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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Jesus Christ Superstar CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)


Various Genres

4.21 | 176 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid - John 19:41.

One of the first prog rock operas is also one of the greatest with stirring vocal performances all round and stunning musicianship. It captures an early 70s sound and features some of the best vocalists at the time. Although there have been many versions over the years the 1970 version is the most progressive utilising prog artists and very progressive music. Murray Head is a fabulous presence as Judas Iscariot and the unmistakeable rasping vocals of Ian Gillan are incredible as Jesus Christ. Yvonne Elliman is beautiful as Mary Magdalene on songs such as the memorable melodic 'Everything's Alright'.

Other artists featuring including Victor Brox as Caiaphas, Brian Keith as Annas, John Gustafson as Simon Zealotes, and Barry Dennen as Pontius Pilate. The appearance of Paul Raven, better known as glam rocker Gary Glitter, as the Priest is an iconic performance.

There is a story that is followed based on the Biblical gospels, where Jesus healed and taught the thousands and led his 12 disciples changing the world. The album captures some of the Bible and it climaxes with the trial of Christ and subsequent crucifixion.

There are some fantastic performances throughout. The 'Overture' is majestic opener mixing orchestrating strings with prog rock time sig changes and riffing guitars. This along with 'Heaven on their Minds' is a titanic start with awesome guitar riffs, and powerhouse vocals from Murray Head. 'Whats the buzz' ("tell me what's happening") is a song about people wanting to know about the future. "Why should you want to know, why are you obsessed with fighting?" The style reminds me of "Hair" that came out around the same time.

This is followed by 'Strange Thing Happening' which is a moderate song with eclectic heavy guitar and a strong progressive time change. The musical arrangements are compelling and there is never a dull moment on the album. 'Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem' is a rocking brassy piece with accomplished harmonies in the chorus. It segues straight into the acoustically driven dreamy 'Pilate's Dream'. The Ian Gillan led 'The Temple' is a definitive highlight. There are many time sig shifts and Gillan screaming up a storm make this one to seek out for Deep Purple fans. By this time the album has hooked me in and I am drawn to the well known story of Christ's 3 year

One of the showstoppers is Elliman's version of 'I Don't know How To Love Him', a song which has become a stage standout every time the opera is performed. Her voice is easier to take than Helen Reddy or others that followed in endless cover versions. Andrew Lloyd Webber's arrangement is nothing short of genius and he has made a name for himself with these types of rock operas.

'Damned for all time' features an excellent fuzz guitar intro and chiming flutes. It breaks into a fast tempo with tons of brass and Murray Head's emotional vocals. Chris Mercer's tenor sax on this is divine and the way that the time sig breaks with various parts montaging together to tell a potent part of the story on 'Blood Money'. The music gets darker in this number segueing into the awesome powerful 'The Last Supper' where Judas betrays Jesus. Ian Gillan is towering on this and 'Gethsemane ( I Only Want To Say)', better than Ted Neeley replacing him in the movie version, and he sings beautifully phrases such as "I want to know, why should I die, can you show me now that I should not be killed in vain, see how I die." As Jesus contemplates this and weeps blood in the garden the Romans are on their way and Judas betrays Christ with a kiss.

'The Arrest/ Peter's Denial' leads to the terrific duet between Gillan and Dennen on 'Pilate and Christ'. The slow measured dramatic music is dominated by electric organ and woodwind. This is followed by a humorous piece sung by Mike d'Abo, the quasi-rocking 40s throwback 'King Herod's Song'. It sounds like the Chicago show tune 'Mr Cellophane' and features serious content but sung in a jester-like manner; "aren't you scared of me Christ, mr. wonderful Christ, you're a joke you're not the Lord, take him away he's got nothing to say, get out you king of the Jews." Not a bad version but Alice Cooper performed an incredible version of this in 1996.

This leads to the rock out guitar heavy 'Judas Death, then the ominous 'Trial Before Pilate (Including the 39 Lashes)', the well known radio favourite 'Superstar' and finally the apocalyptic sounds of 'Crucifixion'. 'Superstar' was famous and certainly is recognizable on all versions of the rock opera. The chorus have a commanding harmony and lift the music to a crescendo. It is a stirring song that has an infectious chorus. The closer of the album is 'John 19:41' which ends it on a powerful uplifting note. This is an amazing rock opera akin to "Tommy" and never preaches but simply presents incredible music to the greatest story ever told.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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