Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber release “Jesus Christ Superstar” concept album

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber release “Jesus Christ Superstar” concept album


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From the late 1950s to the mid 1960s, it was common for original cast recordings of successful Broadway musicals to find their way up near the top of the pop album charts. Hit shows like West Side Story, The Sound of Music and Funny Girl, among several others, all spun off million-selling albums during this era, but by the late 1960s, the pop album charts had been decisively taken over by rock. It was in this environment that a young British composer and his lyricist partner managed to achieve a massive success by precisely reversing the old formula. On October 27, 1970, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who would go on to become the most successful composer-lyricist team in modern theater history, released a double-LP “concept” album called Jesus Christ Superstar, which only later would become the smash-hit Broadway musical of the same name.

Jesus Christ Superstar was the third musical written by Lloyd Webber and Rice, following on The Likes of Us, which was staged for the first time in 2005, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which saw only limited performances in various English churches between 1968 and 1970. Superstar grew out of Tim Rice’s longtime fascination with Judas Iscariot, whom he conceived not as a craven betrayer of Jesus, but rather as a dear friend struggling with the implications of Jesus’ growing celebrity. Although the musical would later find broad support among leaders of liberal Christian churches, it was nevertheless too controversial to gain the financial backing necessary for a stage production. Lloyd Webber and Rice therefore chose to package Superstar as an album first.

Working with a cast that included Murray Head—later of the pop hit “One Night In Bangkok” (1985)—in the role of Judas, and Yvonne Elliman—of the 1977 #1 hit “If I Can’t Have You”—as Mary Magdalene, Lloyd Webber and Rice recorded the Jesus Christ Superstar album in the summer of 1970 and released it in Britain and the United States the following fall.

Then as now, Lloyd Webber and Rice had their detractors in the critical establishment. Writing for The New York Times, critic Don Heckman questioned whether this new “rock opera” deserved praise either as rock or as an opera. “As rock, it leaves much to be desired,” he wrote. And in relation to 20th-century operas by the likes of Stravinsky and Gershwin, Heckman argued, “The comparison is pretty devastating.”

Nevertheless the Jesus Christ Superstar album spawned a Top 40 single in versions of “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” by both Yvonne Elliman and Helen Reddy, and it shot all the way to the top of the Billboard album charts in early 1971, paving the way for a smash Broadway opening later that year.


Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert

Experience composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera starring pop stars John Legend as Jesus and Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene with rock legend Alice Cooper as King Herod. Filmed live in concert, the musical recounts the last week of Jesus’ life.

Great Performances: Jesus Christ Superstar Live in ConcertPremieres Nationwide Beginning November 30 on PBS (check local listings)

John Legend, Sara Bareilles, Alice Cooper and more star in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock opera

New York metro area telecast on Friday, December 6 at 9 p.m. on THIRTEEN

Great Performances: Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert showcases the iconic rock opera featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. Great Performances presents the 2018 Emmy Award-winning production nationwide beginning November 30 on PBS (check local listings). EGOT winner John Legend leads the cast as Jesus Christ with Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene and rock legend Alice Cooper as King Herod.

The musical recounts the biblical story of the final weeks of Jesus’ life, focusing on the relationship between Jesus and Judas (Brandon Victor Dixon). When Judas turns on his teacher, his fateful decision sets both men on a path to tragedy. Also featured in the cast is Ben Daniels as Pontius Pilate, Broadway’s Norm Lewis (“Once on This Island,” “The Phantom of the Opera”) as Caiaphas, Jin Ha as Annas, Jason Tam as Peter, and Erik Grönwall as Simon Zealotes.

Originally conceived as a 1970 concept album, “Jesus Christ Superstar” hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1971 and made its Broadway debut that year, earning five Tony nominations. Considered a classic, the musical became a staple of theater and music organizations throughout the world, including 2000 and 2012 Broadway productions that each earned a Tony nomination for Best Revival of a Musical.


What’s the Buzz: How Two British Kids Made Rock Musical History With Jesus Christ Superstar

In the Beginning
Though the iconic Jesus Christ Superstar &ldquobrown album&rdquo became a fixture in teenagers&rsquo basements and church youth groups alike in the early 1970s, creators Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice didn&rsquot intend to release their third collaboration as a recording. The pair, then 22 and 26, respectively, already had one theatrical success in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but they hit a brick wall with their take on the Messiah.

&ldquoNobody would put it on stage,&rdquo Lloyd Webber said in behind-the-scenes documentary The Making of &lsquoJesus Christ Superstar.&rsquo &ldquoI mean, every single producer in London said, &lsquoYou have to be joking. This is the worst idea in history.&rsquo&rdquo


The Greatest Story Ever (Re)Told
As the title suggests, Lloyd Webber and Rice relate the story of the last week in the life of Jesus Christ, from his entry into Jerusalem through his Crucifixion. According to Elizabeth Wollman's book The Theater Will Rock, the idea was given to Lloyd Webber by an Anglican minister who suggested telling the story of Jesus in a way that &ldquomodern youth could identify with.&rdquo It also tapped into Rice&rsquos long-standing fascination with the fallen disciple Judas Iscariot.

Lloyd Webber and Rice looked to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, focusing on the human story involved. &ldquoWe did not set out to portray Jesus Christ as God,&rdquo said Lloyd Webber in The Making of &lsquoJesus Christ Superstar.&rsquo Rice added, &ldquoHe had to be human, he had to be a man with human failings or else the story doesn&rsquot mean anything. If he was just a god, or if he knew he was God, then what&rsquos the suffering? What&rsquos the agony? Where&rsquos the dilemma? Where&rsquos the sacrifice?&rdquo

Rock God
After failing to secure a stage producer, Lloyd Webber and Rice began shopping their rock opera to the music industry. Armed with a 45-rpm single of &ldquoSuperstar&rdquo sung by Murray Head, they found a buyer in MCA-Decca. The label had recently released The Who&rsquos Tommy to great success and were looking to strike concept album gold a second time&mdashand they did.

Accompanied by electric guitars, drums, bass and keyboards, Jesus Christ Superstar was &ldquoan experiment with rock opera,&rdquo Lloyd Webber told The New York Times. The album, featuring Deep Purple&rsquos Ian Gillan as Jesus, Murray Head as Judas and Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene, hit British shelves in the fall of 1970 and &ldquosunk like a stone,&rdquo said Rice, but eight days later it was released in the U.S. and took off immediately. Jesus Christ Superstar reached #1 on the Billboard chart in 1971, spawned hit singles like &ldquoI Don&rsquot Know How to Love Him&rdquo (which charted in two different versions, by Elliman and Helen Reddy) and sold more two and half million copies.


From Gali lee to the Great White Way
Riding the wave of the album&rsquos success, the stage adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar earned the largest advance in Broadway history ($1.2 million) and landed on the covers of both Time and Life magazines. Watershed musical Hair had greased the wheels for rock properties when it debuted on Broadway three years earlier, and producer Robert Stigwood enlisted Hair-helmer Tom O&rsquoHorgan to direct and &ldquoconceive&rdquo the piece for the stage. (JCS fun fact: O&rsquoHorgan&rsquos frequent assistant Harvey Milk worked on the project before leaving for San Francisco, where he became the country&rsquos first openly gay politician.)

On October 12, 1971, Jesus Christ Superstar opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre (now, fittingly enough, the Times Square Church). It starred Jeff Fenholt as Jesus, Ben Vereen as Judas and Yvonne Elliman reprising her role as Mary Magdalene. Press coverage of the opening night reported picketers outside the theater, holding signs bearing the show's title, but with &ldquoSuperstar&rdquo replaced by &ldquoLamb of God&rdquo or &ldquoOur Hope.&rdquo Despite the protests and middling reviews&mdashClive Barnes of the New York Times compared it to one&rsquos first sighting of the Empire State Building: &ldquoNot at all uninteresting, but somewhat unsurprising and of minimal artistic value&rdquo&mdashthe show ran for 711 performances.

Even so, the creators themselves weren&rsquot crazy about it. &ldquoIt was no secret that we didn&rsquot like the Broadway production of Superstar,&rdquo Lloyd Webber told the Times several years later. Nevertheless, productions followed from Paris to Brazil, a hugely successful West End mounting opened in August 1972, and Norman Jewison signed on to direct a film adaptation on location in Israel in 1973.


Fire and Brimstone
Jesus Christ Superstar&rsquos early success came in spite of serious objections to Lloyd Webber and Rice&rsquos treatment of the Gospels. The album was initially banned by the BBC for being sacrilegious, but the major objections&mdashfrom many different religions&mdashdidn&rsquot arise until the show hit stage and screen. &ldquoWe were accused of being anti-God, anti-Semitic and various other things,&rdquo said Rice. &ldquoBut we weren&rsquot, and we knew we weren&rsquot.&rdquo

When the film came out, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, released a statement saying &ldquothe movie's sharp and vivid emphasis on a Jewish mob's demand to kill Jesus can feed into the kind of disparagement of Jews and Judaism which has always nurtured anti-Jewish prejudice and bigotry.&rdquo The Broadway production was also criticized for being anti-Semitic, while Catholic and Baptist organizations denounced the sympathetic treatment of Judas and the intimation of a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

But as the saying goes, all publicity is good publicity. &ldquoBy and large they helped us,&rdquo Rice said of the protestors. &ldquoBecause if you see a front page protest about something, it makes you more intrigued to go and see it.&rdquo


Resurrection
Short-lived Broadway revivals of Jesus Christ Superstar surfaced in 1977 and 2000, but it wasn&rsquot until Lloyd Webber and Rice followed the buzz to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2011 that they finally saw the show as they always knew it could be.

Stratford Festival artistic director Des McAnuff was one of those teenagers who had found himself in awe of the original Jesus Christ Superstar album. &ldquo[Lloyd Webber and Rice] took the notion of a rock musical 10 steps further than anyone before them had done,&rdquo he told Broadway.com. &ldquoMy friends and I would ride around the Toronto suburbs blasting 'I Don&rsquot Know How to Love Him,' a song that still chokes me up. In short, Jesus Christ Superstar is a show I&rsquove been thinking about for a very long time.&rdquo

The Stratford Superstar began generating Broadway buzz soon after its opening in June of 2011, fueled in part by visits from both Lloyd Webber and Rice. The composer called it &ldquothe best acted version of the show I have seen in the 40 years of its existence,&rdquo and the only one to successfully convey the love triangle between Jesus (played by Paul Nolan), Judas (Josh Young) and Mary Magdalene (Chilina Kennedy). Fueled in part by this approval from the creators, Stratford&rsquos Jesus Christ Superstar moved first to McAnuff&rsquos former stomping grounds at La Jolla Playhouse then to Broadway&rsquos Neil Simon Theatre.

As JCS moves forward to its latest Broadway bow on March 22, 2012, the streets of Broadway are free of protestors. Rock musicals are now de rigueur, and religious-inspired artworks are less shocking than they were 40 years ago. This Star, it seems, just keeps rising.


Track Listing

Act 1:
Overture
Heaven On Their Minds
What’s The Buzz / Strange Thing, Mystifying
Everything’s Alright
This Jesus Must Die
Hosanna
Simon Zealotes / Poor Jerusalem
Pilate’s Dream
The Temple
Everything’s Alright (Reprise)
I Don’t Know How To Love Him
Damned For All Time / Blood Money

Act 2:
The Last Supper
Gethsemane (I Only Want To Say)
The Arrest
Peter’s Denial
Pilate And Christ
King Herod’s Song (Try It And See)
Judas’ Death
Trial Before Pilate (Including The Thirty-Nine Lashes)
Superstar
The Crucifixion
John 19:41

Promotional video made for the release of the album featuring Murray Head and The Trinidad Singers performing the song Superstar.

Rare promotional video made for the release of the album featuring Ian Gillan performing the song Gethsemane. Apparantly this was recorded by a Belgian television company but never broadcast.


Audio Production Information

Film Credits

Universal Pictures and Robert Stigwood present

A Norman Jewison Film

“Jesus Christ Superstar”

Starring
Ted Neeley · Carl Anderson · Yvonne Elliman · Barry Dennen

Screenplay by Melvyn Bragg and Norman Jewison

Based Upon the Rock Opera Jesus Christ Superstar ·Book by Tim Rice
Orchestrations by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber · Lyrics by Tim Rice

Music Conducted by André Previn · Associate Producer: Patrick Palmer

Directed by Norman Jewison

Produced by Norman Jewison and Robert Stigwood

A Universal Picture · Technicolor® · Todd-AO 35

Album Credits

Mastered by Darrell Johnson at MCA Recording Studios

Artwork (1983 Hungarian release) by Henk István
Photography by David James


Songs in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar

Since it started as a concept album, Jesus Christ Superstar is full of songs that have become pop hits including, "I Don't Know How to Love Him" and the titular "Superstar." Here are all the songs in the musical:

  • "Overture" - Instrumental
  • "Heaven on Their Minds" – Judas
  • "What's the Buzz" – Apostles, Jesus, Mary
  • "Strange Thing Mystifying" – Jesus, Mary, Judas, Apostles
  • "Everything's Alright" – Mary, Women, Judas, Jesus, Apostles
  • "This Jesus Must Die" – Annas, Caiaphas, Apostles, Priests
  • "Hosanna" – Caiaphas, Jesus, Ensemble
  • "Simon Zealotes" – Simon, Ensemble
  • "Poor Jerusalem" – Jesus
  • "Pilate's Dream" – Pilate
  • "The Temple" – Ensemble, Jesus
  • "Everything's Alright" (Reprise) – Mary, Jesus
  • "I Don't Know How to Love Him" – Mary
  • "Damned For All Time/Blood Money" – Judas, Annas, Caiaphas, Priests
  • "The Last Supper" – Apostles, Jesus, Judas
  • "Gethsemane" – Jesus
  • "The Arrest" – Judas, Jesus, Peter, Apostles, Ensemble, Annas, Caiaphas
  • "Peter's Denial" – Maid by the Fire, Peter, Soldier, Old Man, Mary
  • "Pilate and Christ" – Pilate, Annas, Jesus, Ensemble
  • "King Herod's Song" - Herod
  • "Could We Start Again Please?" – Mary, Peter
  • "Judas' Death" – Judas, Annas, Caiaphas, Ensemble
  • "Trial By Pilate/Thirty-Nine Lashes" – Pilate, Caiaphas, Annas, Jesus, Ensemble
  • "Superstar" – Judas, Soul Sisters, Angels
  • "The Crucifixion" – Jesus, Ensemble
  • "John 19:41" – Instrumental

Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice - Jesus Christ Superstar (1970)


ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER & TIM RICE-JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR.: Dati Album :.Titolo: Jesus Christ SuperstarAnno: 1970Genere: Musical RockEtichetta: MCAFormato: EAC V1.0 beta 1 (secure mode) | APE+CUE+LOG+COVERS| 488 MbDisc 101. Overture02. Heaven On Their Minds03. What's The Buzz/Strange Thing Mystifying04. Everything's Alright05. This Jesus Must Die06. Hosanna07. Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem08. Pilate's Dream09. The Temple10. Everything's Alright (Reprise)11. I Don't Know How To Love Him12. Damned For All Time/Blood MoneyDisc 201. The Last Supper02. Gethsemane (I Only Want To Say)03. The Arrest04. Peter's Denial05. Pilate And Christ06. King Herod's Song (Try It And See)07. Judas' Death08. Trial Before Pilate (Including The 39 Lashes)09. Superstar10. Crucifixion11. John Nineteen Forty-One.: Recensione :.Jesus Christ Superstar è un'opera rock composta da Andrew Lloyd Webber con testi di Tim Rice.L'opera si ispira alle vicende dell'ultima settimana della vita di Gesù: l'ingresso a Gerusalemme, il processo, la condanna a morte e la crocifissione. L'idea originale alla base della rappresentazione è quella di narrare gli ultimi giorni di Gesù dal punto di vista di Giuda Iscariota rappresentando il conflitto umano ed ideologico tra i due personaggi. Dall'opera venne tratto il film Jesus Christ Superstar.L'opera, prima di essere rappresentata in teatro, venne pubblicata come doppio long playing nel 1970. Gli interpreti principali del disco furono Ian Gillan nel ruolo di Gesù, Murray Head nel ruolo di Giuda e Yvonne Elliman nel ruolo di Maria Maddalena, ruolo che sostenne anche nella trasposizione cinematografica del 1973 ad opera del regista Norman Jewison. Video dal canale youtube .: Dati Tecnici :. File LogExact Audio Copy V0.99 prebeta 5 from 4. 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Jesus Christ Superstar [Original Cast Recording]

Jesus Christ Superstar started life as a most improbable concept album from an equally unlikely label, Decca Records, which had not, until then, been widely known for groundbreaking musical efforts. It was all devised by then 21-year-old composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and 25-year-old lyricist Tim Rice. Jesus Christ Superstar had been conceived as a stage work, but lacking the funds to get it produced, the two collaborators instead decided to use an album as the vehicle for introducing the piece, a fairly radical rock/theater hybrid about the final days in the life of Jesus as seen from the point of view of Judas. If its content seemed daring (and perhaps downright sacrilegious), the work, a "sung-through" musical echoing operatic and oratorio traditions, was structurally perfect for an album just as remarkable as its subject matter was the fact that its musical language was full-blown rock music. There was at the time an American-spawned hit theater piece called Hair that utilized elements of rock music, but it wasn't as unified a work as Webber and Rice's creation, and it was less built on rock music than on pop music that referred to rock Webber and Rice's work presented a far sharper, bolder musical edge and pushed it much further and harder than Hair ever did. Serving as their own producers, the two creators got together more than 60 top-flight singers and musicians (including Chris Spedding, John Gustafson, Mike Vickers, P.P. Arnold, and members of Joe Cocker's Grease Band, not to mention Murray Head, Ian Gillan, and Yvonne Elliman in key singing roles), and managed to pull the whole production together into a more than coherent whole that contained a pair of hit singles (the title track and "I Don't Know How to Love Him") to help drive AM radio exposure. What's more, the whole album sounded like the real article as far as its rock music credibility was concerned -- it was played good and hard for a studio creation. Released in America by Decca as a handsomely decorated double-LP set complete with illustrated libretto, Jesus Christ Superstar seemed to pick up where the Who's Tommy (also a Decca release) and Hair had left off, and audiences from across the age and cultural spectrum responded. Teenagers who didn't know from Jesus, opera, or oratorios liked the beat, the hard rock sounds, and the singing and bought the album, as did parents who felt that the record offered a chance to understand some aspects of this youth culture around them, and especially its music -- and so did some more forward-thinking clergy and theologians, who saw any opportunity to spread the word about Jesus where it wasn't previously going as intrinsically good.

The result was a chart-topping LP followed in short order by a Broadway production and, a little later, a multi-million-dollar movie (oddly enough, the original double LP created barely a ripple in England in 1970 and 1971, though there was eventually a British stage production that went on to become what was then the longest-running musical on London's West End). And all of this acceptance and embrace in America took place scarcely five years after an innocent observation by John Lennon concerning the relative popularity of the Beatles and Jesus, made in England but reported in the American tabloids, had led to protests and a media boycott of the band's music and their 1966 tour across the Bible Belt. Jesus Christ Superstar, by contrast, passed through the border and Southern states without any controversy, speaking volumes in the process about what had happened to American society in the interim. The original release was also the first "event" album of the '70s, presaging a brace of generally less successful efforts in that direction, ranging from Lou Adler and Lou Reizner's orchestrated version of Tommy (Pete Townshend's rock opera basically blown up to Jesus Christ Superstar dimensions) to the soundtrack All This and World War II and Leonard Bernstein's Mass.


October 27 1970 Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber release Jesus Christ Superstar

On October 27th 1970, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who would go on to become the most successful composer-lyricist team in modern theatre history, released a double-LP “concept” album called Jesus Christ Superstar, which only later would become the smash-hit Broadway musical of the same name.

From the late 1950s to the mid 1960s, it was common for original cast recordings of successful Broadway musicals to find their way up near the top of the pop album charts.

Hit shows like West Side Story, The Sound of Music and Funny Girl, among several others, all spun off million-selling albums during this era, but by the late 1960s, the pop album charts had been decisively taken over by rock.

It was in this environment that a young British composer and his lyricist partner managed to achieve a massive success by precisely reversing the old formula.

Jesus Christ Superstar was the third musical written by Lloyd Webber and Rice, following on The Likes of Us, which was staged for the first time in 2005, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which saw only limited performances in various English churches between 1968 and 1970.

Superstar grew out of Tim Rice’s longtime fascination with Judas Iscariot, whom he conceived not as a craven betrayer of Jesus, but rather as a dear friend struggling with the implications of Jesus’ growing celebrity.

Although the musical would later find broad support among leaders of liberal Christian churches, it was nevertheless too controversial to gain the financial backing necessary for a stage production.

Lloyd Webber and Rice therefore chose to package Superstar as an album first.

Working with a cast that included Murray Head, later of the pop hit “One Night In Bangkok” (1985), in the role of Judas, and Yvonne Elliman, of the 1977 #1 hit “If I Can’t Have You,” as Mary Magdalene, Lloyd Webber and Rice recorded the Jesus Christ Superstar album in the summer of 1970 and released it in Britain and the United States the following fall.

Then as now, Lloyd Webber and Rice had their detractors in the critical establishment.

Writing for The New York Times, critic Don Heckman questioned whether this new “rock opera” deserved praise either as rock or as an opera.

“As rock, it leaves much to be desired,” he wrote. And in relation to 20th-century operas by the likes of Stravinsky and Gershwin, Heckman argued, “The comparison is pretty devastating.”

Nevertheless the Jesus Christ Superstar album spawned a Top 40 single in versions of “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” by both Yvonne Elliman and Helen Reddy, and it shot all the way to the top of the Billboard album charts in early 1971, paving the way for a smash Broadway opening later that year.


Jesus Christ Superstar [Original Cast Recording]

Jesus Christ Superstar started life as a most improbable concept album from an equally unlikely label, Decca Records, which had not, until then, been widely known for groundbreaking musical efforts. It was all devised by then 21-year-old composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and 25-year-old lyricist Tim Rice. Jesus Christ Superstar had been conceived as a stage work, but lacking the funds to get it produced, the two collaborators instead decided to use an album as the vehicle for introducing the piece, a fairly radical rock/theater hybrid about the final days in the life of Jesus as seen from the point of view of Judas. If its content seemed daring (and perhaps downright sacrilegious), the work, a "sung-through" musical echoing operatic and oratorio traditions, was structurally perfect for an album just as remarkable as its subject matter was the fact that its musical language was full-blown rock music. There was at the time an American-spawned hit theater piece called Hair that utilized elements of rock music, but it wasn't as unified a work as Webber and Rice's creation, and it was less built on rock music than on pop music that referred to rock Webber and Rice's work presented a far sharper, bolder musical edge and pushed it much further and harder than Hair ever did. Serving as their own producers, the two creators got together more than 60 top-flight singers and musicians (including Chris Spedding, John Gustafson, Mike Vickers, P.P. Arnold, and members of Joe Cocker's Grease Band, not to mention Murray Head, Ian Gillan, and Yvonne Elliman in key singing roles), and managed to pull the whole production together into a more than coherent whole that contained a pair of hit singles (the title track and "I Don't Know How to Love Him") to help drive AM radio exposure. What's more, the whole album sounded like the real article as far as its rock music credibility was concerned -- it was played good and hard for a studio creation. Released in America by Decca as a handsomely decorated double-LP set complete with illustrated libretto, Jesus Christ Superstar seemed to pick up where the Who's Tommy (also a Decca release) and Hair had left off, and audiences from across the age and cultural spectrum responded. Teenagers who didn't know from Jesus, opera, or oratorios liked the beat, the hard rock sounds, and the singing and bought the album, as did parents who felt that the record offered a chance to understand some aspects of this youth culture around them, and especially its music -- and so did some more forward-thinking clergy and theologians, who saw any opportunity to spread the word about Jesus where it wasn't previously going as intrinsically good.

The result was a chart-topping LP followed in short order by a Broadway production and, a little later, a multi-million-dollar movie (oddly enough, the original double LP created barely a ripple in England in 1970 and 1971, though there was eventually a British stage production that went on to become what was then the longest-running musical on London's West End). And all of this acceptance and embrace in America took place scarcely five years after an innocent observation by John Lennon concerning the relative popularity of the Beatles and Jesus, made in England but reported in the American tabloids, had led to protests and a media boycott of the band's music and their 1966 tour across the Bible Belt. Jesus Christ Superstar, by contrast, passed through the border and Southern states without any controversy, speaking volumes in the process about what had happened to American society in the interim. The original release was also the first "event" album of the '70s, presaging a brace of generally less successful efforts in that direction, ranging from Lou Adler and Lou Reizner's orchestrated version of Tommy (Pete Townshend's rock opera basically blown up to Jesus Christ Superstar dimensions) to the soundtrack All This and World War II and Leonard Bernstein's Mass.


Jesus Christ Is 50

Jesus Christ Superstar original film poster art (Photo: Google)

The London songwriting team of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber first hit biblical paydirt in 1968 with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat , a 22-minute cantata commissioned for a children’s school performance.

It so delighted the audience, the two soon found themselves fleshing it out to album length in later years it would expand even further into a full stage show.

It was then suggested that tackling the grander story of Jesus would be a logical next step for them. At first they hesitated, then decided to take a philosophical approach to the subject, inspired by a Bob Dylan lyric: “You’ll have to decide, whether Judas Iscariot had God on his side.” Exploring that question would put a modern, even challenging, spin on the Greatest Story Ever Told. Which perfectly suited the era, a time when the Baby Boomer generation was coming into its own, questioning the values of the old order.

VIDEO: Murray Head performing “Superstar”

A demo of a questioning song by Judas, “Superstar,” was enough to secure them a deal for a single with MCA Records. Lloyd Webber already had grandiose musical visions, describing his planned arrangement for the song as “a fusion of symphony orchestra, soul brass section, gospel choir and rock group with a bluesy lead vocal … in other words nothing fancy.” Rice’s lyrics cast Jesus’ crucifixion as a media event: “Did you mean to die like that, was that a mistake/Or did you know your messy death would be a record-breaker?” Actor Murray Head stepped into the role of Judas Iscariot, backed by, among others, members of Joe Cocker’s Grease Band, the Trinidad Singers, vocalist Lesley Duncan, and a full symphony orchestra. Released in November 1969, the single generated enough interest to continue with the project.

So Jesus Christ Superstar began life as a concept album. There was, as yet, no stage show. “Overriding everything was that we were telling our story in sound — and sound alone,” Lloyd Webber says in his memoir, Unmasked . “We had none of the visual element of theatre and film to fall back on. A cast-iron musical and dramatic structure was the key.” Pacing was important, to hold the listeners’ interest. Lloyd Webber set the stage by using the overture to unveil the broad musical scope of the work, and the range of the instrumentation, in just two minutes. Since there was no dialogue, the lyrics had to carry the whole story.

JCS at 50 (Art: Ron Hart)

And with only their voices to emote with, the singers were of paramount importance. Murray Head quickly signed on to reprise his role as Judas. Colin Blunstone, lead singer of the Zombies, was briefly considered for Jesus, but his label refused to let him do it. Lloyd Webber dismisses as nonsense the rumor that John Lennon was ever considered for the part (“Even today this fabricated rubbish persists as fact”). Instead, the songwriters were introduced to Deep Purple’s lead singer, Ian Gillan, by the group’s manager. As soon as they heard what Lloyd Webber calls Gillan’s “primal scream,” they knew they’d found The One. Lloyd Webber was so excited, he promptly rewrote the section where Jesus kicks the moneylenders out of the temple to take advantage of that scream (check out the final result in “The Temple” at the 1:50 mark).

While visiting a Chelsea club to check out a possibility for Pontius Pilate, Lloyd Webber and Rice instead discovered a visiting American, Hawaiian-born Yvonne Elliman, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. As Lloyd Webber recalled, her “quirky, youthful, sexy and highly individual” voice immediately won her the role of Mary Magdalene. Another American, Barry Dennen, whom Lloyd Webber had seen as the MC in the London production of Cabaret , was deemed to have the precise diction needed for Pilate. Rice’s friend Mike d’Abo, new lead singer of Manfred Mann, took on the always crowd-pleasing role of King Herod.

Decca Records poster for Jesus Christ Superstar (Photo: Google)

Concert productions, Broadway and London shows, and the film of Superstar were to come. But the original studio cast album, released in October 1970, remains the definitive version of Jesus Christ Superstar , because it has the very best vocalists. Gillan’s standout moment is undoubtedly “Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)” — check out that scream at 2:27! — but his delivery is passionate throughout, regardless of the volume. Like a rock star, his Jesus is constantly facing demands on all sides, from his entourage, his public, and his detractors (not to mention his Father). There’s a few upbeat moments (e.g. the glory of “Hosanna”), but most of the time, Gillan’s voice is laced with an undercurrent of melancholy, the sadness of a man who fears his message isn’t getting through. “If you knew all that I knew/my poor Jerusalem/You’d see the truth/but you close your eyes,” he sings, turning away from the zealots who want him to take on Rome.

VIDEO: Ian Gillan performs “Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)” from Jesus Christ Superstar

This, of course, is the main problem for Judas, who sees Jesus’ growing celebrity as something to reject: “You’ve begun to matter more than the things you say,” he warns in the opening number, “Heaven on Their Minds.” Judas is the show’s most interesting character, because he’s the most conflicted. He piously wags his finger at Mary Magdalene for buying “fine ointment” when that money should’ve gone to the poor, and taunts Jesus before he leaves the Last Supper to betray him (“What if I just stayed here/and ruined your ambition?/Christ you deserve it!”) even as the agonies of that betrayal tear him apart. Head’s raspy voice gives his songs a rawer edge, heightening the emotion (and he’s not a bad screamer himself).

“King Herod’s Song” is a moment of comedic relief, well-placed before the descent into the horrors of Judas’ suicide and Jesus’ trial and execution. Mary Magdalene’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” is beautifully performed by Elliman, and has such a beguiling melody, you might overlook the typically pensive lyric from Rice (as Lloyd Webber observed, “Tim can never write ‘I love you.’ It’s always, ‘I love you, but….’”). The song is later used to devastating effect when Judas takes his own life. Dennen’s Pilate has a keen sharpness that’s perfect for the tense drama of the trial, climaxing as he snarls, “Don’t let me stop your great self-destruction/Die if you want to you misguided martyr.”

For all the fuss at the time of its release about the blasphemy of setting a Bible story to rock music, Jesus Christ Superstar has a conventional structure that has served it well over the years (the only change to the show has been the addition of the song “Could We Start Again Please?”). Orchestral instruments had been used in rock songs before, but never on such a scale, sustaining a narrative for nearly 90 minutes. Rice’s lyrics reached for a greater depth beyond the surface platitudes that were the usual fare in biblical dramatizations. Even the cover of the US album, two golden angels facing each other in a circle, became what Lloyd Webber calls “the first mega logo in musical theatre history.”

If there wasn’t a pandemic, Jesus Christ Superstar would probably be playing in a theater somewhere in the world today. But the strength of the work is that it doesn’t need the visuals. Between them, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber created a musical that’s as bold, as daring, and as thrilling today as it was a half century ago, when Judas and his backing band first posed the question, “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ/Who are you? What have you sacrificed?”


Watch the video: Обзор и сравнение пластинок Andrew Lloyd Webber u0026 Tim Rice - Jesus Christ Superstar


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