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


Jeff Wayne


Crossover Prog

3.89 | 19 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Serendipitously, 2012 saw the release of two re-recorded albums inspired by Victorian literature: Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds - The New Generation. (Right, that's it for me for titles of more than 30 characters. As of now they're "Wakeman's Journey" and "Wayne's War.")

Both albums are essentially faithful reproductions of the originals. Both insert a little additional material. Both are the bases of concert tours. Whereas Wakeman's Journey makes no concession to the under-35s in the audience, however, Wayne's War adds details which, I assume it was hoped, would make today's younger listeners feel at home.

As with Wakeman's Journey, Wayne's War was always going to be a hard sell for me. As with Journey, I stayed awake in bed with a transistor radio to listen to my local rock radio station's midnight broadcast of the original album. When I received the album as a Christmas gift, I spent a good portion of my school holidays, and subsequent holidays for years to come, with my headphones on, poring over the details of the gatefold cover and its bound-in booklet as the music pounded.

So when I heard that Jeff Wayne was re-recording the album ahead of a new stadium tour, replete with tripods, "holograms," and singers trying to act, I was prepared to hate it.

Turns out I was wrong.

The re-recorded version is essentially the same as the original, except for a few details - and those, I'm not purist enough to balk at. Yes, the sound gets a polish with the addition of contemporary dancey beats, swooshes, and synth patches. Yes, the narration is longer. Yes, the cast is new, young, and pretty. It doesn't matter. They're just the icing. The cake remains intact. There are plenty of moments when I could swear I'm listening to the original, cleaned up.

It took me a few moments to get used to Liam Neeson as the narrator simply because I'm so used to hearing those lines spoken by his predecessor, Richard Burton. Once I settled in, though, I found Liam Neeson's performance as exciting and as satisfying as Burton's.

Likewise, the other vocalists - Gary Barlow, Ricky Wilson, Maverick Sabre - approach so closely the performances of their respective predecessors that it makes little difference. I think I might even enjoy the performance of Joss Stone (as Beth, the parson's wife) in her soul-inflected idiom a little more than I did Julie Covington in the original.

On the instrumental side, I'm glad to see so many of the original musicians returning - Chris Spedding, Herbie Flowers, Ken Freeman, George Fenton, Ray Cooper, Jo Partridge. Age has not wearied them.

The first time I played this album, my eight-year-old called from his bath, "What is that? It sounds great!" After a second listen he asked me to add it to his playlist. (Welcome to the 21st century, folks. Eight-year-olds have playlists.) He goes about the house singing the instrumental motifs. When a few of his schoolmates dropped by this afternoon, he put the album on and told them it was his favourite music. They listened without complaint. The new generation does indeed get this music.

Well done, Jeff Wayne. Although I thought I'd never hear myself say this, when your show tours, I'll buy tickets for the family so I can enjoy my son's enjoyment of your work - and not a little of my own. Long may you run.

Ajay | 4/5 |


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