In March of 2017, Massachusetts-based Striving Artists released their own take on the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Beginning with an immediate jolt, the Overture will have listeners eagerly sitting at the edges of their seats. The guitar work and brooding drum work creates a haunting tone that gradually opens up into the frenetic, high-energy sound that will permeate the rest of the recordings.
Heaven on Their Minds is helmed by vocals that are supersonic, rich, and full of emotion; they provide the perfect counterpoint for the deep and dense instrumentation that hit listeners at the onset. What’s the Buzz/Strange Thing Mystifying is a fun blend of sixties pop (imagine the crooning style of Tom Jones) and a bit of psychedelic rock. Particular kudos have to be given to the chunky and funky bass line, which provides proper highlighting to the male-female vocal dynamic. Then We Are Decided is a difficult track to master due to the large, jam-packed amount of syllabes that are present in the track’s exposition, but Striving Artists are able to own this and make the track not only work, but inspiring and invigorating. The energy that is present in this track is enough to boost listener interest in the album and keep them focused in.
The back and forth between the vocals and the instrumentation during Everything’s Alright is delightful. The slow / fast dichotomy here shows a dynamism that elevates this composition above the standard fare. This Jesus Must Die ties together progressive rock, gospel, and even avant-garde styles to provide an exclamation point to the narrative presented here. I Don’t Know How to Love Him is a slower, heartfelt ode that draws from the sixties singer-songwriter style. The on-point guitar work and flawless vocals laid down here represent another success by the Striving Artists. Damned for All Time – Blood Money begins with guitar licks that would make Jimi Hendrix or Ted Nugent proud before moving onto a surf style that uses Dick Dale as a framework. The quick tempo of this track is the other half of the coin when compared to the initial one-two of the Overture and Heaven on their Minds. By concluding in the same fashion as it began, the first disc really resounds as a complete composition – fans can now move to the second disc and be given the rest of the story.
Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say) is an immediate high-water mark for the second disc. The vocals stand in bold contrast to the horns and the epic percussion. Striving Artists are able to go into all of the pomp and pageantry of the original score, but turn everything to 11 – the vocals are stellar, the instrumentation is fantastic, and the melodies here set up the second disc to be at least as strong as the first.
Could We Start Again Please builds upon an early 20th classical tradition with hints of the pacing of progressive rock acts like Jethro Tull. The major contribution of the Massachusetts players has to be the back and forth between the lead male and female vocals. Trial Before Pilate (Including the 39 Lashes) may just be our favorite track on all of this rendition as it faithfully reproduces all of the desperate pleas, having that high sort of tension that were presented in a great many Hitchcock score.
Long-time fans of Jesus Christ Superstar will appreciate the amount of nods that Striving Artists have made to the source material. Those veterans or individuals coming in to the soundtrack for the first time will find it easy to dig each subsequent track while singing along a mere few times after they have first heard the release. Crucifixion is a track that I would recommend that you strap your headphones on for; there is such depth to the backing instrumentation, whether it be the jazz-infused drums, the woodwinds, or the dynamic by which the screams of “I’m Thirsty” are established alongside each. The recording concludes with John 19:41, an instrumental track that winds things down slowly. While the recording stretches out over the course of two discs, the musical talent, impressive vocals, and overall output makes this a must-purchase if you are a fan of Jesus Christ Superstar or of musicals generally.
Top Tracks (Disc 1) : What’s the Buzz/Strange Thing, I Don’t Know How to Love Him
Top Tracks (Disc 2) : Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say), Could We Start Again Please, Trial Before Pilate (Including the 39 Lashes)
Striving Artists | Jesus Christ Superstar / 2017 Self Released / 24 Tracks / https://www.facebook.com/StrivingArtistsTheatreCompany/ / http://www.strivingartists.org/