original musical and updated it, in all the right places, for a whole new generation.
There will always be pluses and minuses, especially if you know the first version; but that said Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds ‘The New Generation’ has been given a whole new lease of life for another 30 years. It’s out of this world.