Review Summary: Is it a rehash? Is it a sequel? a prequel? No...it's....just...unnecessary.
As somebody who grew up appreciating all forms of progressive music – and Jeff Wayne is never credited enough as a Progressive Rock pioneer – I have always had the utmost experience and excitement for War of the Worlds the book, the movie (1953 version) and Jeff Wayne’s musical interpretation of the chilling Sci-Fi tale of man versus Martian and the morale surrounding our insistence that we are the only powerful beings in the universe.
It came as no surprise that Jeff Wayne would refresh the sound with an all new cast and with the extensive brilliance that the live tour held; there was definitely an urge to hear a digitally recorded mix.
Many will criticise the entire “New Generation” as a total re-hash and there are several disappointments for people who live by the original, but what’s important here is that this was not intended to be a replacement: this is the new generation of performers.
Whilst Liam Neeson took the brave step into the light once held by the legendary Richard Burton, there are plenty of reasons why he’s the brilliant choice and yet his efforts seem lacklustre. Neeson has a smooth voice and I really do hope to see the 3D hologram of his performance as the journalist but there are moments in the album that feel as though they should have been out-takes. Within the first five minutes of The New Generation you begin to wonder whether or not Liam Neeson was anxiously rushing to finish sentences before his cue was up. I wonder if Neeson read the dialogue over the top of the musical recording rather than separately. There are parts of the album where Liam Neeson’s narration gives the impression that he was rushed. For anyone who hadn’t listened to the original album, this really damages ones imagination of the storyline.
Gary Barlow and Ricky Wilson being two great front men of their respective bands provides an interesting insight into what the stage show holds for us and whilst Joss Stone (who will be replaced with Wicked’s Kerry Ellis for the live performances) delivers as Beth perfectly; I couldn’t justify the inclusion of Maverick Sabre and Alex Clare. Perhaps it is my ignorance for not being familiar with these two, but the ‘feel’ of their roles as the lesser-known performers (compared to Barlow, Wilson and Stone) just didn’t live up to my expectations.
With this said, it strikes as peculiar that Jason Donovan and Wet Wet Wet’s Marti Pellow will perform live even though they are not included in this recording. On top of this, Metal vocalist Will Stapleton is set to take over from Alex Clare whose voice didn’t seem “glammy” enough for the epic power of ‘Thunder Child’.
Musically, the album is crystal clear and almost features a trance/euro dance atmosphere which in my opinion is very fitting for any Alien-related thriller. There’s no denying how far we have come in terms of audio recording and the entire engineering and production of the album is incredible. It’s tight in every respect which makes me hope a 5.1 DVD Audio version is on the way.
To close; this album is a little too similar to the original and whilst many will agree that the original will never age – I can understand why Jeff Wayne pursued a re-recording of the album. Sadly though, it’s word-for-word and note-for-note exact which practically encourages the listener to compare it with the 1978 release no matter how hard they try not to. I can’t help but wish that a sequel or 21st century rendition was written instead as this really is a recycled clone no matter how you look at it.
I can compare this release to a Hollywood remake – you expect to be blown away, you expect a modified script and a new twist of events but instead you are delivered with a cleaner recording with fresher faces all encased in a somewhat unsurprising manner. This is the NEW generation with an all NEW cast and a brand NEW recording – but underneath, it’s the same old product.