To me, musical representation of classic literature is exciting at first, but by the first few tracks, becomes something akin to Andrew Lloyd Weber. The difference is how you feel about the work being interpreted, and of course the performance, regardless of the idea. The Sherlock Holmes novels & short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle filled many of my 14 to 16-year-old evenings with shuddery images, eccentric characters and far away customs. That some of the cream of the progressive music crop have collaborated to bring one of Conan Doyle’s most gripping stories to the CD player is enchanting.
The esteemed Clive Nolan teams with Rick Wakeman’s youngest son, Oliver, in writing and producing this collection. Veterans Ashley Holt (in fine voice), Nolan’s Pendragon bandmate Peter Gee, IQ’s John Jowitt, Tony Fernandez of Rick’s band, Karl Groom, Peter Banks & Ayreon’s Arjen Lucassen (who is to the concept album as Jane Seymour is to the TV mini-series) add validity to the production. British actor Robert Powell lends his distinctive pipes to the role of Dr. Watson, the narrator in all of the Holmes stories.
Musically, the players are professionals and their performances don’t disappoint. The recording and mix are cohesive and bright, especially considering the number of different studios (in different countries) that must have been utilized.
The story line is true to Conan Doyle, with Powell’s Watson providing the narrative amongst the verses sung by the main characters (Watson somewhat liberally appears as the story accelerates to the conclusion). Writers Wakeman & Nolan have a good poetic grasp of the Classic, and in stanzas sung by the key characters, especially “The Curse of the Baskervilles,” “Shadows of Fate,” and “At Home in the Mire,” the conflict is clear. Embellishments are extant if only by perspective. For example, “Seldon” offers a look inside the head of a red-herring character only hinted at in the novel (and ensuing films) but endowed by a voice on CD.
The aural medium includes a vehicle lacking in print & even in film adaptations of The Hound: the simultaneous thoughts of key characters while an event is unfolding. “The Argument” and the climactic “Waiting” feature multiple characters’ thoughts presented in unison as situations unfurl. Here, as on stage, the musical holds it’s singular advantage over pen & film.
Whether you’re a fan of great fiction, dense, emotional musical arrangements, or theatrical performances, The Hound of the Baskervilles is recommended on several levels. That it has translated successfully to radio broadcasts, films, television and now music is a testament to the venerability of the story and its characters.