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Jeff Wayne - Spartacus CD (album) cover

SPARTACUS

Jeff Wayne

 

Crossover Prog

1.56 | 15 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Featuring Catherine Zeta Jones on vocals

For the follow up to "War of the Worlds", Jeff Wayne brought together once again many of the same ingredients. Talented performers, orchestration, and a strong storyline (in this case the story of Spartacus from the epic film of the same name) all indicated that this would be another fine album.

It is then, all the more surprising that this such a disappointing album. The main problem here is in the quality of the compositions. There is a real dearth of strong melodies, and the performances themselves can be best described as average. Perhaps it was the fact that unlike "War of the Worlds", the performers here, while highly competent, were not "stars". It's only speculation, but perhaps Wayne did not get the expert feedback from the performers this time which he enjoyed previously, and thus the quality control was compromised.

A quick examination of the list of performers reveals that the rock orientated musicians who dominated WOTW are largely missing, to be replaced by generally lesser known performers with dance music backgrounds. Ladysmith Black Mambazo play the part of the "crowd" giving the album a significant "world music" feel. Only Manfred Mann's Earth Band's Chris Thompson remains from the WOTW guest singers. If that's not concerning enough(!), the lead female role is sung (yes sung) and narrated by Catherine Zeta Jones! At the time, she was not nearly as well known as she is these days. To be fair, Jones is actually a pretty good singer in a stage show context, and the album does have the feel of a Lloyd-Webber/Rice musical, rather than a rock extravaganza. On the plus side, Fish (ex-Marillion) also appears, albeit briefly.

The tracks are lengthy but rather drawn out, with too little variety, and some sections become downright boring. The peculiar mixture of dance, world music, orchestration, story telling, stage show and a small amount of rock do not sit particularly well together resulting in a disjointed and unsatisfying mix.

The narration is shared by Anthony Hopkins and CZJ, and while the album tells the story well, it can become a bit tedious. It has to be said too, that while the film was undoubtedly a classic, the story has not transferred well to the audio only medium.

"Spartacus" may appeal to someone who enjoys all the diverse influences include in it. Unfortunately, for me those influences have not been put together in a coherent and enjoyable format, and when seen as a whole, the album fails to inspire. Indeed, inspiration appears to largely lacking from the project as a whole.

The lavish presentation of "War of the Worlds" is continued here, with a well presented booklet and box.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |

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