Andrew Lloyd Webber

Please don't hit me, but I was a huge Andrew Lloyd Webber fan back in high school. I guess it was my own personal rebellion music, since everyone else was listening to grunge. At any rate, some of his stuff is still pretty good (mostly the older rock stuff) even though lots of it is horrible.

Information: Really Useful Group
Suggested first purchase/album: Jesus Christ Superstar
Suggested best of: Premier Collection

Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) -- This is the original pre-production version, the only one really worth getting. Anything you know about Andrew Lloyd Webber's current status as sappy crappy musical maker can be thrown out the window with this rock opera. Better than The Who's Tommy or any other progressive rock musical of the time, this one holds up today, and it is my favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. A

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1974) -- This children's production, first produced in 1968, is charming enough, going through a different musical genre with each song. I still can name all of Jacob's sons thanks to this musical. This version isn't as elaborate as the following versions, which is kind of nice. The one to have if you're going to pick one. B

Evita (1978) -- This is the version to get of this musical, the second best by Webber--though this is just as much a Tim Rice work, since his lyrics are arguably what make this so great. Julie Covington has a great great voice. A

Variations (1978) -- Variations on a theme by Paganini with modern instruments. A fun listen. This was later combined with the short musical Tell Me on a Sunday to form Song and Dance. C

Evita: Premiere American Recording (1979) -- Don't bother with this one, get the original. The stuff that's different is badly different (that is to say, the musical is still good, but this isn't the version to get). B

Cats: Original London Cast (1981) -- Cats is an okay musical as far as they go, but this is basically where Andrew Lloyd Webber went wrong. Dropping Tim Rice (lyricist for all of his previous musicals except By Jeeves) was probably the worst thing that happened to him, since the new guys didn't pack the same bite that he did (not that Rice packed much of a bite later when he started writing for Disney movies). Left to Lloyd Webber's own devices and a copy of a T.S. Eliot poetry book, we end up with the beginnings of typical musical trash. The London cast is the subdued version of that. B

Song and Dance: Original Cast (1982) -- The "song" is the musical Tell Me on a Sunday and the "dance" is Variations. This is a live recording of the original cast's performance on the first night. You can tell from the audience's applause that it's definitely a visual show (especially the dance section), but the music is still pretty interesting to listen to, and the Don Black lyrics from the song part aren't too bad--they'd later be surpassed with his Aspects of Love. C

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: Original Broadway Cast (1982) -- This version is all Broadwayed up, filling out each of the songs in a way that I like pretty well. B

Cats: Original Broadway Cast (1983) -- This is pretty much how people know Cats, and to me it's even a better version than the London cast just because if you're going to do a big stupid musical, you may as well get Broadway to handle it. So it's more out there and goofy. B

Starlight Express: Original Cast (1984) -- The only way to forgive this musical is to realize it was meant for kids. Of course, with songs about the sexuality of trains (see "AC/DC"), it's hard to know it's for kids to begin with. It's pretty horrible. Crappy synthesizer music. C

Requiem (1985) -- Not a musical, but a requiem for Lloyd Webber's father, it's not too bad, sort of pretty, especially "Pie Jesu." C

The Phantom of the Opera: Original London Cast (1987) -- This is where Lloyd Webber took it to the next big musical level. Most people probably cite this (or Cats) as their favorite. It's not too bad, but it's not too great either, even though when I first got started with Lloyd Webber, it was with this, and it was my favorite also for a while. After a time, I got tired of the whiny lead character and all the odd opera. B

Aspects of Love: Original London Cast (1989) -- This quiet musical is one of my favorite from this period. It seems too quiet at first, but if you let it grow on you, it becomes one of the loveliest things he's done. And I'm very fond of the story itself. B

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: London Palladium Production (1991) -- This recording sounds more poppy than the previous, and probably isn't as good, but there are some things in it that make it worth having. B

Sunset Boulevard: World Premier Recording (1993) -- My interest in Lloyd Webber had all but run out when I bought this in 1993 (having been listening to him since 1989 or so), so the fact that I don't care for this too much may be due to my not giving it much of a chance to begin with. But I doubt it: I think it's just sort of dull, even though it has it's moments, and some pretty shiny ones at that. B

By Jeeves: Original Cast Recording (1996) -- The original production, Jeeves, was produced in 1975, and this is a revamped version of it. It pretty much sucks. Between songs are a stupid little story (based on the P.G. Wodehouse stories), and the songs themselves are sucky. D

The Woman in White: Original London Cast (2004)

The Likes of Us: Live from the Sydmonton Festival (2005) -- The Likes of Us was the first musical written by Webber and Rice, back in 1965, pre-dating both Superstar and Joseph, but nothing much came of it.  Forty years later, Webber and Rice decided to put together a performance of the show for Webber's yearly Sydmonton Festival: the vanity press of show business, as the liner notes point out.  This one performance was recorded and that is what this record is.  The music is about what you'd expect from a musical written by young guys too inspired by 1960s musicals like Oliver!, as re-interpreted by the soul-sucking hugeness of all Webber product since 1990 or so.  The best part, in fact, of the recording is the narrator Stephen Fry, who -- in addition to telling us the story going on between musical numbers (the "book" isn't performed by the actors) -- makes witty jokes about the musical and Webber and Rice themselves.  Example narration (paraphrased): "There was once a satirical song at this point about the upper crust aristocracy and royalty of England, but remarkably Sir Rice and Lord Lloyd Webber seem to have lost it."  As you can tell, this is more of a novelty piece for Webber and Rice fans, and it sort of works in that way (one game to play is "find the melody": two of them appear in later musicals), though you do wish they could have put together a proper cast album (with less "lush" arrangements, more fitting of the time of 1965) or -- even better -- simply released the demo recordings they made in those days.  Even if crude, it would have been better. C

Copyright (c) Feb 2001 - Mar 2007 by Rusty Likes Music