Monday, October 10, 2005

Music Morsels Volume III - Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar was one of the first cast albums that I really got into (ironic that it wasn't really a cast album, no?). I saw a production of the play at Jersey City State University on a high school field trip and loved it. I soon learned that my father had the original concept album on vinyl, and so I made a copy of the album on tape so that I could listen to it on my Walkman. I must have listened to that tape hundreds of times--to the point that there's still, to this day, a place in the score where I expect to hear the record skip (my taping had caught an inadvertent skip).

It may be no more than nostalgia doing the driving here, but no version I've since heard has come close to this original rendition of the score. Ian Gillian, of Deep Purple fame, was an inspired choice as Jesus, and he married better than any singer I've heard the rock vocalist/Broadway vocalist hybrid the score demands. Far too many singers mix into their pot too much from the Broadway side of the pantry, neglecting the real rock sound the role demands. This is my favorite Lloyd Weber score, just edging out Evita. The mix of styles always feels organic and unforced, and the way the music is able to move from real rock ("Heaven on Their Minds") to 70s-style balladeering ("I Don't Know How to Love Him") to music hall ditties ("King Herod's Song") to soaring Broadway anthems ("Gethsemane") to classical ("John Nineteen Forty-One) is inspiring. "Gethsemane," in particular, stands out as simply one of my favorite musical theater songs, especially in Gillian's passionate, throat-shredding rendition.

Grade: A

Until Whenever


Roger Owen Green said...

This album was the source of great theological conversation at the time, at least in my circles. And yes, the original is the best.

Tosy And Cosh said...

I was baptized Catholic but never received any real religious education and am now an atheist. My wife is a (relatively) devout Catholic, and whenever we discuss Biblical matters I joke that everything I know about Jesus comes from JCS.

Anonymous said...

I was doing a search on Jesus Christ Superstar and wanted to tell you that I was in the production that you saw at Jersey City State College back in 1990.

We really had a lot of fun doing it and I now look back on it as probably the most professional shows I've ever done.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.