Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of the Worlds was released earlier this week in 5.1 SACD Surround Sound by Sony Music’s Columbia Records label in Europe.
The new Super Audio CD version of the recording is being made available in two editions – a 2 SACD Set packaged in a Digipak case with a 8 page booklet (Columbia Records UK DPCD 96000) and a “Definitive Version, Collectors Edition” which features the 2 SACD Set, 1 CD of the “best remixes” from 1979-2005, 3 CDs worth of rarities featuring “never heard before material” by Richard Burton, Phil Lynott, David Essex and Justin Hayward of Moody Blues fame, a DVD “making of War of the Worlds”, a 12″ x 12″ hardback presentation book about the rock opera and an 80 page full color book (Columbia Records UK CECD96000).
A U.S. release of both editions of the War of the Worlds SACDs is forthcoming with these editions carrying Sony Music U.S. catalog numbers.
A Major Re-Release
The re-release of this classic rock opera that first appeared in 1978 is being made in anticipation of the release of a new movie version of War of the Worlds directed by Steven Speilberg and starring Tom Cruise and Tim Robbins. Both the Jeff Wayne rock opera and the upcoming movie are based on the H.G. Wells novel about an attack of Earth from Mars.
Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds Rock Opera is one of the best selling albums of all time in the U.K. which explains its appearance initially in Europe. It features a host of stars – from the movie and music worlds – including narrator Richard Burton, one of the eras best known actors and musicans including Moody Blues vocalist Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, David Essex, Chris Thompson, Julie Covington and several singers from the U.K. cast of Godspell.
Comments from Sony’s SACD Project Team in Europe
In announcing Monday’s release of the two SACD editions of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, the Sony SACD Project Team in Europe said that “SonyBMG has today released a staggering new version of Jeff Wayne’s seminal 1970’s album The War of The Worlds. After a three year restoration, remixing and re-mastering project, which saw Jeff Wayne and an expert team of audio engineers revisit 70-plus original 24-track master tapes, the album is re-borne as one of the most stunning surround sound productions ever created. Presented as a hybrid Super Audio CD, the album is playable on any standard CD or DVD-Video player as well as the new generation super high-resolution 5.1 multi-channel Super Audio CD players.”
Jeff Wayne on the War of the Worlds SACD Surround Sound Release
Jeff Wayne, the creator and producer of the Musical Version of War of the Worlds agreed with the sentiments of the Sony Europe SACD team noting:
“From the start, the production team made the distinct decision to let The War Of The Worlds be ‘itself’. The original production and its ingredients had so many natural areas to be developed for surround sound that the team chose not to fill the mix with ‘tricks’ simply to show how clever they could be within this medium and perhaps it could wear thin quite quickly. Because The War Of The Worlds has just about every ingredient that could challenge the human ear – a 96 minute continuous musical score, narrative, sung performances and self-created sound effects, it allowed us to use surround sound in a way that works for the production naturally, and allows the listener to ‘lose’ oneself in this engulfing sound spectrum.
Gaлtan Schurrer was also able to use today’s technology to its full, including tightening up the tracks wherever possible but still retain the human feel of the live performance as originally recorded. Everything remains from the original. Neither on the stereo nor the 5.1 has any part been replaced or enhanced. But it is still a remarkable transition – even the stereo sounds punchier and more clear, and there are sounds today that one can distinctly hear that were only ‘felt’ in the original.
Before I started work on the 5.1 multi-channel version, I was sure it would ultimately add a dimension to The War Of The Worlds that stereo could never have. What I didn’t anticipate was the sheer size and scale that the recording would ‘open’ up to. In hearing back the fully mastered Super Audio CD, the combination of the mastering and the Super Audio CD technology has given a width of sound that seems enhanced even more from what left my studio.
Given the choice I would never want to listen to, or make a recording in stereo again. Why would I want to when comparing these two formats? Used creatively surround sound gives a listening experience that can’t compare with stereo. Stereo was in its way as mind blowingly expansive as when it took over from mono, just as today surround sound takes over from stereo. And while digital technology has enhanced the quality of sound, this 5.1 surround sound is something else, because it does just what it promises – it surrounds you. If the mass marketing of TV and sound systems continues to grow using 5.1 as the standard carrier of sound, stereo might disappear entirely or at best become limited to perhaps portable radios, and MP3 devices.”
The Journalist – Richard Burton
The Sung Thoughts of The Journalist – Justin Hayward
The Artilleryman – David Essex
The Voice of Humanity – Chris Thompson
Parson Nathaniel – Phil Lynott
Beth (wife of Parson Nathaniel) – Julie Covington
The Heat Ray – Jo Partridge
The Voices of NASA Control – Jerry Wayne
Guitars – Chris Spedding & Jo Partridge
Bass Guitar – Herbie Flowers
Drums – Barry Morgan
Percussion – Barry De Souza, Roy Jones & Ray Cooper
Synthesizers – Ken ‘Prof’ Freeman
Piano & Harpsichord – Jeff Wayne
Piano on “The Red Weed” – Paul Hart
Tar, Santur & Autoharp – George Fenton
Composed, Orchestrated, Conducted & Produced by Jeff Wayne
Lyrics – Gary Osborne, Paul Vigrass, Jeff Wayne
Executive Producer – Jerry Wayne
Written by Doreen Wayne, Adapted from Story by H.G. Wells
Dramatic & Narrative Sections Directed by Charles Dubin & Jerry Wayne
Sound Effects – Geraldine ‘Pest’ Wayne
Album Tracks: 2 SACD Disc Set
Disc 1 – The Coming of the Martians
1. The Eve Of The War (Vocals: Justin Hayward)
2. Horsell Common And The Heat Ray
3. The Artilleryman And The Fighting Machine
4. Forever Autumn (Vocals: Justin Hayward)
5. Thunder Child (Vocals: Chris Thompson)
Disc 2 – The Earth Under the Martians
1. The Red Weed [Part 1]
2. The Spirit Of Man (Vocals: Phil Lynott & Julie Covington)
3. The Red Weed [Part 2]
4. The Artilleryman Returns
5. Brave New World (Vocals: David Essex)
6. Dead London
7. Epilogue [Part 1]
8. Epilogue [Part 2] (NASA)
Super Audio CD Edition Credits
According to the SACD liner notes “These original 48 track analogue recordings were transferred in 96Khz 24 bit format, re-synced, edited and mixed in both Stereo and 5.1 entirely in Pro Tools HD Accel.”
As noted above, the 5.1 Surround Sound remix was a major undertaking that was led by album creator Jeff Wayne. The restoration and 5.1 Surround Sound remix was engineered by producer and engineer Gary Langan (also known as a member of the group Art of Noise) with assistance from Gaetan Schrurrer. The SACD was mastered by Emily Lazaar assisted by Sarah Register at The Lodge in New York.
A Fine Use of 5.1 Surround Sound
Earlier I noted that Sony’s European SACD Team calls the new War of the Worlds Surround Sound SACD “one of the most stunning surround sound productions ever created”. That’s pretty high praise and in this case the soundscapes in the 5.1 Surround Sound mix of the new SACD edition lives up to it.
The album is a fascinating blend of narration, music, sound effects and vocals from some of the top rock vocalists of the 1970s. While the newly remixed edition is impressive in Super Audio CD Stereo, you really haven’t heard the SACD until you play it back in 5.1 SACD Surround Sound.
In Multichannel, the music and narration form a kaleidoscopic surround field which makes the rock opera’s story involving and quite compelling. On Disc 1, the tale starts out with actor Richard Burton’s voice coming from slightly above the front channels with only slight ambient sound in the surrounds, giving it a commanding presence. Next, the band and sound effects begin surrounding the listener from all angles.
Interesting touches can be found on track 2 with panned space ship sound effects and track 3 where Richard Burton and David Essex trade key dialog in the Right and Left Surround Channels. Much of the story on track 4 (Forever Autumn) is told in song by Moody Blues lead singer Justin Hayward. Listeners will find similar delights and treats throughout the balance of Disc 1 and Disc 2.
I think fans of the rock opera genre and the War of the Worlds story (and soon movie) will find this new Surround Sound SACD edition a welcome addition to their music collection. It is very well done indeed, particularly for those who enjoy an adventurous and ambitious 5.1 Surround Sound mix.
Availability in Europe
As noted above, the European SACD editions of both the 2 SACD Set and the Collectors Edition of Jeff Wayne’s War of the World are now available for purchase in music stores in Europe. These editions are also available from the War of the Worlds Web Site (which is linked to an eBay U.K. War of the Worlds web store) and several European web sites that carry Super Audio CDs such as Amazon.co.uk (U.K.), Amazon.fr (France) and Amazon.de (Germany).
U.S. Release on July 5th, Preorders Now Underway
While the European release of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds SACD editions occurred earlier this week, the U.S. release is being held to coincide with the Speilberg movie’s release during the 4th of July weekend.
As noted above, the U.S. editions will carry separate catalog numbers featuring the familiar “CH” prefix used by Sony Music in the U.S. to denote Hybrid Super Audio CD releases from their Columbia Records/Legacy label. The Sony Music Store on the Sony Music web site as well as Acoustic Sounds, Elusive Disc, Music Direct, Red Trumpet, Amazon.Com, CD Universe are now accepting pre-orders for the two SACD sets.
An Update: Full European Release Moved Back to July 5th?
After completing this story for High Fidelity Review, I learned that some of the Amazon web sites in Europe – namely Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.fr – are now showing the availability date of the War of the Worlds SACDs as being moved back to July 5th.
Those of you who pre-ordered this SACD from Amazon and had it shipped out on or before its original European release date of June 13th may have a bit of a collector’s item! (I’m certainly glad I followed that process in this case.)