Editor's Note:- Here's the first in a (probably occasional) series of blogs about things that I've liked for so long that I kind of take them granted - so much so that I assume everyone else has this as a reference point until they look at me funny and I realise it's just me. Don't expect them to be unbiased...
In A Nutshell:- It's orchestral yet synthy 20th century prog rock meets the grandaddy of 19th century science fiction. How could it not be great?
The Basics:- Recorded in 1976-77 and released in 1978, the double LP of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds is that rare thing - a concept album that actually really works. For those of you who haven't heard it, it's a faithful retelling of the novel combining narration from Richard Burton as the unnamed narrator form the book alongside instrumental tracks and songs featuring artists such as Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues and David Essex.
Why's It So Great, Then?:- It's always hard to pinpoint why something works but, somehow, the mixture of Burton, the musicians and Wayne's music itself all come together to create something that's such a ridiculous idea that it really shouldn't work but somehow manages to be brilliant. I first heard it when I was about six or seven and had to be bought the LP which was then played incessantly (along with a taped version for the car so that I could imitate the Martian war machines in the back of the car to my little heart's delight - "Ulla!"). The LP itself came with a massive fold-out booklet containing the narration and lyrics and some gorgeous painted artwork - my favourite being the picture of ravens picking the dead flesh of the Martians from their crashed machines at the end (I was always a morbid child). Plus Lynott and Essex put in some great powerhouse performances as Nathaniel the priest and the Artilleryman respectively.
Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish... :- Well, if I have to pinpoint something, I'd have to say I'm not overly fond of the music for The Red Weed - it's sounds a bit like a cross between comedy drunkard music and something a Mogwai would sing. I get what's trying to do but, for me, it just doesn't work. Other than that, though, it's all good.
So We Should Seek Out This thing Of Which You Speak? :- If you like H.G.Wells' work and you like a bit of operatic-tinged prog rock then definitely, yes. If you don't, well, give it a try anyway. It might just surprise you. Wayne is currently touring with a full live show based on the album. I've missed it a couple of times so I may have to go this time. It would be rude not to. Altogether now:-
"The chances of anything coming from Mars
Are a million to one
But still they come...."