Monday, June 9, 2014

The Only TWO Recordings of Jesus Christ Superstar You'll Ever Need

While I was in New York back in 1992, I found that show-tune loving guys were everywhere. Each had their own personal favorite and when they found out that I loved Phantom, they would expose me to their personal favorite. This is how I began to really love Jesus Christ Superstar. I had already heard the recordings of Yvonne Elliman's "I Don't Know How To Love Him" and "Superstar" by Murray Head on an Andrew Lloyd Webber compilation cassette I had bought at a flea market a year or so before.

The guy that I spent this particular evening with was in the original Broadway production towards the end of it's run. This guy insisted that the original concept recording from 1970, which he played for me, was far superior to the Original Broadway Cast recording, though I thought he was just saying that because he didn't have it. I enjoyed the music but thought it sounded rather dated. I am not what you'd call a religious person and if it weren't for the music, I would not have been curious enough to seek out as many of the recordings of this show as I have. I never forgot the guy's statement regarding the Broadway cast recording but it had been out of print for many years. When it was re-released on CD in 2003, I had to buy it out of curiosity and I finally understood what he meant in regards to it being inferior to the original recording. Both are rather dated and not really my cup of tea.

 Being that there are over 110 recordings of this show, there had to be one I would completely enjoy and after collecting every English language recording of the show as well as a few in other languages, I deduced that I'm not a fan of the 1970 Concept, 1971 Broadway, 1972 London or 1973 Film Soundtrack...all of which are considered the "Holy Grail" of JCS recordings. For me, I found two recordings, both released in 1992, that have become my go to JCS recordings. the first, a complete 2 CD cast recording and the other a hightlights CD featuring the main songs from the show.

1992 Australian Cast Recording Highlights
1992 Australian Cast Recording Highlights Cover
This incarnation of the show was produced as a concert tour. The arrangements are reinvented and bring the feel of the show's 1970's feel to modern times. The cast features John Farnham as Jesus, Jon Stevens as Judas, Kate Ceberano as Mary, John Waters, NOT the filmmaker, as Pilate and King Herod is performed by Angry Anderson. Though it's only a highlighted album, featuring 15 tracks, it is a solid recording from start to finish. My absolute favorite track is Angry Anderson's epic hard rocker take on King Herod's Song. 
There are rumors circulating that Andrew Lloyd Webber saw this production and was unhappy with the arrangements and denied the producers to release a full cast recording of the score. Luckily we did get this great album from the production though. A second CD featuring similar arrangements was produced two years later in New Zealand. The New Zealand CD includes "Could We Start Again Please" which is not found on the Australian recording but unfortunately it lacks the energy it's Australian sister album seems to have.

1992 20th Anniversary London Cast Recording
The 20th Anniversary London Cast Recording
Back in 1992, Paul Nicholas & David Ian & Associates produced a concert celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the London Production. Paul Nicholas, the original 1972 Jesus in the London production reprising the role that made him famous. The cast features some of the strongest and well sung performers covering roles that were considered signature roles for the likes of Murray Head, Yvonne Elliman, Ted Neeley, Ben Vereen and Carl Anderson. Keith Burns as an AMAZINGLY well sung Judas which I based my own performance in the same role on. Claire Moore, the original Christine standby and Sarah Brightman's successor in the London production of The Phantom of the Opera, performs a stunning Mary Magdeline. King Herod's Song is sung by a hysterical and yet interesting Victor Spinetti. The orchestrations are AMAZING, and remain faithful to the original 1970 album with the exception of being modernized and finely tuned. An expanded single version of "Could We Start Again Please" appears at the end of disc two, possibly as an encore Rather than in the show itself. This new version of the song features new lyrics by Tim Rice and is sung by Paul Nicholas and Claire Moore.

Unfortunately, I don't remember the guy's name that played the original album for me but I am grateful that he insisted I listen with an open mind. My curiosity for more knowledge of the show led me, not only to other recordings of the show but to learn of other performers related to the show. Links to the pages for both recordings I recommend can be found below. If you do purchase these, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

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