It was with much trepidation that I ordered this reworking of what can only be described as one of the best musical experiences in my lifetime. However, I should have known better than to worry about such things.
I knew it was going to sound very different vocally and so I approached my first play through with an open mind and tried not to constantly compare this with the original. To my surprise, I found myself drawn into the production straight from the opening introduction by Liam Neeson. As I listened, it became clear that, apart from two or three transitions, a lot of effort has gone into every aspect of the music.
The Next Generation have proven their worth in their respective fields and deliver, almost faultlessly, superb performances. Maverick Sable and Joss Stone give confident performances as Nathaniel and Beth, as does Alex Clare as the Voice of Humanity. As for Gary Barlow, whilst I'm not his biggest fan, he has certainly gone up in my estimation, delivering Forever Autumn with the respect it deserves. Liam probably had the biggest shoes to fill. How do you deliver as successfully as the late, great Richard Burton? Answer, you take the role as if it was the first time it had been done and deliver an assured narration. The added text throws you a curve ball at first, but is very welcome. Try listening to it more than once and it becomes a wonderful addition.
But my highest praise has to go to Ricky Wilson. David Essex made this part his own and even the live shows didn't quite give what David gave to the role (sorry Alexis). But Ricky Wilson's delivery has re-written all that has gone before him. Thank the Lord he's going on tour with the ensemble. He lifts the part to new highs, portraying hope as if it was something tangible that you could reach out and touch.
Overall, Jeff Wayne has done what some would have thought impossible. He has delivered a refreshingly updated version of a masterpiece. It sounds richer and bolder without seeking to replace the original.
One last point is that it is presented in a superb CD package. The enclosed booklet contains biographies of all the players, new artwork and a full text listing of every spoken and sung word.
Overall, if you still love the original, you will, with an open mind, love this as well.
Hat's off to Jeff Wayne!!!