musicals

REVIEW: Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (1978, 2009 CD)

JEFF WAYNE – Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (1978, 2009 Sony CD reissue)

Simply put, it’s one of the greatest rock musicals ever: Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.  Not as well known as, say Jesus Christ Superstar, but it is essential ownership for fans of:

  • both science fiction and rock musicals
  • concept albums
  • H.G. Wells
  • Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues
  • Phil Lynott

That’s a lot of niche.  Composer Jeff Wayne wrote a musical that spans multiple genres.  Progressive rock, Disco beats, space rock, spoken word, symphonic rock…there is a foot on all those bases.  A theremin-like synth hook recurs through the album, increasing the tension.  Richard Burton is featured as the narrating Journalist, speaking the words of Wells, creating the necessary serious tone.  Meanwhile Justin Hayward is featured as the main lead vocalist, singing as the Journalist in a shared role.  It is he that delivers the catchiest of refrains on the album:

“The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, he said.  But still they come.” 

The story has of course been streamlined down from the original 287 page novel.  The plot remains the same, as do the major setpiece scenes.  The opening of the first Martian capsule in “Horsell Common and the Heat Ray” is impeccably narrated by Burton.  This also introduces a guitar theme that pops up again and again on the album.  And now it is clear the visitors from Mars have hostile intent, and weapons beyond those known to human science.

David Essex joins Burton on “The Artilleryman and the Fighting Machine”.  He plays a young soldier, survivor of the first Martian attack.  “They wiped us out.  Hundreds dead, maybe thousands.”  Guitars and synthesizers mingle in haunting fashion.  Dramatic strings emphasise the danger, as it quickly becomes an action piece.  Another recurring musical theme is introduced:  the terrifying Martian cry of “Ulla!  Ulla!”

Hayward resumes his role as the Journalist on “Forever Autumn”, a ballad memorable for its lamenting chorus of “Now you’re not here.”  But the destruction also resumes with the refrain of “Ulla!  Ulla!”  Then “Thunder Child”, featuring vocalist Chris Thompson, describes a counter attack by the ironclad ship Thunder Child.  She puts up a valiant struggle, managing to damage one of the Martian fighting machines, but succumbs to the heat ray.  Collapse is imminent, and Earth now belongs to Mars.

The second disc, subtitled The Earth Under the Martians, continues the story with Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott as Parson Nathaniel.  A foul red weed has claimed the land.  The mad Parson barely survived a Martian attack and is discovered by his wife Beth (Julie Covington) and the Journalist.  Lynott portrays the character with manic delight, as the Parson is convinced the Martians are the devil.  His feature lead vocal is “The Spirit of Man”, where the Parson blames the death and destruction on the sins of all mankind.  They witness a new Martian machine that pursues, captures and harvests humans for their blood.  The Parson thinks he can destroy the Martian demons with prayer, but fails.  The Journalist survives, and meets the Artilleryman down the road.

The Journalist is delighted to see a familiar face again.  The Artilleryman is the polar opposite of the Parson.  He believes mankind can survive underground.  “Brave New World” is a dramatic Floyd-like ballad in tribute to the new life the Artilleryman sees for himself.  The chorus of “We’ll start over again!” is infectious like all the others on this album.  “We’ll even build a railway and tunnel to the coast!  Go there for our holidays!”  He makes the future underground sound like a paradise, but the Journalist doesn’t believe such grand plans can be accomplished by just the survivors.  Instead, he returns to London.

The city is blackened, looted and abandoned.  Darker music accompanies the narrator/Journalist on his journey through on “Dead London, Pt. 1”.  Then he notices two massive fighting machines, making sounds but unmoving.  Then the machines goes silent, and the string section from the opening track “The Eve of the War” returns to dramatic effect.  This is when he discovers that simple Earthen bacteria and germs have killed the Martians.  They had no immunity to our diseases, and so the Martian invasion was stopped not by man, but by the smallest living things.  “Dead London, Pt. 2” is a triumphant refrain symbolising the victory at hand.

Life eventually returns back to normal, and the Journalist is reunited with his love.  There remains a question of a future threat from Mars.  The epilogue conclusively answers that question….

The highly recommended 2009 CD reissue has an unlisted bonus, a medley of two of the big Justin Hayward pieces, “Forever Autumn” and “The Eve of the War”.  There is also a 2009 re-recording of “The Spirit of Man”.  This set comes recommended mainly for its lavish booklet, with full colour illustrations and pages of art.  It also has full credits and lyrics for every track, including dialogue.  The remastering is full and clear, without any obvious sonic flaws.  You can buy this album in a number of editions, with loads of remixes and outtakes, but this simpler 2 CD remaster is the ideal entry point.

Though the musical chapters are long, War of the Worlds flows by rather quickly.  Sometimes it bears sonic similarity to Alice Cooper’s elaborate Welcome to My Nightmare.  But it is far weightier and more expansive than that.  You can finish the album in a single sitting quite easily.  In fact, you probably should.

5/5 stars

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RODDY BOTTUM Chats! Sasquatch, Faith No More and more!

Roddy Bottum is a man of many talents.  A multi-instrumentalist, Roddy might be best known for his bands Faith No More and Imperial Teen.  Roddy is also a composer and Sasquatch: The Opera is his first entry on that stage, but surely not the last.

An opera about Sasquatch?  What’s the deal with that?  It’s been a difficult journey. I had the chance to question on Roddy about it and his other projects.  Read it from the man himself.


Mike:  Sasquatch: The Opera has to be the most intriguing three-word title I’ve ever seen. I understand the story is about the misunderstood “monster”, but how did you settle on the Sasquatch for your monster? I’m a bit of a Sasquatch geek, and I’m curious if you are too.

Roddy:   It’s a character I always identified with. The ‘gentle giant’ aspect of him I kind of created myself. It’s a characteristic I always am moved by in literature and film. Elephant Man, King Kong, Frankenstein… the vulnerability of the misunderstood oaf, if you will. I’m also very sexually attracted to exactly that type.

Mike:   Would you ever go on a Sasquatch expedition?

Roddy:  I think I could entertain that voyage in a ‘social studies’ kind of way but I would be hard pressed to putting my best foot forward in the hopes of finding the monster. I want to believe. I really do. It’s like being taught religion as a child. I remain sceptical and needing of proof.

Mike:  Absolutely understood; I hope one day we find that proof.  How would you describe the music, is it a “rock opera”? I have to assume it’s a little different!

Roddy:  The instrumentation is timpani drums, drum machine, two synthesizers and two trumpets. It’s not exactly rock but it’s more rock than symphonic.  I kind of based the musical vibe all around the timpanis. The grandeur of that instruments spoke a lot in the presentation of the piece.

Mike:  Do you perform on stage in the musical?

Roddy:  I did, yeah, I conducted the piece and played a synthesizer. The one with the easier parts.

Mike:  Did you compose Sasquatch primarily on the keyboard?

Roddy:  Yes, first in my head and then on the keyboard.

Mike:   I read about the apartment fire you had while in the midst of working on Sasquatch. You had to recreate the Opera from scratch, replace props and costumes? Are you happy with how it turned out?

Roddy:  The fire gave me the opportunity to create from a clean slate something that I’d already done before. I like that process, actually. The fire was really and truly one of the worst tragedies I’ve had to go through. The cliche of the open window that happens as a result of a closed one, though. That rang true. Still, though I’m spooked by fire and I can’t eat barbecue or mescal or anything with a smokey after taste. Too soon.

Mike:  I can’t even imagine what that is like…I love barbecue.  Can we expect another musical from you?

Roddy:  Yes, I’d like to create another opera that’s about the fall of a nation. Particularly America in this political climate.

Mike:  I’d be into that.  Now, I was going to go and see Sasquatch with my mom. She’s in her 70s and maybe a little old fashioned. Do you think my mom would have a good time, or would I regret bringing her?

Roddy:  I got some of my best criticisms from people older than myself. I’m 55. I like to think of the themes as universal though there are some elements of incest and drug use that seem to disturb people. How open minded is your Mom?

Mike:  She’s pretty cool, I think she can handle it.  Could Sasquatch get a CD or DVD release?

Roddy:  I honestly like to keep the opera in the realm of ‘shrouded in mystery.’ In keeping with the allure and mystique of Sasquatch, the being, I would prefer that the only people who witness my monster and my music are the ones in the theatre who come to see it. It’s too easy for people to listen to something online. I’m not into the lazy attendant factor of that, if that makes sense.

Mike:  It does, I have heard stand-up comedians say similar things.  It should be just in the moment.  Moving on, can you update us on the next Imperial Teen record? I heard it was in the mixing stages.

Roddy:  We just finished the record, mastered it last week and are working on the album artwork. It’s got 10 songs, it’s called Now We Are Timeless and it will come out on Merge Records July 12.

Mike:  I hope you don’t mind a little fan-geek questioning. I am a music collector. I pride myself in having “almost everything” for many bands I love, but one “holy grail” item would be a live Faith No More bootleg with Courtney Love on vocals. I have been searching for years…decades! Does such a thing exist or is that era now lost to the sands of time?

Roddy:  I believe the only audio recording of Courtney singing with us is on a VHS recording of a daytime public access television show recorded in San Francisco in 1984. Courtney wore a dirty white slip and brought into the studio bags and bags of old flowers she collected from the flower mart. We decorated the stage and lit incense and performed in dashikis.

Mike:  If it exists, I will find it one day!  Regarding Faith No More, I think Sol Invictus is a fantastic record.  Among your best. I usually give the rare “5/5 star rating” to Introduce Yourself, Angel Dust, and King for a Day. Now I have added Sol Invictus to that list. You don’t strike me as the kind of band that puts out albums you aren’t happy with, but the reception to Sol Invictus was overwhelmingly positive. With a few years hindsight, how happy are you with Sol Invictus today?

Roddy:  I think it’s a strong record, thank you. I’m glad we were in a position to not have to pander to radio playlist or whatever. We made the record we wanted to make and really didn’t compromise at any stage.

Mike:  Is that you on vocals in the verses to “Motherfucker”?

Roddy:  It is, yes, and thank you for noticing.

Mike:  Do you have any other projects cooking currently that you can tell us about?

Roddy:  I’m in a band called Nastie Band. Our record will come out in April. It features an 84 year old singer, a pair of identical twins, a drummer and guitarist and many theatrical elements. It’s a performance band, very dark. Another band I’m in is called Crickets. We’re going away this weekend on a writing retreat. Michael O’Neil and JD Samson are both in that band and we liken ourselves to a wobbly dance sound a-la Tom Tom Club. We have our first show in New York in February.


It sounds like 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Roddy Bottum.  Be sure to check out the Nastie Band in April, and the new Imperial Teen record Now We Are Timeless in July.  Thank you Roddy for the chat!

#408: Record Store Tales – The Movie

Re-enactments of actual in-store events

#408: Record Store Tales – The Movie

On our old store applications/music test, one of the questions we asked was, “Who would play you in the movie of your life?”  (It may have said “musical of your life”, I don’t quite remember exactly.)  We had some good answers to the question. I always said that if I had taken the test, I would have answered “Meat Loaf”.

The musical or movie of my life would have be centred on Record Store Tales, obviously.  That would require a lot of creative casting in order to fully capture the eccentric personalities.  We couldn’t just try to re-capture the vibe of High Fidelity or Empire Records.  We would strive for finding the perfect actors for the roles.

In addition to writing and producing the feature, I would also insist upon the last word when it comes to casting.  I’ll be a control freak a-la E.L. James on set.  I would seek out Martin Scorsese to direct.

The movie would not be without its challenges.  How, for example, do we film the famous Open Door Shit scene?  I would insist on it being in the movie.  Otherwise, what’s the point of it?  I would throw a Christian Bale-sized temper tantrum if it were to be cut.  We’d also have to get permission to use a lot of great songs, which can be tricky to secure.

But what about the cast?  This is how I picture it.

  • BRAD  T-Rev – Brad Pitt
  • GUY CABELLERO  The Owner – Joe Flaherty (as Guy Caballero)
  • KIT  Iron Tom SharpeJon Snow err I mean Kit Harington
  • RIP TORN  Uncle Meat – Rip Torn
  • STATHAM  Aaron – Jason Statham
  • MARGARET HAMILTON  She Who Shall Not Be Named – Since Margaret Hamilton is dead, we will have to audition this role.
  • SCHWIMMER  Joe Big Nose – His lookalike of course, David Schwimmer.  If Schwimmer is unavailable, we go down the list to Freddie Prinze Jr.
  • ANDY DICK  Dandy Douche – Andy Dick
  • ROMANY  Jonathan the Accountant – Romany Malco
  • KATE UPTON  Mrs. LeBrain – Kate Upton
  • CRUISE TRAVOLTA  Annoying solicitors – Tom  Cruise and John Travolta
  • MEAT LOAF  and featuring Meat Loaf Aday as “LeBrain”

What about you?  Who would you like to play you in the movie or musical of your life?  Consider it deeply and leave a comment!

WTF Search Terms: Musical Inquiries edition

Welcome back to WTF Search Terms.  These are real search terms that somehow led people to mikeladano.com.  Today, I thought I’d answer some people’s musical questions.

Click here for the last WTF Search Terms XV: Fan Favorites – Thussy Edition.

WTF Search Terms XVI:  Musical Inquiries edition

1. why is lenny kravitz last two cds a disappointment

Lenny Kravitz has sucked since cutting off his dreads.  Scientists call it “Samson Syndrome”.

2. whats the dirt on richie kotzen screwing bandmates wifes

Great question.  Kotzen was actually screwing Rikki Rockett’s girlfriend/fiance while on tour with Poison.  Kotzen later married her after being terminated by Poison.

3. glenn tipton can’t play anymore

Incorrect.

4. iron maiden lyrics “what information do you need”

“We want…information…information…information!” – The Prisoner

5. does blackie lawless ever talk to anyone? 2013

Blackie Lawless has taken a vow of silence and now speaks through a computer like Stephen Hawking.

6. i wonder book list of names in the rock roll band kiss used to be in ks benny gene simmons paul stanley ace frehley peter criss and vinnie vincent

I wonder what this person is actually asking.

7. quite riot mr roboto

No.  It’s QUIET Riot, and Mr. Roboto was by Styx.

8. did malcomb mcdowell sing in a rock band?

No.  But there’s this musical:

9. back street boys with guitar

Next.

10. lebrians bb pin

I am not posting my BlackBerry pin, thanks.

SAM_2571

Be sure to check back soon for more WTFs!

Part 179: The Phantom of the Opera, and Paul Stanley’s Autograph

PHANTOM 3

RECORD STORE TALES Part 179: 

The Phantom of the Opera, and Paul Stanley’s Autograph

I seem to have lost my ticket, so I don’t know the exact date.  I do know however that I saw Phantom of the Opera at Pantages around October of 1999.  As you probably know, that was a big deal to us Kiss fans.  Paul Stanley was playing the titular Phantom.

My memories of the performance are good.  I recall there being a lot of longhairs and leather jackets in the crowd.  I remember that Paul couldn’t keep that edgy scream out of his voice, but he still did a remarkable job with the material.   I also remember he did a total rock star bow at the end of the show.

PAUL CREDITS

Having Paul play the Phantom was a stroke of genius.  It pulled in thousands of people, like me, who otherwise would not have gone to Toronto to see the show.  And it was a quality show.  Paul had the vocal range to do it, just not that classic training, and he was a bit rough around the edges.  But who cares?  He was so popular they had to add several more weeks of performances to his stay.  In fact I missed the chance to see him initially, it was only when they added the additional weeks that I got a ticket.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself, “OK, so what about that autograph?  Did you meet Paul?”

No.  But DJ Donnie D did.

I worked with this guy, DJ Donnie D.  (Yeah, don’t ask.)  Donnie went to see Phantom a few weeks after me, with his girlfriend (now wife).   While in Toronto, walking down the street, he spotted a familiar figure.

“I know who that is.  That’s Paul Stanley,” he told his girlfriend.  “I have to ask for his autograph.”

He approached Paul who was kind, and signed their stuff.  But Donnie went one step above and beyond the call of duty.  He got me an autograph too.

He came into work on his next shift, and surprised me with it.  “I had to get it for you,” he said.

I was blown away, I was jumping up and down I was so excited.  How cool is that?  I’m telling you right now, in my 12 years at the record store, I worked with some of the best people I’ve ever run across.  Donnie was one of them.  Thanks Donnie!

PAUL AUTOGRAPH

Next time on Record Store Tales…

Part 180:  Google Rules