Monday, April 21, 2014

Jesus Christ Superstar - Everything's Alright

Well seeing as how its Easter and all, I thought it would make sense to put this up now, this is "Everything's Alright" from the 1973 movie adaptation of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. I'm not a religious person and I don't like musicals, so it is very curious to me that I like Jesus Christ Superstar so much. A big part of it is the way Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice (music and lyrics respectively) present a much more human side to the story of the passion of Christ, showing the compassion in Judas and the fears and doubts in Jesus. Another thing that appeals to me is the actual musical style of JCS, it's not the overly theatrical music of "Phantom" or "Cats", and for the most part it's not cheesy. The music is 60's R&B mixed with rock, the vocal performances are incredible, and the bass playing by Alan Spenner on it is glorious.

This piece is more of a ballad, but its a very interesting song that embodies all of my favorite elements about JCS. First, its the only song where all 3 main characters Jesus, Judas, and Mary sing. Second, its a funky "waltz" in a 5/4 time signature that is done so well and subtly that one can't almost tell that the timing is odd. Third, it presents a soft side to the Judas character, a charitable quality that makes him likeable, and it also shows a logical and realistic side to Jesus in the story "there will be poor always/ pathetically struggling/ look at the good things you've got" he says. And fourth, you can tell there are a couple of small mistakes in the singing and playing on this track (hear Judas' voice "crack" at 1:25) but it wasn't edited or re-done, because the vibe mattered more than everything being perfect. I am a big fan of recordings like this, they are much more real and moving than the sterile and polished picture-perfect ones of recent times.
The bass playing on this song is not the most complicated compared to other ones on the musical (listen to "What's the Buzz" for a full out funk workout) but its still intricate, and considering that I'm more of a heavy metal bass player it was quite the challenge. I decided to try and get every single note perfect for my transcription, and i believe i did, but i know that when i made the video i missed a couple of notes here and there. Alan Spenner, the bass player on the original recording, keeps building the intensity and intricacy of the bass lines, and he hardly ever repeats himself, which is a testament to his creativity, specially considering that he most likely improvised the whole thing. A highlight for me is at 1:10 when he slides that A mayor chord into the E mayor chord. I also found it very interesting that at the end of both Jesus' and Judas' singing parts the song changes to a 3/4 time signature, and Spenner showcases a lot of ideas vamping over that B chord and turning around back to the top of the form.  I decided to use my 1976 Rickenbacker for my video to get a bit of that old-school sound, I hope you enjoyed it.

Here's a link to the tab of the bass part here