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Way, Darryl: Underworld

My last brush with ex-Curved Air violinist Darryl Way's solo output arrived with the reasonably successful 2014 album Children Of The Cosmos, where an unexpected twist of 80s electronica was given an ever so slightly progressive coating. Since then Way has moved in a broader storytelling direction, Myths Legends And Tales finding Greek Mythology as his inspiration. With Underworld the focus changes once more, Shelley's epic poem Prometheus Unbound the staring point of an idea that evolved into a rock opera setting, Orpheus and Eurydice (renamed Orpheo and Dice here) reimagined as a tragic 70s rock tale of stardom, world tours, double crossing, drugs and love tested to its ends. The amount of work that's gone into evolving this epic tale into its new setting is ginormous, Way not only putting together an entire musical, but also adding an Underworld Rock Opera Complete version where the entire story is also transported into a stage play with narration, acted out scenes and, of course, the songs contained in the standard edition.

However, how Way has chosen to portray his epic story is where things begin to stumble and I'd suggest split opinions. For while the story itself of jealousy and betrayal where Orpheo finds himself trying to continue a hugely successful music career, against the backdrop of Dice's fall into drugs and debauchery is believable and reasonably engaging, the music itself proves a tougher sell. In fairness, there's no doubt Way has created a genuine musical here, but with the arrangements barely allowing the songs to really move into the rock setting the story is meant to exist in, the feeling that you're listening to an all out stage piece is difficult to ignore. As often as not it can feel as though you're listening to something aimed at a strangely adult Disney market, the topics most certainly not all princesses and snowmen, but the music just about is.

That in itself may be a surprise, if not a shock, however the biggest issue is the lyrics and in turn the dialogue and narration in the dramatisation. With Way using huge, broad brushstrokes, to say that absolutely nothing is left to the imagination is a massive understatement, every move explained in clunky wording that verges on cringeworthy. The best of intentions undone by not allowing the listener to fill in the blanks for themselves as each move is spelled out to the nth degree, resulting in an experience that almost veers into patronising. The cast of singers are hugely talented, but in a tale of "sex, drugs and rock n' roll", that everyone sounds so damn clean cut and perfect leaves it tough to believe in the characters. And when that same issue is transposed into the stage-play version, the effect is even harder to swallow a phone call between Dice and Orpheo, for example, where the leading lady is supposedly suffering from a hangover that she shouldn't have, finding her sounding bright, cheery and totally in control. Add in narration that's so perfunctory from Rob Wheeler that at times you could almost imagine him being the voice of a run of the mill nature documentary, rather than a tragic love story, and things often go from bad to worse - although he's anything but helped by the dialogue. Ironically the songs actually fare better in this setting, a more fitting surrounding giving them a much more theatrical mood and tone, but even here some of the exchanges between the characters are just too unbelievable and stilted to carry any real drama.

I'll qualify all of the above by adding that I like a night at the theatre, I enjoy a good radio play and I absolutely love a concept album that has the balls and class to include narration or spoken word sections. Hell, I'll even happily sit through most Disney films and sing along! However, while trying to fit into some and almost all of the above Underworld actually doesn't quite manage to be any. This is a huge undertaking and a massively complex project, and for that I doff my cap to all involved, but even taking those aspects into account, the only word I can use to describe Underworld is underwhelming...

Track Listing
Disc 1
1. The Language Of Love
2. The Proposal
3. Let's Drink Tp Their Future
4. No Good Will Ever Come Of This
5. I Miss Him Already
6. The Night Belongs To Us
7. let The Days Turn Into Hours
8. All IsFair In Love And War
9. The Contract
10. Recovery
11. Wanna Feel Alive Again
12. Maybe
13. Sorry babe
14. Sometimes
15. Why
16. The Final Showdown
17. The Floozies Lament
18. End Music

Disc 2
1 Underworld, Act I Scene 1
2 Underworld, Act I Scene 2
3 Underworld, Act I Scene 3
4 Underworld, Act I Scene 4
5 Underworld, Act I Scene 5
6 Underworld, Act I Scene 6
7 Underworld, Act I Scene 7
8 Underworld, Act I Scene 8
9 Underworld, Act II Scene 1
10 Underworld, Act II Scene 2
11 Underworld, Act II Scene 3
12 Underworld, Act II Scene 4
13 Underworld, Act II Scene 5
14 Underworld, Act II Scene 6

Added: August 5th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Darryl Way online
Hits: 1518
Language: english

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