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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Andrew Lloyd Webber: Variations CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)


Various Genres

3.86 | 56 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars Musical brothers finding a truce in recording. Andrew Lloyd Webber is famous as one of the most revered composers of musical theatre, soundtrack scores and showtimes of all time, most notable for musicals scores for "Cats," The Music of the Night," "Phantom of the Opera" and of course "Jesus Christ Superstar." Spanning a musical career WEBBER has primarily existed in the realms of classical music and Broadway showtimes mixed with aspects of rock and pop however his younger brother Julian Lloyd Webber, a solo cellist carved out a career in the worlds of modern classical, concertos, orchestral, romanticism and post-minimalism.

In a rare moment where the brothers' two different styles found a crossroads on this one of a kind album titled VARIATIONS which was written by Andrew in the mid-70s for his brother Julian to perform, a magical moment where sibling rivalry found common ground. The album is based on the theme of Paganini's "24th Caprice" and as the album title suggests it includes 23 differing VARIATIONS which has been a key tool in spicing up classical music since the beginning of time (as well as every other Western genre since). The score premiered at the 1977 Sydmonton Festival and featured the progressive jazz rock band Colosseum II to serve as the rock part of the equation. The following year it was recorded and released and then immediately shot up to #2 on the British charts showcasing the appeal of these types of novelties as the prog rock years were waning.

VARIATIONS was unusual concoction that features just as much jazz as rock interjected into a classical context however Andrew having mastered the art of classical composition ensured the rock and jazz aspects interacted smoothly with the clashing forces with which they were put against thus offering a sleek and well?.varied instrumental display of fine classical craftsmanship. The impressive lineup included Don AIry of Colosseum II, Deep Purple and Rainbow amongst others along with Rod Argent also of the same three groups. In addition Barbara Thompson of the original Colosseum brought in her jazz sensibilities from her time with The New Jazz Orchestra and would soon take inspiration to join the United Jazz + Rock Ensemble. Gary Moore also of Colosseum II and Irish rock band Think Lizzy provided guitar work while Julian rocked the cello. The biggest surprise of all comes from the appearance of Genesis and Brand X drummer Phil Collins sitting on the drum kit.

While only a short album at about 34 minutes, VARIATIONS certainly delivers its namesake with bravado and gusto alternating between moods, tempos, cadences, key changes, genres and all the tricks and trinkets that classical musicians pull out of their magic hats. While considered crossover classical where rock and classical along with some jazz commingle on the greater musical playground for a day, the emphasis is clearly on the classical aspects due to the source material which coincide with the the sophistication that virtuoso classical composers display. While there are certainly moments of cheesiness especially with the canned drumming moments (i wish Collins was more Brand X than Genesis here), the overall effect is as dramatic as one of Andrew's top theatrical scores. Julian totally rocks the cello but never makes it sound like a forced rock instrument.

While this sounds cheesy in its premise it's actually quite an intricately designed moment where none of the genres water each other down in the least bit and on the contrary find the perfect juncture where all can unleash their full potential without interfering with the other. Julian's virtuosic cello performances are the true standout but for the most part he is reserved and the musical flow dictates the overall instrumental interplay which found Andrew in the conductor's chair as well as adding his overall duties as producer and playing the synthesizer. It's an oddball album for sure and it will vaguely remind you of The Nice or other "rockin' the classics" prog that was all the rage in the 60s and early 70s but the difference here is you get a real classical composer reinterpreting the genius of Niccolò Paganini with an arsenal of talented musicians to take his vision to heart. Much better than i had expected and actually find this captivating.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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