on July 28, 2005
I bought this CD on a whim back in the late 80's. In my early days of buying CD's, truly unique sound projects were very scarce. Only the most popular albums were being transfered to compact disc at the time.
I read a review many years earlier about a "progressive rock concept" from England. H. G. Well's classic story, "War of the Worlds" on a double LP. When I saw it on CD years later, I thought that I would go ahead and buy it. It was a brave move because a double CD of something I never heard before, was a big expense.
When I brought it home, I started to play it during the dusk of the coming evening. I remember pouring a glass of wine, sitting in the "sweet spot" of my sound room. I turned on the CD, and kicked back:
It opened with Sir Richard Burton (who is the journalist and the main narrator of the whole CD). His chilling, opening words to this H. G. Wells classic, truly set the stage for the impending doom and terror of my next 90 minutes.
The first CD really is just fantastic! The guitar licks, and the ambient, but nerving, incidental music that played in the background as Richard Burton describes what's happening before him. He puts you right there with him. You feel as if you should get up and run because the horror is unfolding right in front of you. Although, it's all just psychological, you might actually feel the heat of the space ship in the commons. Good narration can compell terror quite well. (Just like Rod Serling with the "Twilight Zone" and Robert Stack narrating the stories of "Unsolved Mysteries". A commanding voice, and the effective use of dramatic pause, can inspire terror).
For the longest time, I thought that I was the only one (in America) that has ever heard of this album. This was one of those albums that contributed to my being "proudly unhipp" for many years. Now I have friends calling me and asking me: "Is that the same "War of the Worlds" album that you told me about so many years ago?" Only now, are they interested in hearing the whole thing instead of just a few highlights.
Well, I'm glad it's available again, remastered, and being heavily promoted, along side of the new movie soundtrack.
I give this CD release a 4 star rating because I just don't like the paper digi-paks that they use to release this. CD's belong in jewel boxes. Always. Because, although, jewel boxes can get scratched up, the paperwork can stay new looking forever. Just replace the jewel box, and you have a new CD again. But these digi-paks suck. When these get tethered and worn, you're stuck with a packaging that's deteriorating in just a few years.
Anyway, check this album out. It's one of the UK's biggest selling albums. If you like the narrator concept of music and story, check out Rick Wakeman's "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" (1974), and also, check out a double CD concept called "Closed on Account of Rabies: Poems and Tales from Edgar Allan Poe". That's a gathering of various celebrities telling Edgar Allan Poe stories. (Marianne Faithful, Christopher Walken, Dr. John, Iggy Pop, Diamanda Galas, etc.) Really cool, chilling stuff.
I hesitated before spending over a hundred bucks on the collector's edition of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds. There's a two-disc version of the CD that's a whole lot less; surely I could put the "collectors" money into something else?
But as they say, you never regret your luxuries.
I should state up front that this music has special meaning for me. In 1979, when I met my husband, he had a tape of this album in the car -- back in the days when we all took the time to tape our vinyl albums! -- so I strongly associate it with our first days together, driving around Clearwater Florida and getting to know one another. I think I'd love the album anyway, as I'm a sucker for melodic versions of spoken-word stories, such as Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Center of the Earth.
If you're new to the music, and are trying to get a sense of its value from Amazon's little 30-second previews, I'll simply summarize by saying that the album is very true to the original novel. One friend of mine disliked the WotW movies (all of them) because he feels the story needs to be told in Victorian England; if you feel as he does, you'll be well pleased by this version.
But you'd get that with the $20 version, which Amazon also sells. Is it worth it for the extra stuff?
Yes and No. The Yes-reasons strongly over-power the Noes, so I'm still quite happy I sprung for the expensive version.
Let's get the negatives out of the way first. I've no real interest in the "club mix" CD (in fact I haven't even listened to it yet); to me, this album is about melodies and story-telling, not dancing. The two CDs of out-takes and variations (such as some of the narration from a German version) are interesting, but they're inherently "listen once" items. There's nothing wrong with these, but nothing compelling either.
On the other hand... I really enjoyed the Making-Of DVD. It could have been a sappy, self-congratulatory indulgence on the part of Jeff Wayne, but the video escapes that trap. He (and others) explain how the album came about; the business and people negotiations; and particularly the artistic and creative efforts. I'm not a musician, but I really enjoyed Jeff Wayne's demonstrations of constructing the musical themes for the heat ray and so on.
Plus, the printed material is simply beautiful. Some of it was in the original vinyl album (I still do own it!), but the photos, script, and other stuff is really enjoyable. I haven't had the chance to read it all the way through, but I'm trying to spread out the pleasure.
If you're unsure which version to get... go ahead and get this one. I don't think you'll regret it.
on September 20, 2000
I first discovered this masterpiece over 20 years ago in a record store and thought its cover was quite unique. Started playing it and my family sat in and listened as well. The music was quite haunting especially "Forever Autumn". Needless to say WOTW was played a great deal. Fast forward to this past July, I again found the CD in a Book/Record store and immediately purchased it. The young man who worked at the cash register was quite impressed with the names behind WOTW's production. I encouraged him to buy a copy and listen seriously. Two days later my sister, her seven-year-old daughter and I were on a 2-hour road trip to participate a 5K race. What better way to pump ourselves up than to "imagine" the Martians chasing us!
Hearing the opening lines of "Thunder Child" brought tears to my eyes. You cannot help but imagine seeing the tripod figures striding through the Thames bearing down upon a lone ironclad vessel which had no hope of winning such an ill balanced battle. This is a wonderful CD. I highly recommend it to everyone.
on July 5, 2005
A double album *rock musical* version of H.G. Wells' sci-fi classic, "The War Of The Worlds"? Many people would laugh at such an idea. But in 1978, musician/songwriter/producer Jeff Wayne actually did it, and created one of rock's most supreme concept albums. Although the album has always been much more popular in Britain and other parts of Europe (even having a multi-year UK album-chart run rivaling Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon"), it nonetheless has a strong cult following here in North America, myself proudly included. I first became aware of the "War Of The Worlds" album sometime in the late 80's, when I discovered that Justin Hayward, the lead singer for The Moody Blues (one of my all-time favorite bands) was singing on it. Curious, I picked up a vinyl copy of the album at a used record store, dropped the needle on Side One, and I was instantly hooked. I'd never heard anything like it before. The way the Martian-invasion narrative is brilliantly sustained from beginning to end, and, of course, Jeff Wayne's incredible music score that matches it. And, completing the "War Of The Worlds" package, there's the elaborate artwork that accompanies & illustrates the album---simply marvelous to look at. No question about it, "The War Of The Worlds" is quite an acheivement. Nearly three decades later after it's initial release, the album still sounds just as fresh & exciting now as it did back then. Besides the legendary, commanding voice of Richard Burton as the album's narrator, Jeff Wayne's stunning music rocks ("Horsell Common & The Heat Ray"), rouses ("Brave New World"), has incredible beauty ("Forever Autumn"), and, at turns, is effectively eerie ("The Red Weed"). The musicianship that Wayne has ensembled for the album is first-rate, from great singers like Justin Hayward, David Essex, Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott & Julie Covington, to incredible musicians like Jo Partridge, Herbie Flowers, Chris Spedding, and Jeff Wayne himself. The album has amazing moods, atmospherics & sound effects, and the surprise twist at the album's end still gives me goosebumps to this day! There's no doubt in my mind that H.G. Wells himself would've been very happy indeed with this powerful musical treatment of his story. Although Jeff Wayne's "War Of The Worlds" has never been staged, I was very fortunately blessed to see a Laserium presentation of the album at the London Planetarium back in July of 1990. They presented the *whole* double album, complete with lasers, slides, & pyrotechnics. There was even an intermission after Side Two! It was a truly spellbinding show, and a great tribute to the album's timeless appeal. The point of mentioning it is that Jeff Wayne's "War Of The Worlds" succeeds not only as a rock album, but as a storytelling album that lends itself quite well to visual presentation. I can easily see a touring "rock concert" presentation of "War Of The Worlds" someday, complete with rock band & orchestra, singers, slides, lasers & pyrotechnics. Maybe Jeff Wayne could try to hook up with someone in the theater world and mount such a production? One can dream....In the meantime, buy the CD, and discover for yourself what all the fuss is about. Jeff Wayne's "War Of The Worlds" is truly a rock musical masterwork. (NOTE: This is a slightly-revised version of the review I wrote for "The War Of The Worlds" five years ago, as the old CD version is now out-of-print. But I stand by every word of it, 'cause I love this album. Thanks.)
on July 8, 2005
I was really anxious to hear this since it has been a favorite of mine for many years. I have to tell you that what I heard justified the existence of the SACD format. It is just incredible listening to this music in SACD Multichannel 5.1. Not only does the music hit you from all angles, I hear things in the new mix, nuances, that I have never heard before after at least 50 previous listenings on regular CD. And the new things I hear make this outstanding album even better! Wow!
on April 16, 2000
By pure chance I first heard the song "Eve of the War" some 20 years ago on German television where they happen to use it as background music to the testcard at some time during the day. It was nothing but a coincidence. Since then, I have never managed to rid myself of the enchanting music and lyrics. When I finally bought the album (in the good old ddays of vinyl) friends and I often gathered just to listen to it over a couple of bottles of wine. Although to those who know the original book by H G Wells, Jeff Wayne's adaptation may be a little disappointing, one has to bear in mind that, after all, it is an "adaptation" and that Jeff Wayne did superbly well. Not only do the lyrics catch the main and most important aspects of the original book but the accompanying music underlines the moods of the respective parts of the story extremely well. The best example is the music of "The Eve of the War" which, with its upbeat tone, almost ensures that there is hardly any possibility at all of live on Mars. This, of course, is contrasted by the almost surreal "The Red Weed" when Earth is under the rule of the Martians. It can honestly said that it is one of the best musical adaptations of literature I have ever come across which is of course helped by the fact that no other than the late but unforgotten Richard Burton reads the part of the journalists. David Essex, Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott, Chris Thompson, Julie Covington provide the voices to the songs and are extremely good. Once you have listened to it and then read the book (again?) you will always have the music in your ear. Unforgettable!
on March 31, 2012
"War of the Worlds", arguably the greatest sci-fi work ever, evolved from H.G. Wells' original book to Orson Welles' legendary radio play over time. But a rock opera? That's what a brilliant young US-born British composer named Jeff Wayne created over three decades ago. It's sold over 15 million albums over the years but almost none in America. This impressive double CD gives everyone a chance to hear a true masterpiece, just discovered by this writer a few days ago.
"TWOTW" combines classical/progressive rock with dramatic narration by the late and legendary Richard Burton. Some of the best British artists and musicians ever, most notably Justin Hayward (Moody Blues) and David Essex, were involved in what's still a truly chilling account of those mysterious Martian machines and their aftermath. Wayne's musical influences include the Moodies, Electric Light Orchestra and Pink Floyd.
I only discovered "TWOTW" days ago after hearing excerpts on YouTube. In its entirety, it's an absolutely amazing piece. I'm sure it spooked the daylights out of the (mostly-British) young people who bought the LP back then, because it's just as effective today. Wayne and his incredible cast and ensemble do Wells (and Welles) proud.
Wayne has kept this work alive over the years as an arena-sized stage spectacular and video games. He's also working on an updated, techno recording and show with Liam Neeson as narrator. I'm sure this new edition will be just as dramatic as this classic original work. If you've never heard of "TWOTW" or are a serious sci-fi fan, which I was back in the day, you really ought to learn about this piece and, if you can, go get it. Jeff Wayne is a genius and his "TWOTW" is the best sci-fi musical (maybe the only one?) ever. Pity Americans missed out on it back in the '70s, but all those Brits and Aussies who know and love it can't be wrong!
on September 7, 2005
First I'd start off by stating that I'd actually give it 4.75/5 stars, only because it seems that some of the sounds in the 5.1 mix have been cleaned up and changed slightly from the original vinyl and have come out sounding "too clean" or slightly different.
However, overall the presentation of the package is superb with a justified return to the 12" album cover and art. The booklet inside in well presented and informative regarding everything from Jeff's War of the Worlds biography to information about HG Wells and poster and book art for the hundereds of variants that have been published since the begining of the original HG Wells story.
The actual package comes on 6 CDs and 1 DVD. The first two CDs are the Hybrid SACD, so if you don't have an SACD player, don't fret, it will still work on your CD/DVD player but you'll only get the original mix analogue tracks. If you do have a SACD player, then the CD is a real treat on SACD stereo, but particularly on 5.1 where you really feel you are in the albumn with the voices becoming especially alive and spacious.
However, as I said at the begining, one or two of the guitar effects seems to have been cleaned up too much, especially noticable in the epilogue. Still, when you hear the opening and Richard Burton's powerful voice in 96kHz 24-bit clarity it is sonic heaven!!
The DVD is also a rare treat, with Jeff talking about his life, and how he came to produce War of the Worlds and also how he got together with the artists that are on the album. You also get sneaky snippets of the CGI version of War of the Worlds that Jeff Wayne is supposed to be producing for 2007. It was intriguing to see how the album was produced, but does give some of the secrets away that you have to wipe out of your mind when listening to the album again (i.e. remember the scary moment when the lid is unscrewing - excellent sound, but must forget that it is a saucepan!!)
Disc No. 3 is a collection of Remixes from 1979 to 2005 that have been made by Jeff or part of his merry men. I have to say that there are some dissapointing mixes, several which are very Euro-Techno style, but there are some jems in there none the less, just don't expect miracles.
Disc No. 4 Provides out-takes, some of which are funny, but also the original versions of Forever Autumn and some unused version of songs, or early versions, which are interesting to hear the development and the changes that went into making the final edit of the War of the Worlds albumn.
Disc No. 5 has again more out-takes and interesting alternatives mainly covering "The Spirit of Man".
Finally we have Disc No. 6 which has, again, some alternative versions and out-takes, but the excellent, unabridged story narrated by Richard Burton, quite a bit of which doesn't get into the final albumn but is none the less excellent to listen to.
Overall an excellent package, and one of the best collectors items that I shall treasure having grown up with this albumn as a kid.
Well done Jeff Wayne, highly recommended, especially if you are a fan of the original 12" albumn.
on November 13, 2007
I first heard this while sitting in a bar with some friends in Germany in 1978 while serving there in the U.S Army.
I had been a fan of the story since I was a kid of 12, which is when I first read it. So as I am sitting in a bar with friends, I hear this music playing. At first I did not pay much attention to it, but it caught my attention very quickly. The owner/bar tender was a German friend of mine, so I asked him to start it over and turn it up. I spent the next 90 min or so enthralled sitting at the bar ignoring my friends. I was totally blown away by it. The next day I went to downtown Heidelberg and walked into a local music store and bought this album. I still have it along with the CD copy I bought years later when it came out.
I have played this for many good friends and they have all loved it. On a whim I took it along with me to a romantic weekend in the mountains with my then girl friend (now my wife). The weekend turned out to be stormy with some heavy thunder. I thought this would be a perfect time for her to listen to it for the first time. So we had a few glasses of wine and I put it on. We laid back in front of the fire place and just listened. She was not familiar with the story at all, but she just listened to it with no questions. At one point during the song "thunder child" I looked over at her and she was crying. I knew this woman was the one for me.
So, this album has a great many memory's for me, and it will always be one of my favorites!
This is one of those lesser known albums here in the U.S. But if you love a good story set to some great music, this is the one to buy. And then you to can become one of the lucky few who has had the pleasure to listen to one of the greatest story's ever written, to the sound of beautiful and stirring music.
on January 22, 2006
Over 25 years ago, I received the 12" double vinyl LP version of "Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds" as a gift from my brother (a Moody Blues fan), and I can say that this is one of my personal treasures. I was immediately blown away by the illustrated cover and the booklet that offered more illustrations and the biographies of all involved. Two of my all-time favorite entertainers were showcased, Welsh actor Richard Burton and Irish rock legend Phil Lynott. The music was staggering in its brilliance, and even then the music lept out of the speakers. Over the years, I reinvested several times (cassette, the "dub" cds, the previous 2cd reissue), and made this masterpiece my gift-of-choice to favorite friends and relatives until cd copies became too hard to find.
The deal with "collector's editions" is that you should get improved production and increased clarity that is noticeable to even the untrained ear; attention to detail in the packaging should then be second only to the digitally remastered sound quality on the CD's. Here, then, is a lavish, carefully assembled
set for those who basically worship the ground Jeff Wayne and his musical collaborators walk on. The 12" hardbound cover is a large size picture book, not some lump of paper wedged into a digipack, with beautiful reproductions of the original illustrations, new illustrations, and updated bios of the artists (some, including Burton and Lynott, have passed away).
If you are unfamiliar with this extremely well-conceived collection of music, you should first understand that this has to be in any serious rock library. As far as renditions (movie, musical, or written) of this H. G. Wells science fiction classic are concerned, I believe this one best conveys the very primitive yet real sense of impending doom for a self-assured species, largely due to Burton's masculine but worried narrative tone. The music is awesome, jaw-dropping, and mind-bending. The description of the spaceship's opening ("2 feet of shining screw projected, when ,suddenly, the lid fell off....a huge rounded bulk, larger than a bear, rose up slowly, glistening like wet leather...the clumsy body heaved and pulsated") set to scorching guitar riffs (before "an invisible ray of heat leapt from man to man") is my own personal highlight.
For those who know the music, this treatment of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds is like the "director's cut" of a great film you've already seen. Every fan feature imaginable is here, sounds much better than ever, and includes every alternate take, outtakes, snippets of foreign language adaptations, and even some recording room conversations. The DVD hosted by Jeff Wayne himself is the Holy Grail, and could not have been done better.
This is pure Heaven for those of us who know the music, and worth every penny. I've got to thank my little brother again for turning me on to this so many years ago.