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Jeff Wayne - The War Of The Worlds CD (album) cover

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS

Jeff Wayne

 

Crossover Prog

3.93 | 147 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars "This was no disciplined march, it was a stampede, without order and without a goal, six million people unarmed and unprovisioned, driving headlong. It was the beginning of the rout of civilization, of the massacre of mankind...."

I bought "The War of the Worlds" as a teen in the 80s as it was definitely on my wish list for years. I remember first putting this vinyl album on and I was hooked from the very first deep toned serious words of Richard Burton "No one would have believed" to the ominous 3 chord strings that blasted out of the speakers. The vinyl double album was a treasure and I pored over the cover illustration and of course the lavishly illustrated booklet with full colour gloss paintings of martians creating the "the rout of civilisation" as they ploughed their way across Horsell Common in their tripod war machines. The songs on the album are all masterfully executed, the beauty of Justin Hayward on the captivating 'Forever Autumn', the mesmirising tale of despair of Phil Lynott and Julie Covington's 'The Spirit of Man' and the desperation of the insane Artillery Man in 'Brave New World' voiced wonderfully by David Essex. The quasi- disco beat sections are forgiven as they are shrouded by narration and powerful story telling elements.

The music itself with Chris Spedding's stirring lead guitar and full orchestration is ingeniuous. Jeff Wayne's arrangements are nothing short of mind bending, with powerful violin sweeps and science fiction effects used to maximum effect, including the unscrewing of the cylinder, searing heat rays, screams, cylinders falling on a house, and the martian howls. It is unnerving when Burton speaks of the martians emerging from the cylinder, their scales "glistening like wet leather, as the clumsy body heaved and pulsated." You can hear the disgust in his voice in these moments. He is also able to exude great sorrow and empathy when his beloved Carrie is gone and has an air of excitement as the Thunder Child vessel valiantly steams forward to meet the martian invaders head on. The song 'Thunder Child' is another very powerful composition on the album "Slowly it moved towards shore; then, with a deafening roar and whoosh of spray, it swung about and drove at full speed towards the waiting Martians" and some of the moments on the soundtrack are unforgettable. It is difficult to forget the war cry of the martians as they victoriously unleash their heat rays upon the helpless humans, "Ulla! Ulla!" and then Beth and the Priest fall victim to them. Beth cries out "Dear God help us!" and the Priest shouts "the voice of the devil is heard in our land!"

The lyrics of the songs are compelling and always essential as a driving force of the story. The words to 'Spirit of Man' are inspiring; "there must be something worth living for, even something worth dying for, and if one man can stand tall there must be hope for us all". The way Lynott spars off Covingtons's optimism with his own laudable pessimism is stunning. The album seems to get darker and darker as we near the end where the birds are about to tear at the hoods of the martians. The red weed is captured sonically with very doomy keyboard work. As it crawls across the land turning everything red we are able to picture its slow domination of our lush planet with those meandering synthesizers as they ooze variations of the theme. The piece segues into 'The Spirit of Man' but all hope seems lost as the story continues and the martians inject the blood of humans in to their own veins. This was certainly a creepy album in places but all the better for it as it leaves a strong impression on the listener.

Eventually the narrator meets another character that would try and coerce him in to a foolhardy plan. This becomes side 4 of the vinyl. The meeting with the Artillery Man is quite inspiring at first as the madman dreams of a new empire constructed underground so that the martians can no longer "clap eyes on us." He dreams of a world with hospitals, schools and cricket grounds built right under the martians noses, "right under their feet". He imagines capturing one of their fighting machines and then "wallop! Our turn to fight, woosh with our heat ray! Beating them at their own game. Man on top again!" Of course it is a forlorn idea and there is no way it can be done. As the narrator muses on this and walks off into the empty streets we hear the bone chilling cry of the martian but it sounds elongated and painful; "Uuu-llaa-aaaaaa!" the narrator resolves to give himself over to the martians as he can no longer live without his beloved Carrie and knowing the earth belonged to the martians. But, the martians are doomed, as H G Well's story always boasts, destroyed by the tiniest microscopic life on the planet that we have all become immune to; bacteria.

There is a nice twist to the story that is unique to this version of "The War of the Worlds" and it ends the album on a bleak note, but it is a strong ending that keeps the brain waves sizzling long after the album is over. Everytime the albums ends I always want to hear it again and I know all of the songs and most dialogue so well as it has become injected into my veins in the way the martians used human blood. The album really impacted me during the 80s and I believe it to be an indispensable milestone in conceptual albums.

I must have heard this album hundreds of times on vinyl. I played it morning, noon and night, often allowing it to put me to sleep as I dreamt of martians taking over the planet. I was always into science fiction and this music fuelled my interest. Since then of course, the album became a stage musical and I was privileged to see Justin Hayward reprise his role as Olgivy along with Chris Thompson's 'Thunder Child'. It is a masterpiece album without a doubt and one of my fondest childhood memories. Hearing it again on remastered CD enhances the original experience and this is an absolute treasure in any format.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |

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