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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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3 stars The phenomenally successful [in commercial terms, at least] War Of The Worlds is a Prog-Disco concept album devised and created by Jeff Wayne, written by his mother with lyrics mostly by Gary Osborne, and performed by an 'all-star cast'. As is often the case when guest performers are involved, it can turn out to be a hit-and-miss affair, and that is the case here: Richard Burton and Justin Hayward are wonderful, Phil Lynott and David Essex are not!

The familiar story of Martian aliens colonising Earth before being polluted to death is told through extensive narrative interspersed with songs and instrumental passages, all played over a relentless 120 bpm disco beat, which makes listening to the album in its entirety something of a tiresome marathon. This feeling is not helped by a clear artistic divide between discs one and two, causing the best material to be grouped at the start.

Disc one is all about the rich plummy voice of Richard Burton as journalist/narrator, Justin Hayward adding his silky singing voice to a couple of songs - including excellent hit single Forever Autumn - and some inspired instrumental melodies led predominantly by keyboards and synths, at times bouncy and upbeat, at others dark, foreboding and downright scary. An eerie passage illustrating the emergence of the Martians from their cylinders is particularly impressive. Only a short spoken exchange between Burton and Essex mar an otherwise brilliant sequence, which ends, after a so-so song by Chris Thompson, with the menacing synthesized alien voices - "ulla".

Disc Two is a beast of a different colour, beginning with a long and tedious exchange between a parson [Phil Lynott, excruciatingly awful] and his wife [Julie Covington, beautiful]. This is partly spoken and partly sung in the manner of a musical or opera, but except for Covington's lovely "No Nathaniel, no" refrain this section outstays its welcome by many minutes, as does a lengthy passage devoted to David Essex's dull and lifeless voice. Sadly, the atmospheric dying Martians of Dead London are insufficient to redeem this second disc from stilted dialogue, unconvincing performances from Lynott and Essex, and a general lack of inspired melody.

Overall, then, something of a mixed bag: in places inspired, imaginative and utterly winning; in others grating, tedious and boring. Disc one is a classic, almost flawless throughout [just that small Essex glitch], while disc two rarely gets an airing on my hi fi! Had this been a general music site I would have awarded 4 stars, but as this is PA and there is very little Prog Rock on the album it will get 3.

Joolz | 3/5 |


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