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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) Jesus Christ Superstar album cover
4.19 | 231 ratings | 20 reviews | 51% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

Disc 1 (43:54)
1. Overture (3:58)
2. Heaven on Their Minds (4:24)
3. What's the Buzz / Strange Thing Mystifying (4:14)
4. Everything's Alright (5:14)
5. This Jesus Must Die (3:36)
6. Hosanna (2:10)
7. Simon Zealotes / Poor Jerusalem (4:47)
8. Pilate's Dream (1:28)
9. The Temple (4:42)
10. Everything's Alright (reprise) (0:34)
11. I Don't Know How to Love Him (3:36)
12. Damned for All Time / Blood Money (5:11)

Disc 2 (43:18)
1. The Last Supper (7:09)
2. Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say) (5:33)
3. The Arrest (3:21)
4. Peter's Denial (1:29)
5. Pilate and Christ (2:44)
6. King Herod's Song (Try It and See) (3:03)
7. Judas' Death (4:15)
8. Trial Before Pilate (incl. The 39 Lashes) (5:13)
9. Superstar (4:16)
10. The Crucifixion (4:02)
11. John 19:41 (2:13)

Total Time 87:12

Line-up / Musicians

Main vocalists:
- Murray Head / Judas Iscariot
- Ian Gillan / Jesus Christ
- Yvonne Elliman / Mary Magdalene
- Victor Brox / Caiaphas
- Brian Keith / Annas
- John Gustafson / Simon Zealotes
- Barry Dennen / Pontius Pilate
- Paul Davis / Peter
- Mike d'Abo / King Herod
- Annette Brox / Maid by the Fire
- Paul Raven (Gary Glitter) / Priest

Other vocalists:
- PP Arnold / backing vocals
- Tony Ashton / backing vocals
- Peter Barnfeather / backing vocals
- Madeline Bell / backing vocals
- Brian Bennett / backing vocals
- Lesley Duncan / backing vocals
- Kay Garner / backing vocals
- Barbara Kay / backing vocals
- Neil Lancaster / backing vocals
- Alan M. O'Duffy / backing vocals
- Terry Saunders / backing vocals
- Geoffrey Mitchell / choir conductor
- Children's choir (1)
- Alan Doggett / choir conductor (1)
- The Trinidad Singers (21)
- Horace James / choir director (21)

- Andrew Lloyd Webber / piano, organ, composer
- Bruce Rowland / drums, percussion
- Allan Spenner / bass
- Henry McCulloch / electric guitar, acoustic guitar
- Neil Hubbard / electric guitar
- Peter Robinson / piano, electric piano, organ, positive organ
- Chris Mercer / tenor saxophone
- Harold Beckett / trumpet
- Anthony Brooke / bassoon
- James Browne / horns
- Jim Buck, Sr. / horns
- Jim Buck, Jr. / horns
- John Burdon / horns
- Joseph Castaldini / bassoon
- Norman Cave / piano
- Jeff Clyne / bass
- Les Condon / trumpet
- Alan Doggett / principal conductor
- Ian Hamer / trumpet
- Ian Herbert / clarinet
- Clive Hicks / guitar
- Carl Jenkins / piano
- Frank Jones / trombone
- Bill LeSage / drums
- John Marshall / drums
- Andrew McGavin / horns
- Anthony Moore / trombone
- Douglas Moore / horns
- Peter Morgan / bass
- Chris Spedding / guitar
- Louis Stewart / guitar
- Chris Taylor / flute
- Steve Vaughan / guitar
- Brian Warren / flute
- Mick Weaver / piano, organ
- Alan Weighall / bass
- Kenny Wheeler / trumpet
- Keith Christie / trombone
- City of London Ensemble / strings

Releases information

Artwork: Graphreaks

2LP MCA Records ‎- MKPS 2011/2 (1970, UK)

2CD MCA Records ‎- MCAD2-10000 (1990, US) New cover
2CD MCA Records ‎- MCAD 2-10950 (1993, UK) Remastered by Glenn Meadows, new cover
2CD Universal ‎- 602537108879 (2012, Europe) Remastered by Andrew Lloyd Webber, new cover

Thanks to easy livin for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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VARIOUS ARTISTS (CONCEPT ALBUMS & THEMED COMPILATIONS) Jesus Christ Superstar ratings distribution

(231 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(51%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(31%)
Good, but non-essential (11%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Everything's alright

It is fair to say that Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's ambitions were always to succeed in the stage musical arena. On their way to that success though, they created what is undoubtedly one of the finest rock opera albums of all time. Released in 1970, this studio recording of "Jesus Christ Superstar" formed the original version of the work, preceding the stage show by at least a couple of years.

A quick look at the list of musicians who perform here will demonstrate that this was a huge project, which captured the imagination of many of the stars of the day. The part of Jesus is undertaken by Deep Purple's Ian Gillan, who gives his finest performance outside the confines of that band. Among the many other notable singers are a young Yvonne Elliman, Mike D'Arbo, Murray Head and even Gary Glitter (before he became the disgraced Gary Gilitter). On the musicians side, we have a plethora of distinguished artists including Henry McCulloch, Blue Weaver, Chris Spedding and Kenny Wheeler.

The album describes the events leading up to and including the crucifixion of Christ. The viewpoint is largely impartial; although this is a religiously themed album it is not "Christian rock". Gillan's portrayal of Christ vividly describes his vulnerability and uncertainty about the path he is on. The "Gethsemene" soliloquy is particularly moving, with Gillan's characteristic screams seeming entirely appropriate as he cries "Alright I'll die.. nail me to your cross and break me".

The real strength of this album though is in the quality of the music. While some themes are reverted to at various points, they are adapted and transformed to fit the mood required. The melodies are strong, the arrangements bringing out their power and emotion to the full. While there is a clear intent that the music will ultimately form the soundtrack to a stage show, that does not compromise the rock foundations on which the album is built. Although for obvious reasons this is primarily a vocal piece, the album includes some fine, if often overlooked guitar work and other instrumental passages.

"Jesus Christ superstar" was not the first rock opera. It may however just be the finest rock opera ever recorded. Even today, bands such as Ayreon are clearly influenced and inspired by the creativity and originality which was first seen with the release of this album.

A landmark recording, and a highly enjoyable album too.

Review by Guillermo
3 stars Well, first I have to say that I`m not a Fan of Musical Theatre works. In fact, I despised some of the Musicals. I also have to say that I saw this work done by an unknown theatrical company, in 2003, without paying a ticket because it was a free presentation. I also saw last year "Victor Victoria" with a "courtesy ticket" because the girlfriend of one of my brothers works promoting theatrical works. This last time I saw "Victor Victoria" with first level actors, actresses, dancers, and a very good orchestra. It made me appreciate how much hard work is behind the presentation of this kind of works. So, I don`t despise them, but I`m not a fan of them, still after seeing them live.

Well, this release has a very impressive list of very good Rock musicians, like Ian Gillan, John Gustafson, the members of the "Grease Band" (which were part of Joe Cocker`s touring band), etc. It seems that Rice and Webber really spent a lot of money trying to give a lot of credibility to their Rock Opera in 1970! Well, I also have to say that I think that I only listened once to this release a very long time ago, so my commentaries are not exclusively in reference to this release, but mostly are in reference to the content of the music and lyrics. I saw the Film too, once or twice. I really laughed sometimes seeing this kind of semi- Hippie Rock Opera. But something changed my mind in late June 2003:

In those days, one of my brothers, who is a guitarist and who has a friend who plays the keyboards (very well too), phoned me asking me to go for a a chat with them, so I went to see them. They told me that a theatrical company, which were using backing tapes then, asked them to learn some songs from "Jesus Christ Superstar" to gradually help the company to substitute the backing tapes and with the band later to learn to play the whole Rock Opera live! I laughed a bit, and I said: "Well, why not? How much they pay?" We had only a month to learn those nine or ten songs. They gave us some cassettes of the Spanish version of this theatrical work. The keyboard player called one of his friends to play the bass. But the "formal rehearsals" with the band started badly because everybody had day jobs and family obligations, so for two days I was the only one who appeared at the place (my brother`s house) for rehearsals. I listened to the tape several times. I even played the drums along the musical pieces, and... I found that it really wasn`t very easy to play this kind of music! The songs have several changes in time signatures, heavy orchestral arrangements, etc. We were only a quartet to play all these orchestral arrangements! So, I started to have doubts about learning the material in just one month, with that month including rehearsals with the whole theatrical company! I realized then that it wasn`t as easy as we thought, and with the lack of time for rehearsals due to other obligations, even if I found the lyrics with the musical notes for the songs in some JSC Fans`s websites, I said to them that we needed more time and compromise to play the work properly and better organization with the teatrical company, so I finally said "I`m not going to play it if there is not enough time to rehearse it properly". The other three musicians realized that too, so they also say "No", and I really realized then that they were not very much motivated to play the "Jesus Christ Superstar" Rock Opera because they really didn`t like it!

After this long paragraph, the conclusion is that this Rock Opera really has very interesing music, very well constructed, with very good orchestral arrangements, variable time signatures, etc. I could call some of these arrangements as "Progressive". So, I don`t despise anymore this theatrical work. I really don`t like the film and some parts of the music, but this kind of works really represent a hard work for everybody involved in the proper presentation to the public.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is one of the earliest progressive rock opera ' Musicals' released and may well have been Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's first contribution. A very solid double album which is continuous play throughout each side to it's end on 'John 19:41'. The album opens with the highlight song IMO being ' Overture' sung by Murray Head who plays Judas Iscariot. There is an array of fine artists contributing to vocals on Jesus Christ Superstar, namely Ian Gillan, Murray Head, Yvonne Elliman ( what has happened to her?), and other names such as being Chris Spedding lending musical input. The story of Jesus Christ and his impending downfall is well delivered in this fine rock opera musical. A rock opera release when the flower power scene was still alive and the older generation frowned on this hippie like rendition of the scriptures. Thankfully this great work was embraced by the majority and it holds up well with a strong cult following the this present day.

Yvonne Elliman singing ' I don't know how to love him' is an extraordinary affirmation of love for Jesus. Probably better conveyed in this medium too. Other great excerpts are ' Pilates Dream', The Last Supper' , ' Gethsemane and 'Judas's death'. A much praised and sadly sometimes overlooked classic from 1970. But if you like the idea of a progressive musical' as a concept then I can think of no better way than starting with Jesus Christ Superstar. Excellent material and highly recommended.

Review by Easy Money
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars This album tends to get very positive reviews from people who love classic progressive rock concept albums and 'rock operas', and for good reason. Superstar does have a lot in common with albums like Tommy and Foxtrot, but there is one important difference; this isn't really a rock album, it's a musical based on rock and there is a difference. Just as in any other musical, the emphasis in Superstar is on the vocals and the story they are telling. Although the vocal/band mix is occaissonally rock-like, usually the vocals are a bit louder which is what you would expect in a musical. Also, don't expect any jam sessions, guitar solos or drum solos ... OK, nobody misses the drum solo.

Rice and Weber are no slouches and their lyrics and music on here are top notch, but I don't know if very much of this really sounds like progressive rock. Instead the musical styles range from 70s sophisticated pop, Vegas style funky RnB and those type of dramatic melodies that are typical for musicals. There is this one cool acid rock riff that comes around now and again and when Ian Gillian goes of on it it sounds like an outtake from Deep Purple's In Rock album.

If you are interested in a progressive rock influenced musical with a very insightful and dramatic look at the last days of Jesus then you cannot get better than this, but keep in mind this album is very much a product of it's time. It's so hippie it drives a patchouli powered VW bus with hemp curtains and a strawberry flavored waterbed in back, which is a good thing of course.

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I didn't know this recording was listed here in ProgArchives, but now that I've seen a review of it, I just feel the need to say a few words about this masterpiece that has been a favorite of mine for a long, long time!

I'm not a big musical-theater fan. In general, I'm not a big fan of music created for stage purposes. Even in what we wrongly call "Classical" music, I only like a few Operas. In Broadway-style musicals, I've never been a fan of the work of the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein or Stephen Sondheim (even though I love his collaboration with Leonard Bernstein in "West Side Story"). As for Andrew Lloyd Webber, he's always been the one out of the "big three" whose music I've liked the most. I can tolerate "Evita" (though only to a certain degree), I can enjoy (and at times, a lot) his work in "The Phantom of the Opera", and I can usually listen to his music with less problems than I have with that of his peers.

But when it comes down to his first masterpiece, this original re-creation of the passion of Jesus told from Judas' perspective, I have quite a different view of things, and just a few words would suffice: "Jesus Christ Superstar" is the greatest rock-opera of all time, bar none. Period. And this, the original recording of the play, is without doubt the best.

I just heard this recording a few months ago. I had heard other recordings of "Superstar" long ago, including the legendary one by the original London cast with Paul Nicholas as Jesus, and another one with Alice Cooper as Herod (?!?) When I learned that the original album was more rock-oriented than its stage-centered successors, I rushed to my online store and bought the CD. I put it on my player, and enjoyed every single minute of it.

Gillian as Jesus is just fantastic, the best Jesus of them all. His rock-persona shines though the music, with a power but also a conviction (as reflected in "Gethsemane") that few have had after him. Murray Head is a fantastic Judas, and all the rest of the cast are excellent in their respective roles. Regarding the music, as I mentioned earlier, this time around things were more rock-oriented: melodies, rhythms, the style of playing, the riffs, everything sounds more like a true rock-opera album than a NY's Broadway or London's West End production recorded in a disc.

But the glory of this music is here, and in even higher amounts. The fantastic melodies, the incredible catchiness and beauty of the tunes, the contrasts between characters, the use of fixed themes for the most important of them, the energy and the passion, the sadness and the melancholy, all is highlighted by a group of skilled musicians that, together with an impressive cast, present Lloyd-Webber's masterpiece as none has done afterwards. That this album even managed to get huge sales and score in the charts is just an afterthought, or maybe another example of how much more-refined people's taste was back then. Anyway, this is a fantastic work, and all fans of good music should give it a try.

As for the religious content, don't be afraid. This is actually quite a rational view of things, without any of the "preachiness" of "religious" rock music. This is a pagan, more intelligent tale, where Jesus is allowed to be a man and Judas raises some good questions. But believe me, the music and some melodies are so beautiful, that for an instant even unbelievers will feel a higher presence.

I did. And I know whose presence it was: the presence of good music, great art.

Review by ProgShine
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Jesus Christ Superstar, the album, is one of the most intense pieces of work released in the music history!

Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) & Tim Rice (lyrics) the first and original release of the Rock opera was in 1970 and had Ian Gillan as Jesus Christ.

The album is divided in two Acts and it was a double LP when themes and history are linked in a perfect and sensational way. All the way through the first album you have the constant 'battle' between Jesus and Judas (played by Murray Head). In fact, this album, as Tim Rice mentioned in interviews, is the vision of Judas on the whole thing.

'Heaven On Their Minds' is the perfect track here. 'This Jesus Must Die' is one of my favorites with the conversation between the high priests and especially the different vocals of Caiaphas (Victor Brox) and Ananias (Brian Keith).

Also have to mention 'Pilates Dream' where Pontius Pilate (Barry Dennen) talks about the dream he had. In 'The Temple' all the hell break loose on Chris attitude. To finish the first album we have 'Damned For All Time/Blood Money' where once again we have the pleasure to listen Judas, what a great voice.

In the secon act we have the final part full of suffer. 'The Last Supper', 'Gethsemane', 'The Arrest', 'Peter's Denial' tell the story of Christ going down betrayed by Judas Kiss.

'King Herods Song' is a bit different from the rest, cabaret, rock and roll, queer.

When 'Judas' Death' comes around we all know what it means. We still have 'Superstar' where Judas question many things and finally 'Crucifiction' and 'John Nineteen Forty-One' closing the whole thing,

From the first time I heard this album I was pretty much obsessed with it and still am. One of the greatest works in modern music.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid - John 19:41.

One of the first prog rock operas is also one of the greatest with stirring vocal performances all round and stunning musicianship. It captures an early 70s sound and features some of the best vocalists at the time. Although there have been many versions over the years the 1970 version is the most progressive utilising prog artists and very progressive music. Murray Head is a fabulous presence as Judas Iscariot and the unmistakeable rasping vocals of Ian Gillan are incredible as Jesus Christ. Yvonne Elliman is beautiful as Mary Magdalene on songs such as the memorable melodic 'Everything's Alright'.

Other artists featuring including Victor Brox as Caiaphas, Brian Keith as Annas, John Gustafson as Simon Zealotes, and Barry Dennen as Pontius Pilate. The appearance of Paul Raven, better known as glam rocker Gary Glitter, as the Priest is an iconic performance.

There is a story that is followed based on the Biblical gospels, where Jesus healed and taught the thousands and led his 12 disciples changing the world. The album captures some of the Bible and it climaxes with the trial of Christ and subsequent crucifixion.

There are some fantastic performances throughout. The 'Overture' is majestic opener mixing orchestrating strings with prog rock time sig changes and riffing guitars. This along with 'Heaven on their Minds' is a titanic start with awesome guitar riffs, and powerhouse vocals from Murray Head. 'Whats the buzz' ("tell me what's happening") is a song about people wanting to know about the future. "Why should you want to know, why are you obsessed with fighting?" The style reminds me of "Hair" that came out around the same time.

This is followed by 'Strange Thing Happening' which is a moderate song with eclectic heavy guitar and a strong progressive time change. The musical arrangements are compelling and there is never a dull moment on the album. 'Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem' is a rocking brassy piece with accomplished harmonies in the chorus. It segues straight into the acoustically driven dreamy 'Pilate's Dream'. The Ian Gillan led 'The Temple' is a definitive highlight. There are many time sig shifts and Gillan screaming up a storm make this one to seek out for Deep Purple fans. By this time the album has hooked me in and I am drawn to the well known story of Christ's 3 year

One of the showstoppers is Elliman's version of 'I Don't know How To Love Him', a song which has become a stage standout every time the opera is performed. Her voice is easier to take than Helen Reddy or others that followed in endless cover versions. Andrew Lloyd Webber's arrangement is nothing short of genius and he has made a name for himself with these types of rock operas.

'Damned for all time' features an excellent fuzz guitar intro and chiming flutes. It breaks into a fast tempo with tons of brass and Murray Head's emotional vocals. Chris Mercer's tenor sax on this is divine and the way that the time sig breaks with various parts montaging together to tell a potent part of the story on 'Blood Money'. The music gets darker in this number segueing into the awesome powerful 'The Last Supper' where Judas betrays Jesus. Ian Gillan is towering on this and 'Gethsemane ( I Only Want To Say)', better than Ted Neeley replacing him in the movie version, and he sings beautifully phrases such as "I want to know, why should I die, can you show me now that I should not be killed in vain, see how I die." As Jesus contemplates this and weeps blood in the garden the Romans are on their way and Judas betrays Christ with a kiss.

'The Arrest/ Peter's Denial' leads to the terrific duet between Gillan and Dennen on 'Pilate and Christ'. The slow measured dramatic music is dominated by electric organ and woodwind. This is followed by a humorous piece sung by Mike d'Abo, the quasi-rocking 40s throwback 'King Herod's Song'. It sounds like the Chicago show tune 'Mr Cellophane' and features serious content but sung in a jester-like manner; "aren't you scared of me Christ, mr. wonderful Christ, you're a joke you're not the Lord, take him away he's got nothing to say, get out you king of the Jews." Not a bad version but Alice Cooper performed an incredible version of this in 1996.

This leads to the rock out guitar heavy 'Judas Death, then the ominous 'Trial Before Pilate (Including the 39 Lashes)', the well known radio favourite 'Superstar' and finally the apocalyptic sounds of 'Crucifixion'. 'Superstar' was famous and certainly is recognizable on all versions of the rock opera. The chorus have a commanding harmony and lift the music to a crescendo. It is a stirring song that has an infectious chorus. The closer of the album is 'John 19:41' which ends it on a powerful uplifting note. This is an amazing rock opera akin to "Tommy" and never preaches but simply presents incredible music to the greatest story ever told.

Review by Prog Sothoth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Good Lord, this rock opera is seriously good.

First of all, it's not some cold sermon or a wrathful warning. Jesus is actually quite the dude in this particular gospel, and man can that dude sing. Voiced by the amazing Ian Gillian, Jesus lets it rip during "The Temple" in grand fashion, and his singing in "Gethsemane" is almost as otherworldly as the Man himself. The album's storyline doesn't divulge in miracles and resurrections, giving the musical a more universal appeal that parallels and sympathizes with the sort of anti-authority vibes of the year this recording was released. Jesus wasn't a war-hungry, wealthy lad with a crewcut; he was quite the opposite, and this album displays that important aspect quite well.

Musically it's rock & pop music with a ton of orchestration in the mix, and a far different beast than the previous year's big rock opera offering, Tommy. Whereas The Who's album was very much a rock album with a storyline, Rice & Webber's creation here leans far more towards a more orchestral based musical while still retaining enough rock elements to separate it from the Thoroughly Modern Millie crowd. The production also pushes the vocals rather up front in the mix to emphasize the importance of the narrative, which is fine since the singing by all performers is generally superb, but consequently some of the rock pieces feel a bit neutered by not having the guitars or drums engineered with a bit more volume.

Song-wise, there's a number of showstoppers, in particular the title track, which initially had some fundamentalists more than a bit peeved, as well as the calculated AM Gold classic "I Don't Know How To Love Him", in which by not stating Jesus by name in the lyrics, the song becomes a sort of stand-alone love ballad that sits comfortably between Linda Ronstadt's early solo material and Carole King. My personal favorite tunes are "Heaven On Their Minds", boasting Murray's passionate delivery and elevating the character of Judas with a tragic and uncommonly sympathetic aura, and the ultra groovy & funky "Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem". The variety of musical styles is appreciative as well, from rockers to folk numbers to swingy jazzy tracks like "Everything's Alright", and I would like to give a shout out to Victor Brox, whose introduction in "This Jesus Must Die" scared the crap out of me as a young bugger when I first heard his super low octave & menacing pipes.

There will be those that avoid this because they believe it to be preachy. There will also be those who avoid this because they believe it to be blasphemy. It's really neither, so enjoy the grooves & great vocals and impassioned story-telling and chill.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is music that has been a part of my life since my middle school years. I've heard many versions of these songs over the years and, though the original cast album is classic, I have to admit to having heard better versions of some of the highlight songs on other albums than this one. Still, this one set the pace--Andrew Lloyd Weber's temporary take over of the world (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Superstar, Evita, Cats, Song and Dance, Starlight Express, and The Phantom of the Opera dominated box offices for years and years). Though it was thought that it would launch careers of its principle stars, Murray Head, Ian Gillan, and Yvonne Elliman's careers sparked and fizzled. But many of the songs--like, "Superstar" (4:15) (10/10), "I Don't Know How to Love Him" (4:07) (9/10), "Everything's Alright," "Hosanna," and others--have become imbedded in the musical lexicon for a couple of generations. I can't deny it: It's great music, great lyrics, great performances to tell a great story. How can one give it anything less than five stars? I guess cuz it's not truly progressive rock music . . . or is it? (Someone convince me, please!)
Review by Sinusoid
4 stars With today being Passion Sunday in the Christian calendar, it seems like a perfect time to glance at JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR.

First off, I ought to note to those who might not know that I will approach this concept album from two angles: one would be the proggy perspective that members of PA are used to, and the other would be from a musical theater approach. I have become a fan of musicals and Broadway within the last year and a half, so the prog audience is going to get a little different take on this album.

While not naturally my style, with musicals, an understanding of the plot, characters and story is quite vital to enjoying the musical. Yes, the musical largely focuses on Jesus's last days which correlate to the Gospel readings on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter). However, the man who betrays Jesus, Judas Iscariot, has as large of a role in this story as does Jesus. Also, instead of the traditional Christian telling of Jesus and Judas as two men (one the Son of God, the other a disciple) accepting divine destiny, the musical explores the two men from a more psychological, humanist and perhaps secular angle. There are other figures throughout like Mary Magdalene, the high priest Caiaphas, etc. that have a fair role in the story while traditional ''go-to'' names like Peter and Pontius Pilate are kept to a minor stance. This musical saw the writing team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice hit their creative stride (started with JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT in '68), providing memorable tunes with a few offbeat melodies with a story that is very well known, yet told in a slightly different context, but not enough to sound too disrespectful or blasphemous.

My understanding of the classical music term ''recapitulation'' is where a theme in one part is reused elsewhere in the piece albeit in a slightly different setting. Webber (the musical force here) does this quite well here; despite the laundry list of tracks, many themes are recycled and reused throughout the musical, giving a unity effect, almost as if this was one giant prog epic about the last days of Jesus. But this isn't a rare thing in musicals as many have reprises and finales that borrow or shorten themes from the more memorable numbers. A specific other example is Stephen Sondheim's COMPANY, where the opening title number is cued very often at various points in the show.

One thing I like to hear whenever I listen to a musical is a memorable lilt that I can't get out of my head. Good musicals have at least one instance of this, and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR offers several. There's the shuffle in ''This Jesus Must Die'', the opening fuzzy guitar riff in the orchestra reused in ''The Thirty-Nine Lashes'' (how do we know it's 39? They count it in the music.), the gentle melody of ''Everything's Alright'', the chanting of both ''Hosanna'' and ''The Temple'', and the grand bombastic finale that could only be described as ''Superstar''. There's a ton of melodies going for this musical.

This particular show emphasizes the characters, and I want to spend a few words on how well the actors pull off the characters. For starters, the chorus is one of the best I've heard from any musical; if you think the ensemble means nothing, listen to both ''The Temple'' and ''The Arrest'' as the chorus carries both numbers. The men who played Caiaphas, Annas and King Herod must have had fun portraying them as it shows in their demeanors. Yvonne Elliman sounds like the right Mary Magdalene as a sweet, gentle yet emotional restrained woman. The rub can set in with the two main leads, Judas and Jesus. Yes, I know it's Ian Gillan as Jesus Christ, and for the most part, Ian taps into to a humanistic Jesus rather well. When the tender moments need to shine like on ''Gethsemane'', Ian can really bring powerful emotions and truly make the character come to life outside of a true religious context. However, Ian finds the need to use his trademark high-pitched screams here; it works in Deep Purple, but here it's miscast. I find the same level of balance with Murray Head as Judas; he can work the frustration of the character very well, but he also butchers ''I Don't Know How to Love Him'' (in ''Judas' Death'') in the worst way. Still, the acting is convincing to the point where even with the success of Mark II Deep Purple, this is Ian Gillan's crowning achievement in singing.

How does prog fit into this story? For starters, the band Quatermass is heavily associated with the project with singer John Gustafson portraying Simon Zealots and keyboardist Peter Robinson being the main keyboard player. Also, 2/3 of the classic Nucleus lineup have bits in here. There are the constant shifts to 5/4 (notably ''Everything's Alright''; sounds like a hybrid of Dave Brubeck's ''Take Five'' and the church hymn ''Sing of the Lord's Goodness'') and 7/8 (''The Temple'') as well as the epic nature of the story itself (the Passion of Christ is a big portion of the basis of Christianity along with Jesus's Resurrection). Really, listening to the music almost reminds me of a Nucleus or an If or a Soft Machine; there's plenty of fuzzy guitars and Hammond organs flying about, and Webber himself actually manages to sneak a Moog line into the Overture. Not to mention the very avant-garde ''Crucifixion'', which is quite creepy and unorthodox for a musical, let alone one where Jesus Christ is a fulcrum in the story.

This is one of the greatest musicals I have come across, and the bounty of prog similarities helps in my enjoyment of this. Prog fans will gravitate towards the more rock-based approach to the music and tricky time signatures, and musical fans will find the great character portrayals, snappy melodies and abundance of singing appetizing.

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars I will try a perilous exercise in reviewing both the original rock opera album and the movie that was shot a few years (two or three) later in the same text, while trying to refrain my atheist verve. A relative unknown, Tim Rice came up with the idea and the main JCS musical theme (with an mesmerizing descending chord riff), and through a certain course of events, he was put up with the well-known Andrew Lloyd-Webber and the rest is history. JCS is among the most famous rock opera ever written and one of the few that got ts successful adaptation on film. In my book, it ranks up there, with The Who's Quadrophenia and Tommy operas, and the amazing Broadway musical Hair (written by Rado, Ragni and McDermott). Unlike the two Who pieces, JCS also had a long career as live on-stage musical, along with the afore-mentioned Hair.

As far as the music is concerned, the rock opera and the film soundtrack are fairly close to each other (well side 4 is rather different, since the original score was modified for not being cinematic enough), the main difference residing in the singers being totally, if you'll except that Yvonne Elliman (in Magdalene's role) played/sang on both versions. But you won't find prestigious names like Ian Gillan (JC), Murray Head (Judas) Mike d'Abo (Herod) or John Gustafsson (Quatermass) as Simon, Madeleuine Bell (Stones The Crow) and many other characters were staged by equally good singers on the scene. This hardly means that the movie's singers (but dancers as well) are any less worthy, though. On the purely instrumental/musical side, the average proghead will be happy to find Soft-Nucleus man Karl Jenkins, Chris Spedding, Jeff Clyne and John Marshall, a few of the UK jazz-rock horn-men stalwarts (such as Harry Beckett and Kenny Wheeler) and the rest of Quartermass' line up. Other names include Mercer (Mayall), Hubbard (almost everyone on the scene) and Tony Ashton (G&D) and many more.

Progheads will also be pleased that JCS' music is very much progressive rock (the full-blown kind) with plenty of time sigs, complex interplay and plenty of mood changes, and while the vocals must remain clearly intelligible for the public to follow the storyline, but it doesn't hinder the general "prog" qualities of this ambitious oeuvre. If not familiar with this "opera", one could've feared that the music would veer outside the rock sphere, but outside the ridiculous and goofy King Herod piece (for obvious "villain" reasons), it remains "rock", and extremely enjoyable. Even the evil priests parts and Roman authorities are treated with full respect, whether in the opera and in the movie; this, despite the priest's sinister very low-range vocals, and Pilate's relatively twee vocals. Special attention was carried out with and to Judas' parts; both in the story (it was written from his point of view) and Murray Head's vocals are at least as impressive as JCS' Gillan vocals. However, in the movie, the Judas part is carried by a great black actor/singer/dancer, which probably nowadays would raise a few objections (black = traitor?) from the equal opportunity inquisition tribunals. But nothing of that was intentional in such innocent times, as the blessed early 70's' Love & Peace era.

The movie was shot on a very low budget with no real decor but a desert and oasis close to old temple ruins. Only the fortress and city gates/entrances had some kind of scaffolding structure, the whole set being made-believe that all material needed was transported in a single school bus, but obviously the filming ware and crew was not taken into account. The choreography is overall very interesting, modern and slightly acrobatic. The setting is very much a Palestinian one, maybe even slightly anti-Zionist, as evidenced by the law forces being represented with the apparition of supposedly Israeli tanks to break festivities and repression. In that regard, the Pilate and King Herod pieces (better in the original opera than in the movie) maybe served as inspiration to Roger Waters' The Trial piece on his own conceptual Floydian tour de force The Wall.

All of the movie's images are of course based on the original score, but a lot of the talent of the director is that the movie's images simply magnify the power of the music. In that regard the two Who opera/movies don't manage this stunt nearly as successfully, though Milos Forman's movie adaptation of the Hair Musical manages it better than JCS, IMHO. Of course, Rice's main JCS theme, repeated sporadically throughout the course of the opera, plays a magical and spell-binding role, the descending riff helping in the hypnotic and enthralling mood.of the project. This repetition of the theme helps out a lot, while the Hair opera doesn't and must rely on pure new musical highs like the opening Aquarius and closing Sunshine/Flesh Failures. However, to JCS' merit, the actual music remained the same on the movie and album (or remained faithful) while the Hair movie saw a full funkier revamping of the music, while the vocals were more or less faithfully respected. In Hair's defence, there was more thazn a decade between, the creation of the musical and its movie adaptation.

Despite being an uncompromising proghead, I'd also tend to admit I prefer the version without the "prog" singer and prefer the movie, because the images carry the opera during its inevitable weaker moments, because there are a few, because of its all-too wordy storyline , something The Who avoided with some brilliant instrumental passages. Enough vain (and totally subjective) comparisons: despite my fairly-uncompromising atheism, I am forced to recognize that this JCS thingie is a very successful one, whether in its original vinyl form or its filmed version.

Review by GruvanDahlman
5 stars Musicals. Now there's a genre. Pompous and overblown. Doesn't that sound alot like progressive rock? In the case of ye olde Jesus Christ Superstar it couldn't be a more fitting description than that. I would not say, however, that it is a musical. For me, musicals are stories told through the musical medium, just like any concept album in the world of prog. I am not stating that prog and musicals are equals, simply that there are similarities. Jesus Christ is not, I say, a musical. Rather it is a supreme rock opera of huge proportions.

The birth of rock operas is debatable but this one, being released in the year of 1970, do belong to the first ones. Maybe Kinks was first. Or The Who. That is not the point. The point being that this opera is a seminal and awesome piece of progressive rock, bound together by the most cohesive pieces of music ever written. The theme, the last days of Christ, is also fantastic. No matter your religious beliefs it is a great story ande makes for a wide range of variety in moods, structures and psychological evaluations of all the concerned parties.

Each song is impressive in itself but the great thing is the way themes and songs are revisited and used again to great effect. For instance, "I don't know how to love him" is great sung by Mary Magdalene but dramatic and heart wrenching when Judas sings the same song. The angst portrayed vocally are moving, really.

The cast makes for great performances. Gillan makes a perfect Jesus, torn by his fate and destiny on the cross. Murray Head is fantastic as Judas and his vocals are really extraordinary acting through singing. The way he portrays Judas as torn between his destiny and beliefs, doubts and fears is truly wonderful to hear. I feel moved everytime he sings.

This edition, the first recording of many, is by far the best in my opinion. It is vibrant, alive and really raw, rough and hard rocking. A true masterpiece of early progressive concept rock. Easily five shining stars.

Review by jamesbaldwin
5 stars "Jesus Christ Superstar" was a multimedia project: double studio album, musical, film. It had a great success with the public and critics for three main reasons: 1) The idea of ​​staging the story of the last two weeks Jesus actualized in the present was brilliant 2) The writing of music and lyrics was excellent 3) Singers and musicians were talented, and very inspired.

"Jesus Christ Superstar" was written by Tim Rice (lyrics) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music), two great composers of lyrics and musical music, as attested by this album and by their subsequent career at JCS ("Evita", "Cats" and many other successful musicals).

The album's story follows the Synoptic Gospels and Fulton J. Sheen's Life of Christ. The lyrics put emphasis on the interpersonal relationships between Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdalene, anticipating many studies and many works of art (literary and musical) on the figures of Judas and Magdalene, which in the last 50 years have been re-evaluated and re-interpreted in a new key according to the message of Christian salvation. In particular, Judas is seen today by many not as a traitor but as a man forced to fulfill his role so that the divine plan is accomplished.

The music alternates epic and pompous moments, such as the famous "Overture" melody, at more melodic, more modest moments, at more progressive moments, at moments with a beat and response typical of the musical, at almost psychedelic moments. Overall, the music is always very creative even when not remarkable. I am not a lover of the musical (which tends to get tired, usually), but I recognize in this work a great inspiration both in music and lyrics, and I recognize that these two planes are very well combined with each other. So, although my involvement is alternate in this work, in any case I recognize his excellent inspiration. In the most melodic and dialogue moments, there are some refrains that have made epochs, as catchy and contagious, like this:

"What's the buzz? Tell me What's happening!" Taken from these lyrics (very inspired): "Apostles): What's the buzz? Tell me what's a-happening. (Jesus): Why should you want to know? Don't you mind about the future. Don't you try to think ahead Save tomorrow for tomorrow Think about today instead I could give you facts and figures I could give you plans and forecasts Even tell you where I'm going. (Apostles): When do we Ride to Jerusalem? (Jesus): Why should you want to know Why are you obsessed with fighting Times and fates you can't defy? If you knew the path we're riding You'd understand it less than I. (Apostles): What's the buzz? Tell me what's happening. (Mary Magdalene): Let me try To cool down your face a bit. (Jesus) That feels nice, so nice Mary, oooh, that is good While you prattle through your supper Where and when and who and how She alone has tried to give me What I need right here and now. (Apostles): What's the buzz Tell me what's happening. (Judas): It's a strange thing Mystifying That a man like you Can waste his time With women of her kind I can understand that she amuses you But to let her stroke you Kiss your hair Is hardly in your line It's not that I object To her profession But it doesn't seem to square With what you do or say It doesn't help If you're inconsistant They only need a small excuse To put us all away. (Jesus): Who are you To criticize her? Who are you To despise her? Leave her, leave her Let her be now Leave her, leave her She's with me now If your slate is clean Then you can throw stones If your slate is not Then leave her alone! I'm amazed that men like you Can be so shallow, thick, and slow There is not a man among you Who knows or cares if I come or go (Apostles, except Judas) No you are wrong You're very wrong How can you say that! How can you say that! (Jesus) Not one, not one of you."

The caliber of the performers has allowed some pieces of excellent writing to have great performances, think (to say one) to the vocal and instrumental performance in "Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)". The singers were: Ian Gillan (Jesus), singer of Deep Purple, Murray Head (Judas Iscariot), Yvonne Elliman (Mary Magdalene), Victor Brox (Caiaphas, High Priest), Barry Dennen (Pontius Pilate). Many of the primary musicians, like guitarists Neil Hubbard and Henry McCullough, bassist Alan Spenner, and drummer Bruce Rowland, they came from Joe Cocker's backing group The Grease Band. John Gustafson (Simon Zealotes) was the singer of Quatermass, then bassist of Roxy Music. Peter Robinson, who plays piano, electric piano, organ, positive organ, was the ingenious mind of Quatermass. Tony Ashton (backing vocals), was a great pianist, present on "It's Only a Movie", album of Family (1973).

Vote album: 9. Rating: Five Stars.

Latest members reviews

1 stars Ok. This one has been part of the life of "most of us". It has been a musical big success. But this in not prog. It's not even rock. Absolutely not a "rock opera", but a Broadway musical with lots of nice pop songs. Ok, you got guitars (and you got Ian Gillan!!!), but this is closer to "Ha ... (read more)

Report this review (#2115215) | Posted by rachs | Friday, January 4, 2019 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I'VE LOVED THIS MUSIC (and movie) SINCE OUR 8th GRADE CATHOLIC SCHOOL CLASS SAW THE MOVIE AT THE LOCAL MOVIE THEATER BACK IN '74! Being Holy Saturday and a Christian, it seemed appropriate to review my favorite musical and a favorite movie also since they are this movie/musical. First I'd lik ... (read more)

Report this review (#937096) | Posted by HarmonyDissonan | Saturday, March 30, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Not the first rock opera ever, and not the last but...Possibly the best rock opera ever made (sorry Tommy). This work has not a dull moment or a poor performance. Ian Gillian and Murray Head make this a pleasure to listen to. Their voices seem tailor made for Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot. I ... (read more)

Report this review (#282524) | Posted by mohaveman | Tuesday, May 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Jesus Christ Superstar is an absolutely phenomenal and groundbreaking rock opera. Andrew Lloyd Webber's third show is just spectacular. A true Rock Opera in every sense, the album gives a very interesting perspective on Christ and grabbed my interest even though I am not religious in the slighte ... (read more)

Report this review (#254814) | Posted by Awake | Monday, December 7, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The last reviewer, moodyxadi, summarized how I think about this album, about it having a strong theological thesis behind it. I even would go as far as proposing it for study in schools, to start some debate about Christianity and how it isn't dead and celestial, but it's also down-to earth and a ... (read more)

Report this review (#230739) | Posted by RaślGuate | Sunday, August 9, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars When I was a child I saw late on TV the movie version of JCS. It came deep on my mind and never really got back. Although I'm not a Christian I have a solid interest in the Christian movement (even to defend myself for the most radical ones) and particularly in the study of the origins of Christ ... (read more)

Report this review (#218113) | Posted by moodyxadi | Sunday, May 24, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I don't know how to love him... Andrew Lloyd Webber's famous Jesus Christ Superstar. And possibly my favorite of all his work. This is a rock opera, and a solid one. With Guest Ian Gillian as Jesus. The songs tell the story of Jesus before Jerusalem, to his Crucifixion. The album isn't religiou ... (read more)

Report this review (#210843) | Posted by Alitare | Thursday, April 9, 2009 | Review Permanlink


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