George Starostin's Reviews



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Simon Hearn (11.09.99)

Poor old Andy! I felt I must make a comment, just out of kindness. He is a musical genius - no doubt, but he is also uncool. Abba fans can probably remember what this was like in the 80's.
I just want to point out that as well as producing great, great songs (he gift for melody is equal to macca's) he is extremely influential. How many school kids perform Joseph each year - hundreds of thousands. For many kids, his music is the only music they have to "learn and study" in addition to the regular morning assembly hymns. Of course, they listen to cds/radio and current chart hits, but Webber provides an insight into songwriting structure and a stepping stone to appreciating classical music too. He is very important and whatever people say, he has give millions pleasure over the years with his abilities as a songwriter. You have to respect him

Walther (26.05.2004)

I wonder who wrote the introduction on Andrew Lloyd Webber. I disagree with any kind of critic on andrew. The man is simply a genius. Dispite of the fact that half of the world's population believes in Jesus Christ as being the son of God, I believe that the way Andrew pictures Jesus Christ might not be so impossible after all. As far as I am concerned he might even be right...


Marco Ursi (31.08.99)

Poor Andrew, no comments on his page. Well, let me be the first (well second, George was the first) to say this album kicks butt. The story, as George said, is interesting and makes you think twice. The music is wonderfully written and perfectly performed by some very talented studio musicians. The singing, espescially the screams by Jesus and Judas, is what really makes this a classic. Some of the tunes are incredibly catchy and will take a conscience effort to get out of your head. 10 stars.

Jean-Paul (26.04.2000)

One of my favorites! In my opinion, an excellent piece of work, definately worth a 10. A good story (even if you’re an atheist, you’ve got to admit the tale of Jesus’ last days is quite impressive), excellent and thought-provoking lyrics, combined with great melodies, performed by excellent musicians (check out those bass lines! Ah!)... What more could one want? I don’t know much about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s more recent works (I just know the songs everybody knows), but this album is simply brilliant, almost perfect.
The songs I like least, believe it or not, are “I don’t know how to love him” and “Jesus Christ Superstar”, the two most famous tracks on the album! I guess I’ve probably heard “I don’t know how to love him” butchered by music teachers in high school so often it has become impossible for me to enjoy the song. Also, Maria Magdalena’s personal problems seem a bit irrelevant to the rest of the album to me. And while the song Jesus Christ Superstar does serve a purpose (it prevents side four from becoming too depressing and it gives Murray Head (Judas) another chance to please the listener with his really great voice), I really dislike the way the Trinidad Singers sing the chorus. It sounds so amateurish in comparison with the rest of the album! But that’s not important, really... All in all, it’s a great record.
Furthermore, I’d like to say I prefer the original studio recording (the purple record with the big yellow star on the cover) to the movie sound track, mainly because I like the vocalists on the studio recording better. Ted Neeley (Jesus in the movie) does a good job, but he can’t beat Ian Gillan, same for Carl Anderson versus Murray Head. And I really love Brian Keith’s voice (Annas)! Too bad he hasn’t got more lines...
Is J.C.S. a rock opera? Well, maybe the music is not rock (hm, maybe it is, actually; “rock” seems to be a pretty vague and undefined term to me), but then again, Tommy, for example, is not really an opera, in my opinion; in an opera, different vocalists should represent different personae. So, by this twisted logic, if Tommy can be called a rock opera, so can Jesus Christ Superstar.

Bob Josef (17.08.2000)

In general agreement here. This is the only place I can stomach Ian Gillan -- he actually SINGS (as opposed to his screeching with Deep Purple) here and sings well. A few of the vocalists are a bit flat (the guy who plays Annas), but on the whole Webber cast this thing excellently. My favorite is the "Trial" -- very literate yet emotional lyrics. And Webber demonstrates his gifts for crafting brilliant melodies without descending into the schlock he later became best known for.
The production is a little too primitive (it is 1970, after all), but it's really is a classic nonetheless.

Scott Kuchler (06.12.2000)

The thing to remember about this original recording - and that doesn't seem to have been mentioned yet - is that each of these performers have a background in rock music. Ian Gillian of course was in Deep Purple, Murray Head was a pop star of some note who'd already appeared in the British version of "Hair", Mike D'Abo was in Manfred Mann, John Gustafson was in The Big Three and later joined Roxy Music, and there were others in the chorus (Madeline Bell, etc.). and the orchestra was basically Joe Cocker's Grease Band. This album deserves it's placement on this site for that alone!

David Lyons (16.12.2000)

Barry Dennen Barry Dennen BARRY DENNEN!  I figured that since the poor guy doesn't seem to have a direct reference, I'd balance things out. Seriously though, I know he doesn't really have to sing as Pilate, but boy can that guy convey so many emotions purely via the medium of voice. In fact, he probably acts more, and better, than he does in the film (he being one of the few redeeming features of the movie, the other being the big guy playing Herod - as much as I don't mind Mike D'Abo, you could possibly say his performance is a tad, um, lightweight).
A musical masterpiece indeed. If only he'd stopped there, or at least not fallen out with Tim Rice after Evita (not as entirely risible as it first seems. Well, not all of it). He's never really managed to find a lyricist to match, and perhaps his loss of impetus is also attributable (they were previously good friends, after all). Patented Pointless Fact - Ian Gillan is more than just the performer of Jesus, he's the inspiration for the very sound of the music, Andrew having written much of it with him and him alone in mind as vocalist.

Danina (05.03.2001)

Having decided to mail my ideas, I wanted not to fall into simple admirations, but now I know, that I can't help admiring it. Neither can my father, for whom JC is an unforgetable page of his youth... Here, in Russia, JC has become a kind of a folk opera...Every student, doctor, teacher, businessman, etc...worth his salt knows it and is eager to watch the JC movie, which is shown annually before Easter. So in fact I DON'T KNOW HOW TO LOVE IT!!!

Gisa (27.07.2001)

Well, what can I say? Of course, JCS is not a simple rock-opera for me, it`s much more than this.
I agree with everybody up to a point that movie record is not as good as original. Probably, that`s because I`ve seen the movie first and since that time there`s nobody but Carl Anderson as Judas. But as Jesus Ian Gilan sounds better, I have to admit.
And - Barry Dennen, Barry Dennen, Barry Dennen! Well, enough of admiration. Some explanations: one more reason I prefer movie is that there are more really beautiful songs, as Mary`s and Peter`s "I`ve been ... to see you" and Annas` and Caiaphas` conversation. And when you can SEE - Judas, or Herod, or Pilate, or anybody else, it gives you more.
And I`d love to tell a funny episode that took place when our music teacher was explaining us situation before "I only want to say". She said something as: "Apostles lay completely drunk and Jesus talks...". It really impressed me... :)

Ryan Maffei (27.02.2002)

The only musical I could ever tolerate, probably because it's actual rock music instead of cloying, souped-up symphonic Disney-esque pap. (Phantom of the Opera, anyone? That won a great number of inanity awards for the score, I can recall...) With Murray Head, Ian Gillan (Jesus' heavy metal screams are excellent flourishes), and the soaring Yvonne Elliman (who helps "I Don't Know How to Love Him" rise above the usual ballad-centerpiece dreck), as well as a musical blueprint that incorporates soul, funk, big band, and all-out rawk, where could you go wrong? But seriously, I'd attribute Jesus' success to the artistically fruitful time at which it was written (1969-1970)--after all, you couldn't sell out with adult-contemporary pablum if it hadn't been invented yet! Hell, I even like the theatrical vignettes on this with Pontius Pilate's troubled cries of his lines just before Jesus' crucifixion, performed with irresistible flamboyance and emotional depth...there's more stuff like that all throughout the record. Buy Jesus Christ Superstar. It revitalized the modern musical and elevated the medium beyond the traditional, foppish Gilbert-and-Sullivanisms that had dragged it all down into the depths of cliché. Hooray! A high 9.
By the way, as you may have learned by now, Jimmy McCulloch was the 17-year-old (around the time of this album) prodigy guitarist for the group Thunderclap Newman in 1969-70 ("Something in the Air"; the album Hollywood Dream). He joined the Wings in 1975, first appearing on Venus and Mars...and died of some kind of drug overdose, I believe, in 1979. Hm. God rest his soul. Henry McCulloch was just a studio musician of some kind. Well, there you go... [Actually, I confused Henry McCulloch not with Jimmy McCulloch, but Henry McCullough, who was the Wings guitarist before Jimmy and was responsible for the great 'My Love' guitar solo. Hope we enriched each other's experiences - G.S.]

Alexey Provolotsky (15.12.2005)

Really, it’s a shame that so few people commented on this album. Shame on you all! IMO, JC has some of the most phenomenal melodies ever composed. And I do mean that. When I listen to the opera, I sometimes think that for songwriters this should be one of the biggest sources of inspiration. It’s so loaded with hooks (clever hooks), that I think Webber wrote some out and has been using those ones since then (had a misfortune to hear some of his latest songs). Kiddin’ of course, but you hear me.
Many people say it’s blasphemy and refuse to waste their time on JC, but I guess it’s unfair. At least, you can always stick to the music (thankfully, there is much to stick to). Me, who finds the lyrics a bit too challenging at places, thinks they are still quite decent. But I won’t discuss the lyrics here, of course. It would be hard to pick favourites (more than half of the album), but some of my very very beloved ones are: the breathtaking “Gethsemane” (never thought Gillan could do it so powerfully), Judas’ (that’s a great singer, pity I can’t recollect his name at the moment) themes namely “Heaven On The Minds”, “Damned For All Time” (that sure is fast singing), Magdalene’s “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” (soulful!) and that one too, and that one also. Wait, just one more thing. The very beginning of “Herod’s Song” is gorgeous to a terrifying extent. Totally butchered that in the movie. Bastards.
Quite simply, a work of genius. I give it one of the highest 14s without a second thought. ‘Cause on a second thought I will think that music has nothing to do with numbers. That is exactly the case with Dylan.
Also, some words about the movie. I think you are a bit harsh on it, George. Sure, it’s silly and banal, but I find it quite nice to watch from time to time. Those guys look wonderful. Beautiful people, indeed.


Ricardo De Pol-Holz (27.12.2000)

I must say that this comment about JCSS original and movie recordings are deeply true.
I started listening the opera few years ago (I started with the roiginal cast so I'm biased!)
I have a musical background (13 years of piano plus musical conduction) and this opera really touched my nerves!
Sir ALW defenitely touched the sky with this composition. The comments i've read in this page are so well done that I only want to remember the contribution to the movie album made by Andre Previn. He is well known in the classical environment because of his absolute talent as a conductor and as a musical creator. He in fact did much of the arrangements for the movie version of the opera and in general they contribute a lot to the succes of this version. I agree with the author of this page that a perfect version of this opera is a mixture of the original cast and the movie cast. I would suggest that Jesus and Judas remain the originals...Ian Gilan and Murray head are SUPERB!!...Ted Nelly is always a bit late in the is easy to notice in thew first sentences of Gethsemane. Gilan on the other hand is very fluent with the lirics and intonation. The selection of Murray Head instead of Carl Anderson is basically because of the first judas number 'heaven on their minds'. My point of view is that number is absolutely one of the best songs I ever heard! fact I've been collecting different versions of that song and there are very good ones (like the australian cast or the indigo girls version). but no version can emulate the musicians and singing of the original cast. little details like the bass and the piano are overwhelming in this version...well enough.

Tyler Hayes (10.01.2003)

I figured that since I am more a Broadway than rock fan, I could give a different view on the whole thing. First, about Andrew Lloyd Webber, He truly should have stopped after Phantom. True, it wasn't rock, but it was the last thing he did to have any sense of intelligence or originality. Though Jesus Christ Superstar was by far his composition, I suggest you also check out Joseph, Evita, Cats and Phantom.
About the original cast: What more can I say than what's been said? Turn it on, close your eyes and watch it play... Ahhh... Just like Tommy or The Wall.
About the movie cast: Carl Anderson IS Judas. Ted Neely is one of the worst (vocally) Jesus' I've ever heard, and that's across six different cast albums. He has plenty of emotion but not enough talent. A bit of trivia: He was originally the understudy of Jesus on Broadway. Glenn Carter is much better (Y2K cast). I've not heard anything bad about could we start again please on this site so I'll be the first... It sucks. Did we really need Yvonne to bring the story to a screeching (or is it wailing) halt again? I thought that's what I don't know how to love him was for. Joshua Mostel is not the best Herod, vocally, but is probably the most fun, which is the whole point of this number. I prefer Rik Mayall's (a.k.a. Drop Dead Fred) (again Y2K cast), or Alice Cooper (96 Austrailian cast). And lastly, Barry Dennen... How do I love you, let me count the ways.... as Chamberlin in the Dark Crystal... as that cameo in The Shining... I think it's mostly as THE BEST PILATE EVER!
And about the movie: I (who also love Tommy and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) love it. Not only is it a big slice of camp, it illustrates the original point of the whole piece: What would happen if Jesus were here today?

Patrick Omari (12.01.2006)

It is silly to portray Judas as black. There is nothing wrong with a black character but it is only a twisted realist who would, in our days, want to go by the sterotype that evil is black, Satan is black, drug dealers are all black and all the never do wells are black. Actually the Nazi thought the same.


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<> (20.07.2006)

I agree, the film is terrific... maybe good intention, but to really appeal to me it should have been less colourful and less period or what would be the right word in English. It looks very dated now. All those backing girls are one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen in a film, along with autopsy... though Herod probably should have been disgusting, this is too much. This film was big dissapointing, because I really like the music, whatever style it is - I don't care much about styles, if the music is excellent, the style doesn't matter. That quote is very true. Soundtracks written before films are always better, and I would say such films are also better, but unfortunatelly not this one.

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