Jeff Wayne's musical version of The War of The Worlds has now been released in two forms. Although the timing coincides very neatly with Spielberg's retelling of the story on film, this is clearly not a rushed release but has taken some time to plan and create. Jeff Wayne has gone back to the original multi-track masters, converted them into digital format and then re-mixed and re-mastered the whole thing. The 2-disc edition is a hybrid SACD with both newly mastered 5.1 surround sound and stereo mixes. The other edition comes with no less than 6 CDs and a DVD. The additional 4 discs have various cover versions, remixes and rarities from the original recording sessions (including Richard Burton's complete unabridged recording), and the DVD contains a 75-minute "making of" documentary and a 76-page hardback book - a bumper and definitive collector's edition indeed. The timing of the release has as much to do with getting some early promotion of Wayne's upcoming animated CGI version of the tale, and a preview of this version is also contained on the DVD.
For those who are not completely acquainted with the musical, Wayne wrote it back in 1977/78 as a classical/progressive rock fusion with songs, extended instrumental sections and a narration. Like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series, it is another Science Fiction tale to emerge in an audio-only medium, where the lack of visuals let the listeners' imaginations make up their own special effects. There is a full string orchestra and the lead musicians are Chris Spedding (who played on Mike Batt's Wombles songs) on synthesiser, Jo Partridge on guitar, Jeff Wayne himself on keyboards and Herbie Flowers on bass. The narrator and hero of the story is voiced by Richard Burton as the Journalist, with David Essex as the Artilleryman, Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy) as Parson Nathaniel, Julie Covington as his wife Beth, and also featuring the singing voices of Justin Hayward (Moody Blues) and Chris Thomson (Manfred Man's Earth Band). The album was a huge success world-wide and had hit singles based on the instrumental track "The Eve of War" and the song "Forever Autumn". Nearly 3 decades later it is easy to see why it is such a success. It has bold dramatic music, eerie sounds effects, great drama and story-telling, and it packs a gripping emotional punch.
The two version are available from the following sources:
Also note that a Stage version of the musical is on tour (at least in the UK) with DVDs available as follows:
Disc 1: The Coming of the Martians (both editions)
Disc 2: The Earth Under the Martians (both editions)
Disc 3: Club Remixes 1979-2005 (Discs 3-7 are in the collector's edition only)
Disc 4: The Coming of the Martians - Revisited (Original Studio Outakes 1)
Disc 5: The Earth under the Martians - Revisited (Original Studio Outakes 2)
Disc 6: The Earth under the Martians - Revisited (Original Studio Outakes 3)
Disc 7: DVD Documentary - Deconstructing The War Of The Worlds
You might also want to check out these websites for more information and sound-clips: