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


Jeff Wayne


Crossover Prog

3.96 | 179 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars (Don't read if planning to buy album)

(Note: I haven't read the book by H.G. Wells written in 1898) Its funny but I find this, "Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds" to be a more gripping adventure than both movie versions. This interpretation of the story keeps many details I find most interesting in the story. Most prominently the fact that it is still set in the original location, England opposed to the US as in the 2005 movie version. I also like the fact that it is set in the 19th centaury instead of the 21st century. Last of all I like the whole idea of the world underground and the war ship Thunder Child. I also prefer to think that it makes more sense to have the Martians come from space in capsules with their fighting machines as opposed to them being pre-buried underground for future use. This is one thing that puzzled me with Spielberg's version of events.

What? Why would they have been buried 4million years ago?

Moving on. the fact that the narrator is English (played by the all-powerful Richard Burton to be accurate) gives the story a very genuine element. Also, this version is set in England (as previously mentioned) where the story makes more sense to me. Come to think of it must have been very challenging for Jeff Wayne to undertake a musical adaptation of such a famous and well-known story. The pressure to make something of a quality befitting the film (heheh, well.not so much), radio broadcast and novel would have been present in his mind I would think.

It is a strange time to have released the album too, the alleged 'classic' prog era was basically over, and not only did he incorporate prog elements but also disco and some pop also. Jeff Wayne seemed unmoved by the current shift in musical popularity of the time I suppose it is a good thing though. I have to be honest thought that I did not know that there was any disco at all in this album. I have decided that I don't want to know what disco is allegedly supposed to sound like so as not to spoil this great album. Many people apparently have a great dislike of this genre so I'll steer clear of it thankee very much (Whistler.)

The most noticeable thing about "Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds" is that there is a hell of a lot of repetition, all through out the album. A series of themes are repeated many, many times. The great thing about said themes is that they are so awesome that one can't get enough of them. So this 'problem' is levelled out well. I love the sound effect for the heat-ray/ Martian cry, heheheh. In addition to repetitious, cool themes and sounds the use of synthesizers is extensive in this work. Also guitar solos are thrown in the album, as is a string orchestra. There is not only narration but also vocals as well!! Pretty sweet hu? There's a little bit of everything in this album.

The vinyl version is amazing, and it is just so authentic and the artwork is spectacular in its detail and quality. Seriously if you at all can grab a copy of this on vinyl, you won't be displeased its as good as the "Olias of Sunhillow" (Jon Anderson) vinyl version. The vinyl artwork depicts the Martian fighting machines melting the Thunder Child.

The album begins with the fantastically musically themed, "The Eve of War" which begins with narration from Richard Burton (the main character) as he reports to us about the beginning of the invasion by the Martians. It starts with this line "No one would have believed in the dying days of the 19th centaury that human affairs where being watched from the timeless worlds of space."The first music introduced to us is in the form of an orchestra which serves to almost echo the main melody played on what sounds to be an electric harpsichord and also a synthesizer. In addition a couple of guitars (playing more or less the same thing) are thrown into the mix. This song is, like the entire album quite cheesy and may disgust some people but I love it! Richard Burton goes on to tell us more about the invasion. The famous like "The Chances of anything coming from mars are a million to one he said" (he, of course being the astronomer whose name I have no idea how to spell) emerges in this song.

The next track "Horsell Common and the Heat Ray" begins with narration from Richard Burton backed by a synthesizer and various other sounds. Soon, the new theme is introduced in the form of a thrumming instrument which gains intensity until it is finally played on both a bass and banjo (I think it's a banjo) .with narration included. In this song the first Martians appear and the effects of the heat ray are seen as the Martians start their killing spree. In between the narration odd effects and sounds are thrown in over the repetitious bass line to give the song an eerie effect. Despite the fact that an unknown thing had come down from space and killed many people seemed to have no profound impact on anyone and they continued with their lives as if nothing at all had happened. Later in the song a group of soldiers proceed to the site where the Martians were building their machines, and another group of aliens land.

"The Artillery Men and the Fighting the Machine" begins with a soft thrumming of the main melody of the previous song. Soon more instruments in strings and synthesizers are added to the fray. An Artillery Man walks into Richard Burton's house and he explains to him how they had been defeated by the Martians, together they decide to go to London. Here we discover the love relation in the story, can't go without one. As they proceed to London they see six Artillery Men with guns standing by waiting for the Martians to come. They succeed in killing a machine, before they themselves are killed. The Artillery Man and Richard Burton are separated at this moment as they attempt to escape the Martians. The sound effect for the heat ray/ bellow is repeated several times in this song. Richard Burton narrowly escapes death when trying to flee the Martians.

"Forever Autumn" beings with Richard Burton explaining to us how his wife Carrie and her father had left from their house in London. "Forever Autumn" is Justin Hayward's (of the Moody Blues) major contribution to the album and this is basically the love song of the album. Not a bad song, but is still dictated somewhat by effects and repeated musical and lyrical phrases. Richard Burton proceeds to flee from England by sea and he reports on all the people racing to escape. He states how the Martians destroy all of London's major landmarks. By some fluke Carrie is aboard a steamer, sailing away into the distance.

"Thunder Child" is one of my favourite songs of the album and it begins with an array of sound effects and Richard Burton explains how the Martians move to block the exit of the steamer carrying his wife. The war ship Thunder Child proceeds to steam straight towards the Martians in an effort to allow the steamer to escape. She manages to destroy one machine, but out numbered she is destroyed by the Martians. It's odd, I actually felt sad (I guess I still do.) for the ship when I first listened to this album as she sinks. Apparently this one ship was man's last hope of victory against the Martians and from here on humans just seem to be massacred all the time. As more Martians descend from the heavens the steamer manages to escape.

Farwell Thunder Child.

"The Red Weed, Part 1" begins with spacey synthesizers and quiet, underlying noises. The red weed is of course the vegetation which gives Mars its red appearance, an established fact actually. This weed begins to take over as the people succumb to the Martians, so too does the land succumb to the red weed (not a quote). "The Red Weed Part 1" is a very eerie song and it is evident from the sound of it that not much is left alive by the Martians. The use of both the flute and synthesized flute really help to amplify this feeling of an oddly dead world. One can imagine walking through quiet cities covered with creeping, tentacle-like red weed, with not a living thing in site.

In "The Spirit of Man" Richard Burton discovers the body of a Parson lying dead on the ground and he decides to bury the body when suddenly his eye flutter open and his wife comes rushing to his side. The Parson (Nathaniel) seems to have gone insane as he keeps uttering (and singing) things about how Satan had sent these Martians to punish the people for their sins. He continues to talk about the Martians as being Demons and unearthly horrors. His wife keeps trying to convince him that there is still hope and that these beasts are in fact Martians, not Demons. This continues throughout the rest of the song and at this moment, the album lulls a bit in quality. Just a bit. Eventually a cylinder lands on top of the house they are staying in and The Parson's wife is killed. The Martians build a new machine to catch humans for various reasons.

"The Red Weed, Part 2" harkens back to the eeriness of the first part of "The red Weed" with the creepy melodies, portrayed using synthesizers. The Martians then proceed to drink the blood of all the humans they have captured. The Parson then proceeds to become crazier and keeps ranting on about how he has been chosen to defeat the Martians. There is a thump and the Parson stops speaking mid-sentence. One can only assume that Richard Burton knocked him out so as to stop him from doing anything too rash. "The Red Weed, Part 2" soon dies down and reverts back to the eeriness already mentioned. Richard Burton looks out so see that all the Martians had vanished, but the weed had now covered everything.

"The Artilleryman Returns" begins with very familiar synthesizer sounds and melody. Richard Burton decides to go London again and he walks through silent, dead streets. He also explains that the Martians had eliminated all bacteria on their planet, hold that thought. Richard Burton suddenly meets The Artilleryman again.

In "A Brave New World" The Artilleryman tells Richard Burton his grand new plan, to live underground. It is at this moment that one can tell he had gone a bit kooky. For the rest of the song The Artilleryman makes comparisons between life on the surface and what life will be like underground in their new world. Of course, there are many flaws with his ideas but it is clear that the man is insane. He keeps on ranting about his master plans, and how they would eventually play each other in cricket. After his ranting is over he shows Richard Burton the start he had made, which consisted of a small room-sized hole. It soon becomes clear to Richard Burton that he should leave The Artilleryman to his ideas. "A Brave New World" is one spectacular song, possibly the opus of the album.

In "Dead London" the loneliness of Richard Burton finally results in him charging head long at the Martians, only to discover that they were all dying and emitting a deathly shriek, at which Richard Burton resolved to move towards. As he moves towards the cry he sees the Martian machines standing still, and the cry ends. He becomes so lonely once the crying suddenly ceased that he walks directly at a walker only to find that the machine was covered in crows which were eating the dead Martians. In the end the Martians had been killed by the bacteria in the air. After everything the humans created the might aliens where finally destroyed by harmless bacteria. The melody from "The eve of War: is reintroduced in this song with spectacular effect.

In "Epilogue, part 1" all people scattered across the country proceeded to go to London where they start to rebuild from the damage dealt by the Martians. Richard Burton wonders whether the aliens would attack again. The song is rather joyous as the humans had defeated the invaders, the music suites perfectly.

"Epilogue, part 2" is very perplexing as astronauts are talking to each other over radio when they all notice a green flare erupt from mars. (I wonder what it is? ) Once by one they lose contact with each other. This confuses me, is it implying that they attacked again in the future. If so how could they not know what the green flare was? I mean, had everyone suddenly forgotten about the massacre of man kind which had occurred not 200 years before? Anyway, this concludes the album not very well.but it is an ending.

If you want an insane, cheesy and a very different style of double concept album then this is your man right here. I understand that not a lot of people are like-minded on me on this one but this is an awesome album. The blending of infectious melodies, lyrics and conceptual elements makes this one irresistible prog album. While I wholeheartedly recommend the vinyl version of "The War of the Worlds", the 2005 remaster edition is also awesome and it comes with great packaging as well as and extended booklet. But of course it can't live up to the might of the vinyl. To me The War Of The Worlds seems to have influenced modern prog bands such as Ayreon whose concept albums remind me very greatly of this work.

I'd recommend "Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds" to all 70's prog fanatics as it gives a very different take on a concept album in my opinion. Personally I regard this album very highly and it has quickly become one of my favourite albums I own.

Australian | 4/5 |


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