I cannot find words to describe what Jeff Wayne has achieved in making this album. There are no expressions readily available in the English language to describe the scale of musical triumph held within The War of the Worlds. But this blogger shall try, at least, to encompass its greatness in around 300 words.
The War of the Worlds is a musical adaptation of H.G Wells’ epic 1897 novel of the same name. The album recounts the tale in the novel, each song bearing the name of a significant event throughout. I won’t say too much about the story so as not to ruin it for new listeners. Essentially the Martians come to Earth with the sole intent of colonising it, starting with England!
Playing the protagonist/narrator is Richard Burton, a famous “thespian wastrel” and, briefly, husband to Elizabeth Taylor. He plays the part of the journalist, through who’s eyes the story is told. Other notable vocalists include Phil Lynott (of Thin Lizzie) and Julie Covington (Don’t Cry For Me Argentina) as Parson Nathaniel and his wife, Beth.
The full album is almost two hours long. I’d suggest, as is my want, that you listen to it all the way through in one go. Only then can you appreciate its depth. My father suggested this to me. Only after my fourth or fifth listen all the way through, including one where I drove from Austria to North Eastern Italy, did he tell me that his father had suggested this to him.
War of the Worlds is a family musical heirloom. I’m not surprised this album has survived the test of time. For want of a better word it’s otherworldly. There is something magnificent about the way it has been put together. The melodies contained within will make the hair on your neck stand up. I cried four times when listening to it on my way to Stansted. And I mean full heaving weeps, not some minor droplets. This album will evoke emotions in you. Emotions you are not ready to recognise you possess.
There does exist a new version, with vocals by Liam Neeson as the spoken voice of the Narrator and Gary Barlow (Take That) as his sung voice. The artilleryman is played by Ricky Wilson (Kaiser Chiefs). Maverick Sabre plays the Parson and Joss Stone (The Soul Sessions) plays his wife. The reworked album follows the same direction as the first one, with a lot more synth and a refreshed feel to it. The Spirit of Man is a particular highlight for me.
Listen now and listen well to this magnificent musical triumph. You won’t regret it.