CD: Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds - The New Generation | New music reviews, news & interviews
CD: Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds - The New Generation
The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, they said. But twice?
No one would have believed in the last years of the 1970s that human taste was for concept double albums based on novels by HG Wells about invading Martians. No one could have dreamed that the era which spawned shouty gobshites in skinny trousers would also find house room for the alien union between late Victorian science fiction and pompous orchestral pop. Yet, across the gulf of time we can confirm that this did indeed happen. And much as they did in the flash-forward conclusion to the original album, the Martians are invading all over again.
Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds, many of a certain age will no doubt not admit to recalling, featured Richard Burton and that other noted thespian Phil Lynott plus various recording artistes from the very epicentre of the middle of the road. The reprise – because, yes, it really is happening – finds Liam Neeson replacing Burton on narrative duties (and appearing as a 3D hologram in the forthcoming jumbo arena tour). In place of Justin Hayward to sing “Forever Autumn” in comes knight in white man-made fabric Gary Barlow. And ooh look, to play Wells’s sundry characters they’ve got Ricky Wilson from Kaiser Chiefs (“Brave New World”) and Joss Stone (“The Spirit of Man”). They’re better at singing than acting. But you knew that.
The notion of a prog rock bedtime story is, if anything, even weirder now than then, when pop music and musical theatre were still eyeing each other suspiciously. And just as monumentally boring, unless one happens to be channelling one’s inner adolescent. The arrangements have spent a lot longer in the lab being souped up by boffins in white coats, but otherwise not much has changed. Guitars yowl. Strings exude self-importance. The chugging beat of Wayne’s musical narration remains gruellingly earnest. And the Martians are still felled by bacteria. Hello, 1978, you always were the decade's dodgiest year what with “Mull of Kintyre” and the Winter of Discontent and this. It’s like stepping into a time machine. All very HG Wells.
- Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds - The New Generation is on tour from 1 to 19 December
Share this article
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more New music
Drum & bass don returns with an album whose quality improves as it progresses
Muscular blues-rock debut from Brighton duo
A still-challenging artefact from art-punk provocateurs
A soft delivery and deceptively conversational tone hide a powerful writer
Manic Street Preachers, Janelle Monáe and a past that’s always present at Finland’s memorable urban festival
One of the year’s prettiest albums from the quirky German-American
Long-lost indie prophets pop up to reward the faithful
Sparse compositions from Finnish songwriter's haunted pen
A multi-sensory experience, celebrating wild behaviour outdoors as much as the arts
A banquet of exquisitely related misery from undersung London outfit
Songs from the new album hold their own against the back catalogue
The critic's darling talks Birmingham, fame, books and why she's re-recorded her debut album