¬иниловые пластинки "Jesus Christ Superstar"
¬иниловые пластинки "Jesus Christ Superstar"
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.....Continuing our occasion investigations into the middle bit of the Venn diagram where Jesus meets Funk, its time to tackle a quite misunderstood subject Ц that of Jesus Christ Superstar Ц in as many manifestations as we can grab a hold of. Now then, before you start tut-tut-ing about Andrew-blummin-Lloyd-bloody-Webber, have you listened to the original album lately? Moreover, anything that has spawned such a vast array of cash-in albums cannot possibly be all bad. In the years that followed, its creators might well have collected enough endorsements for a one-way ticket to fire and brimstone for crimes against music, but hey, everybody was hip in the 60s, and for at least a little while, so were they.
The modern perception of JCS is unfortunately of hamming actors slopping out the syrup on СI Don't Know How To Love Him', as opposed to all of your favourite session players giving it the funky free-form fuzz with extended solos and rattling drums around a jazz-rock template. There are so many theatre performance renditions of the musical available - they never really stopped coming Ц and each is absolute rubbish compared with the original album Ц untainted as it was with actors and their ilk. This record was made by Rock people, Jazz people and Soul peopleЕ and it was good!
It's pretty much undeniable that modern stage musicals have got no funk in them whatsoever. With the likes of Queen, Abba and Ben Elton cashing in on the affinity for matronly spinsters and, ahem, flamboyant menfolk for a good old hammy musical with an added dose of nostalgia, you'd be well advised to stay well clear of the West End these days if you are searching for any actual quality and innovation in the musical content, as opposed to a mere stroll down musical memory lane with a half-baked storyline. No way on earth in this day and age would any sensible impresario bet the farm on an eighty minute musical treatment of the crucifixionЕ and guess what Ц nobody would in the 1960s either!
Jesus Christ Superstar had travelled a very long path before it ever got near the stage, as even on the back of Rice & Lloyd-Webber's massive success in the mid 60s with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, no financial backing could be secured to produce the follow-up show. Taking the piss out of Big JC was not done lightly back then and theatreland was baulking at such risks, even in the wake of Oh Calcutta and Hair letting it all hang out. A bit of T&A and a few hairy hippies was one thing, but dissing The Boss's Lad was in a different galaxy. It would take a slow and steady strategy to avoid the inevitable accusations of blasphemy and an audience for JCS would be won via the more free-thinking and receptive rock music buying public, until they were begging for the fully-fledged musical.
A first taste of this project was given to the public in 1969, in the shape of the СSuperstar' 45, with young Murray Head singing the lead, backed with the fairly sombre orchestral piece СJohn 19:41'. With this statement, the marker went down Ц it may be hip, rocky and funkyЕbut all was done in the best possible taste. Of course it was an absolutely massive hit. MCA coughed up the readies for the full album and the mightiest names in London session land were enlisted to lay down grooves commensurate with the palette of the youth at the end of the 60s. Thus, the concept album arrived in 1970 Ц clearly billed as a Rock Opera to give it plenty of street-credibility in the wake of the barnstorming Tommy. This thing was cool and it was hippy dreams and nightmares all at the same time.
The original JCS album has sold millions of copies down the years, so you'll be able to find one for next to no money somewhere near you without much effort at all. Go check it out Ц it really is worth your time. So, of course loads and loads of JCS covers albums sprang forth from all of your favourite budget labels Ц don't fret, many of these are much better than you'd think, and a few are utterly fantastic! Things multiplied further when the movie version appeared in 1973 and touring productions have continued to scour the earth ever since, adding to the veritable bonfire of JCS interpretations out there. As always, we are here to investigate these thingsЕcome, brethren, break bread with us...
Jesus Christ Superstar Ц A Rock Opera' (MCA, 1970)
There's no flies on the original and truly epic double album Ц put away your preconceptions and check out the players involved; Henry McCulloch on guitar fresh out of the blues-psyche highs of the New Animals, Ian Gillan giving it his best set of screams as JC himself and the likes of PP Arnold, Madeline Bell and Chris Spedding crop up, not forgetting Mike Vickers manning the Moog, and even jazzers like Kenny Wheeler and Bill Le Sage get a blow too. The very cream of the rock session scene had a finger in the pie Ц so what about the results. Well, this LP did not become a massive seller for no reason, and you might well be surprised about the funk involved. СWhat's the Buzz' has Gillan doing his impression of a proper soul singer, restraining himself with just the odd squeal atop the slick and funky backing. He's on form too on СSimon Zealotes' that proves to be a super brassy-gospel-funk workout. Of course there is loads of over the top, high camp rubbish on here to Ц especially the tracks with Barry Dennen as Pilate, and I find Murray Head's Judas a real let down. It sounds like he got top billing over the songs, but the thing is, Judas got all of the groovers Ц it's such a shame that the vocals obscure the funk beneath. Compare the limp СHeaven on Their Minds' with the superb 'The 39 Lashes' section, where the band truly cut loose and freak right out with the same riff Ц this is where the top brass of the session world really earn their corn. Overall, this is a really good listen if you skip all of the theatrical nonsense tracks and cut to the chase Ц check it out for yourselves.
СJesus Christ Superstar Ц A Rock Opera' (Decca, 1970)
The US release seems to be just the same as the UK one, only it comes as one of those intensely annoying double albums that has side 1 paired with side 4. Why did anyone think that was a good idea Ц you still have to get up and change the record over after side 2, even if you have a twin deck! Note the significantly more sombre and reverential packaging approach compared to the psychedelic gatefold given to the British. When Middle America is involved, best play it very safe indeed, lest they get out of their prams and start burning records and lynching folk! Yeah, couple of angels, that'll do - best not over stimulate the good people of Utah!
Excerpts from Jesus Christ Superstar' (Deram, 1971)
Peter Sames and Zack Laurence were pretty quick off the mark with this album. The arrangements are fairly faithful Ц although the unwelcome addition of the then flavour of the month, country rock, can be detected in some of the guitar parts. Brian Keith as Judas is utterly dominant, with his gutbucket, gravely vocals, straining to out Joe Cocker the competition in the most boring manner. Looking at the list of players on here, there is both Hawkshaw and Coulam on organ, but you'd be hard pressed to notice them. The highlight is probably the one decent funker that doesn't involve our Mr. Keith Ц the pacy and funksome СSimon Zealotes' that makes this album worth checking out.
Percy Faith СJesus Christ Superstar' (CBS, 1971)
Now, you all know pretty much what to expect from the Percy Faith treatment by now, don't you; a big, big orchestra, string-laden in a sort of Western soundtrack style, but also with big rhythm and jazzy brass. When he does the business, our Percy really does the business, n'est-ce-pas? Relax - on this LP, he does the business. The first ten minutes of this album are magnificent Ц ripping trots through СSuperstar', СHeaven on Their Minds' and СWhat's the Buzz' go down a storm with banging drums and parpy brass battling it out with the orchestra in a high quality showdown. Also, the great thing about this album is the way that Faith livens up previously dreary filler like СEverything's Alright' and the dreaded СI Don't Know How to Love Him' into things that are at least listenable. This is probably one of the best all-round Percy Faith albums, which says more about Percy trying to please everyone than it does about JCS, but the track selection here is good and things are rounded off beautifully with the second stomping go at СSuperstar' for your moneyЕand nobody sings a note!!! Bonus!
СExcerpts from Jesus Christ Superstar' (Hallmark, 1971)
Never ones to wait very long for the smoke to clear from the cash-in starting pistol, the mighty Hallmark deliver a really quite interesting and listenable effort, with some geezer called Martin Jay as Jesus giving it the full Gillan when it comes to the screams, ably backed by a small combo and brass throughout. It's that touch of soulful parping that adds so much to a lot of the cuts, with СHeavenЕ' particularly benefiting from well-timed brassy stabs. Of the usual funkers, the only omission is СЕBuzz', but an excellently choppy СDamned for All Time' and a quality title cut more than make up for such an oversight. The big surprise to look out for is the magnificence of СThe Temple'; so many versions try, but fail to maintain interest through the quirky parts of this tune, but this slightly psych-ey and percussion-driven effort keeps the drama built up by the fuzz guitar riff and holds it throughout the track to come out with perhaps one of the best efforts anywhere.
Nick Ingman СPlays Excerpts from the Rice/Lloyd Webber Rock Opera Jesus Christ Superstar' (Polydor, 1971)
If this is not the best all-round JCS, then at the very least it must contain the biggest dose of downright dirty Hammond on any of these selections. With Nick Ingman at the controls, that must of course be Alan Hawkshaw on the organ, and unlike the above Deram effort, you don't have to strain very much to notice his fat Hammond sound. This album's winning formula is that it is kept down to a tight combo of drums, bass, guitar and organ, with the odd stab of brass and jot of orchestration Ц a winning blend that means the kick-ass start to this album of СHeaven on Their Minds' and СWhat's the Buzz' blows away the listener completely. Righteous! Things slip a bit after that for a few minutes as they get a few of the soppy songs out of the way before bringing it all back home again with a steaming СDamned for All Time'. Again, thankfully, what vocals there are usually fall into the backing variety, so the music really does the talking and even the usually rubbish tunes are not bad listening. A real winner of an album that you'll sometimes see in a lovely die-cut gatefold sleeve if you are lucky.
Original London Cast СJesus Christ Superstar' (MCA, 1972)
Well, it had to happen Ц the luvvies got involved, JCS made it to the stage, and who else but Paul Nicholas would they get to play the man himself? Its no surprise that the temptation to ham it right up with all of the soppy ballads and booming Herod nonsense cannot be resisted for even a second, and thus, they recklessly select all of the utterly terrible songs for this album, so we don't even get СWhat's the Buzz' to temper the soul after the god-awful toss of СI Don't KnowЕ'. Thesps, eh? Rubbish. Fortunately, СSimon Zealotes' just about saves the day again, as the guitar player decided to dust off his wah-wah for the duration, but СHeavenЕ' is a bit of a soft let down, so this really isn't an album to walk a mile to own for money.
СJesus Christ Superstar' (EMI, 1972)
The fact that none of the vocalists get any credit whatsoever on this album speaks volumes and swings the barometer of funk thankfully back in the right direction after the theatre mob had got there manicured mitts on it in the above album. This is a muso's record Ц the band are the stars, not the singers - and indeed they are stellar in their efforts. It looks like this record was made in Australia by a combo assembled by producer and organists Mike Perjanik, and obviously proved so good that EMI gave it a British release on their cheapie Starline label. Its really good stuff Ц the vocals are effective, but not over-egged, and the meat is left for the musicians to deliver, with much multi-tracked guitar and organ meaning that this shapes up to be a far more hard rock experience than even the original version, with wailing fuzz-toned solos chucked in the mix at random, just because they could. This strategy gives a genuine rock edge to the likes of СThe Temple' and СGethsemane' Ц tracks that are often poor in the hands of others. Killer takes on the usual winners too, so that means СHeaven...', СЕBuzz' and СSuperstar' all deliver. Someone once told me that this was where the Chemical Brothers sampled something quite famous fromЕhmmm.
СJesus Christ Superstar' (Windmill, 1972)
The ever-faithful Windmill label go one further, and give absolutely nobody any credit whatsoever on this album! That happens to be a real shame, because just about half of this record is top quality stuff Ц again, mostly because the small combo approach is used for the most part, and the vocalists sound more like pop singers than thespians, which is always to be preferred. A curious track selection sees them skip straight from the interval to the crucifixion Ц maybe they wanted to try and get it all done before the clock ran out on the session, got half way and just cracked off СSuperstar' to put the lid on it! All the usual goodies (barring the curious absence of СSimon Zealotes') are well worth it, СDamned for All Time' is top quality with some nice saxophone huffing making a refreshing change, but the best surprise is a very excellent few minutes of СThe Arrest', where they cram in the best riffs in a trick often missed by others. Well worth investigating.
The Disciples СJesus Christ Superstar' (Contour, 1972)
Well, well, wellЕtrust the mighty Contour to deliver the curve ball! This album is exactly the same as the Windmill one featured above Ц or is that visa versa! Both of these labels were pretty dodgy, so who knows which came first! At least here they have the decency to credit somebody for what is indeed a quite excellent rendition. Same tracks, same order, same goodness!
'Jesus Christ Superstar' (MFP, 1972)
All is in place and well with the world with the inevitable MFP treatment; Roger St. Pierre does the sleeve notes, the fixer assembles an uncredited bunch of top session players and they rattle off the tunes to great effect under the watchful eye of producer Walter Ridley. A bit of a game of two halves, as there is a fairly large orchestra in attendance, so that means when they do the soppy stuff, you'll be putting your brew down and getting up to skip the needle on to the next track fairly sharpish as they over-egg the pudding with schmaltz. That's a shame, as when the funkers are attacked, things are pretty good, with plenty of parping brass and a drummer that really has to go for it to be heard above everyone else. Whoever is singing seems to be doing all of the parts himself (except the screeching Mary, of course), and he does a fine job. Stick to the usual favourites and you won't go far wrong with this one. Its worth pointing out that there are a couple of different sleeve designs for different issues of this one; just a few years apart, the latter quite probably looking to cash in on the success of Evita at the end of the decade. All the music is the same on both of them, so have a dabble on your favourite, or collect the pair Ц after all, two times fifty pence is still only a pound!
Alan Caddy Orchestra & Singers СExcerpts from the Rock Opera Jesus Christ Superstar' (Avenue, 1972)
The Avenue offering could well be the most polite version of JCS out there, with what sounds like a Julie Andrews impersonator in the role of Mary adding an almost laughably prim edge to the otherwise funky СЕBuzz'. Judas is doing a bit of an Elvis impersonation as well, so things are by no means cooking on gas. Instrumentally, the usual grooves are interesting enough with some odd touches to the groovers now and again. An unspectacular take on the spectacular. If you are lucky, or indeed unlucky, depending on your own opinion, you might well happen up this album split into a pair of 33 rpm EPs on the ultra, ultra cheapie Forest Records label.
СThe Soul of Jesus Christ Superstar' (Lenox, 1972)
This version is often quoted as a favourite by many, and if US soul is your bag, then you should seek this album out as a priority. Arranger Robert Banks gives it that Al Green, I wanna testify stuff to the max and personally, I think that it wears a bit thin after a couple of tracks. However, parts of this record are superb Ц a crazy СSimon Zealotes' and of course СЕBuzz' is done as if it were written for these guys Ц which as it is just a remedial funk riff ripped off in the first place, you could say it was!. Sadly though, potential goodies like СHeavenЕ' are complete garbage, and the usually barnstorming climactic title track is just plain ridiculous. Give over guys! Highly recommended, on the whole though.
The Guitar Factor СPlays Music from Jesus Christ Superstar' (Metromedia, 1972)
After the soul version, hang on to your hats for the psyche take! Looks like the Yanks were the only ones able to look at JCS in a less than, erm, reverential light and try something a bit different. Damn, this is good! Wah guitar, drums, keys and vibes Ц oh yes!! Kicking off with an absolutely killer СHeavenЕ' and following up with the best take on the usually quite lame СEverything's Alright', great things are expected for the rest. How about a sitar version of СHosanna'? Crazy, baby! High quality stuff throughout, if a little overly dominated by the guitar, but hey, what do you expect with a band called Guitar Factory? Things are very proggy indeed on СGethsemane' and the cracking wah action returns to bring the album home with a bang on the title cut. Fantastic!
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack СJesus Christ Superstar' (MCA, 1973)
The first thing that takes you aback a little bit about the JCS movie is when you notice that Melvyn Bragg wrote the screenplay Ц so he's the one responsible for the crucifixion at the kibbutz feel of the affair on screen, bless him. Perhaps the other big thing that stands out like a sore thumb in the film is that Judas really steals the show, in the shape of the superbly soulful Carl Anderson, whereas Ted Neeley is rather wet as old JC, producing a rather mournful figure compared to the screeching Gillan model. Looks like they had a bit of money to chuck at the OST as well, as none other than Andre Previn is at the orchestral helm Ц and a big orchestra it is too, so unfortunately, things are a bit overblown throughout. Still, you can't escape the funkers, even if the grooves are often rather low in the mix compared to the vocals. There are some new songs too, but not very good ones, alas; check out the pairing of СGethsemane' and 'The Arrest' for the points where the orchestra adds instead of subtracts.
Alan Caddy Orchestra & Singers СGodspell & Jesus Christ Superstar' (Golden Hour, 1973)
Eyes down for some more recycling, as the Alan Caddy treatment on Avenue surfaces on Golden Hour, if only partially so. Time constraints mean that the editors' knife has been chop, chop, chopping as this 80-minute epic is squeezed onto one side of vinyl, so prepare for the bare bones. Shame then that СWhat's the Buzz?' bit the dust, which leaves only the title track and СHeavenЕ' worth dropping the needle down on, if you really must. The lack of track information on the sleeve indicates that there must surely have been boardroom-level dissent at this unjustifiable exclusion at the time!
СGodspell & Jesus Christ Superstar' (Boulevard, 1973)
Cheap as ever, the Boulevard strategy delivers a similar two-fer approach, but just to surprise you for a second, the few songs crammed onto the record are really pretty different and genuinely good in parts. Check out that Mellotron on СHosanna' for a start Ц psychey! Quite probably the best take out there of СThis Jesus Must Die' then appears, with a lovely slow funk, and because the vocals are not being camped up to the max on this version, it works a treat. There's an uncredited bash at СTrial Before Pilate' too, reduced to the cool guitar riff only, which is nice, then a really tight and funky tilt at the title cut that could have almost been culled from the Lenox album. Wow Ц a decent effort from Boulevard! Praise the Lord indeed!
СMusical Excerpts from the Rock Opera Jesus Christ Superstar' (Concert Hall, 1974)
The collectable Concert Hall label coughs up a real good one. Late in the day perhaps, but there was clearly room on the record racks for another bash Ц especially should it contain a good dose of choppy funk! Maybe the vocals are a little put-on in the light of the film, American accents and all that, but few other complaints can be had as a killer take on СHeavenЕ' is quickly followed up by maybe the best goes at СThe Temple' and СDamned for All Time' to have yet been uncovered. The later almost sounds like it's on at 45 rpm Ц the drummer must have gone bonkers! Shame that the second side is a bit overblown for the most part, but it's brought to a fine conclusion by a funky take on the title cut. Excellent stuff!
Terry Wallace & His Interstellar Moog Sounds СMoog Superstar' (Decca Eclipse, 1974)
Another late arrival, but seeing an original suite for Moog composed by arranger Eric Siday takes up the majority of side two here, this tardiness is forgiven, especially in the light of the show of utter genius that this album becomes once you get a load of the righteous and ridiculous Moog wibbling going on throughout. Man, there is some crazy stuff on here Ц not least the notion that they could get away with straight sounding vocal on guff like СI Don't Know How to Love Him' Ц simply hilarious! Fall down laughing at that one minute and the get up grooving the next. The title track and СGethsemane' in particular are stupendous Ц real Jean-Jacques Perrey territory. What of the Suite for Moog then? Well, indeed this has its moments too, making this a great album to secure if you can.