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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jeff Wayne

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds 2005 Edition

Review by Gary Hill

In the world of rock opera's Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds stands far above the majority of the competition. A release that has shown lasting appeal, maintaining a following for all these years, has just been re-issued in this hybrid Super Audio CD. The hybrid quality means that there are two tracks on each CD - one that will be played in standard format on any CD player and another with additional audio channels for playing in SACD equipped players. The entire album has been remixed with today's audio standards from the original source recordings. The result is a killer release of an already great disc. All the story and performances of this fine album have been preserved in their entirety - nothing is lost, but much is gained. The sound has gained a new and wonderful clarity with this remastering. It really comes alive even more than it had before. Also added in this edition is a great digipack that contains an expanded book with the entire story, information on the making of the project and biographies of the various artists. This is certainly a better standard than the original. Since all the songs were reviewed before in the coverage of the original issue, they will be presented here as they were there for consistency. It is important to note that this rock opera comes closer in terms of the story line to the original book than either of the movies that have been produced. For that reason this should make it of particular interest to those who enjoy Wells' text. This album is also available in a seven-disc collector's edition. That release includes everything you get with this one, but also has a CD of club mixes of the music, three CD's of alternation versions and outtakes, a making of DVD. If you are fan of this one and have the original release, it would certainly be worthwhile to get one of the two new releases - the difference is remarkable. If you haven't picked that one up yet - what are you waiting for? - choose your particular configuration and get this thing. If you like progressive rock based rock operas and enjoy a good story, this is definitely for you.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
The Eve of the War
The beginning of this track is a narration by Richard Burton setting up the background for the story. Dramatic, orchestrated tones take us out of the narration. One of the main themes of the album makes its first appearance here. The piece encompasses prog leanings, drama, disco and alien based tones to set a nice overview for the work and many of the varied segments here make appearances throughout the album, binding the work together. More narration, describing the missiles making their way to Earth from Mars, acts as a break to the music. As the narrated tale continues, more of the projectiles come from Mars, although "the chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one". Justin Hayward`s vocals lend a Moody Blues oriented feel to the piece, and as the narration continues, we find that the first cylinder has landed.

Horsell Common and the Heat Ray
A bass guitar drives the opening segments of this piece as we hear the sounds of the cylinder unscrewing. Narration describes the crowd and happenings as the lid falls and the Martian emerges. A very entertaining section of music gives its own description of this otherworldly scene. Narration then describes the first use of the heat ray, and the music increases in intensity while slight disco tones again make an appearance. The narration continues the story, as the song persists in its evolution, while bringing its own themes back. As the piece ends, soldiers have gathered in close to the area, and a second cylinder has arrived.
The Artillery-Man and the Fighting Machine
Musical themes begun in the last track continue here, with more `70`s type influences. The piece is essentially a conversation between the narrator (a journalist) and artillery-man. We find that the Martians have built a fighting machine and fought their way through the gathered resistance. As the music continues throughout the cut, more disco influences make their appearance, but the feel is still quite prog. The tripod fighting machines work their way across the British countryside bringing destruction with them. As the heat ray strikes the nearby town, we first hear the Martians` howl, which is followed by a nice keyboard flourish.
Forever Autumn
A narration sets the tone for the first real song on the album. This is a beautiful Moody Blues styled ballad sung by Justin Hayward. Forever Autumn is a love song nestled amongst the larger story unfolding. The song does include more narration of the story, but it cannot take away from the beauty of the piece. As the narration continues, London is devastated by the Martians.
Thunder Child
This song (complete with narration sections) tells of the battle fought by the war ship Thunder Child against the Martians. As a symbol of Earth`s last hope against the invaders, the ship is sunk as more cylinders make their descent to Earth. Musically, this is a pop song with progish influences, and is ended by the Martian howl and other side effects.
Disc 2
The Red Weed (Part 1)
A weird tone pervades the piece as the landscape begins to resemble Mars due to the growth of red Martian weed. Pretty, but melancholy, tones begin to emerge from the strangeness of the piece, but an otherworldly texture still dominates. This track is very prog in nature, seeming even to be a bit reminiscent of some of Rick Wakeman`s more ambitious works.

The Spirit of Man
This number, in many ways, is more theater than song, but does contain vocal sections (Phil Lynott and Julie Covington) which are quite strong. In fact, much of these vocal sections, and the music surrounding them, are powerful and uplifting against the bleak situation surrounding them. However, even these sung vocal segments are in the form of dialogue, adding to the theatrical texture of the composition.
The Red Weed (Part 2)
This cut reprises the weirdness of the first version of The Red Weed. Again more theatric in nature, the piece continues to advance the story. Central musical themes to the work, first seen in the initial track, also re-emerge here.
Brave New World
Essentially a madman`s dream of rebuilding the Earth, this is a dramatic piece. The majority of the song is a monologue (some spoken, some sung) set to symphonic prog music.
Dead London
Sounds of desolation begin this track, and echoes of themes from the opening segment of the album appear here. The mood of this piece is very effective, and again the central theme makes a solid appearance. Amongst the devastation, and weirdness, the Martians meet their end before our narrator`s eyes. Victorious tones signify the resurgence of man.
Epilogue
This piece starts with spoken word and sound effects. It is an augmentation to the original story, and shows the beginnings of a new invasion.
 
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