Jesus Christ Superstar Gets 50th Anniversary Editions

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The 1970 concept double album, Jesus Christ Superstar, has received a variety of special edition albums to belated mark its 50th anniversary. This landmark release, which arrived September 17, 2021, via Verve/UMe, is with the full cooperation from the creators Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, with an array of exclusive demos, commentaries, interviews and much more.

When it was first released, the original became a massive global best-seller, topping the U.S. album chart in both February and May 1971, as well as ranking at number one in the year-end chart. By 1983, the album had sold over seven million copies worldwide.

The new editions have been re-mastered at Abbey Road Studios. There is a 10″ x 10” 3-CD Celebration Box Set with exclusive unreleased material and a 100-page hard-back book that features interviews with Lloyd Webber and Rice, several essays, the 1970 lyric book, memorabilia from Rice’s personal collection and more. Also available are 2-CD Digipak set, 2-LP half-speed mastered gatefold edition, and a 2-LP gatefold limited edition that’s a replica of the original 1970 fold-out envelope sleeve.

The journey to international success was far from straightforward. As unknown names in musical theater, Rice and Lloyd Webber were unable to find a producer willing to stage their ambitious idea for a religious-themed rock opera. Eventually, they persuaded MCA Records to let them record the score first. Using a full orchestra along with such outstanding talent as Ian Gillan, Murray Head, Yvonne Elliman and The Grease Band, they created a masterpiece that revolutionized the form of musical theater.

Watch Murray Head and the ensemble singing “Superstar”

Within a year of its chart success, stage productions of Jesus Christ Superstar began to appear all over the world, leading to record-breaking runs in London’s West End and on Broadway, a hit Hollywood film, Tony nominations and Olivier Awards. Its influence and impact have not diminished: in 2018 the NBC live production of the show, starring John Legend and Sara Bareilles, resulted in Emmy Award wins for Rice and Lloyd Webber (thereby making them two of the 16 people in history to have won an Emmy®, a Grammy®, an Oscar® and a Tony®).

Listen to the show-stopper, “King Herod’s Song”

In the August 3 announcement for the new editions, Lloyd Webber said, “A musical about Jesus Christ! Back in 1969 the mere thought had theater producers falling about with laughter. But somehow Tim Rice and I persuaded MCA to record a single. It came at a time when fusion was all the rage. The Rolling Stones had recorded with the London Bach Choir. Deep Purple’s Jon Lord composed a symphony for rock band and orchestra. So I was like a kid in a sweet shop when I was able to combine a rock band, a symphony orchestra and a gospel choir in what was the first track to be recorded, simply titled ‘Superstar’.

This ad for the Jesus Christ Superstar album appeared in the March 13, 1971 issue of Record World

“Overriding everything was that we were telling our story in sound – and sound alone. We had none of the visual elements of theaters and film to fall back on. A cast-iron musical and dramatic structure was the key. Dialogue had no place on a record, so music and lyrics had to carry everything. In truth, we were writing a musical radio play. Ultimately, this gave us one enormous advantage. Audiences came to know our recordings so well that no future director or producer could add musical passages for scene changes or tamper with the construction. The score had become set in stone.”

Related: The 14 #1 albums of 1971

Rice added, “We were incredibly lucky; we had a record company and a management team who were willing to take huge risks. Not just in terms of belief in our idea but also in terms of providing a budget to fulfill our musical vision which brought together a rock band, a full orchestra and not just one but two separate choirs. I’m incredibly proud and grateful to have been part of it all, perhaps more now at 76 than I was at 25.”

See the track listing below the links.

3-CD Celebration Box Set Track Listing


Heaven On Their Minds
What’s The Buzz – Strange Thing, Mystifying
Everything’s Alright
This Jesus Must Die
Simon Zealotes – Poor Jerusalem
Pilate’s Dream
The Temple
Everything’s Alright
I Don’t Know How To Love Him
Damned For All Time – Blood Money


The Last Supper
Gethsemane (I Only Want To Say)
The Arrest
Peter’s Denial
Pilate And Christ
King Herod’s Song
Judas’ Death
Trial Before Pilate (Including the 39 Lashes)
John Nineteen: Forty-one


Blood Money (guide vocal)*
Herod’s Song (guide vocal)*
I Don’t Know How To Love Him (Tim Rice Commentary)*
This Jesus Must Die (scat vocal 1)*
This Jesus Must Die (scat vocal 2)* Unreleased Instrumental*
I Don’t Know How To Love Him (single edit)
1970 open-end Interview with the creators Of Jesus Christ Superstar Part One (includes Superstar, Heaven On Their Minds, I Don’t Know How To Love Him)
1970 open-end Interview with the creators Of Jesus Christ Superstar Part Two (includes Gethsemane, Herod’s Song and Superstar).

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2 Comments so far

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  1. Vinny Marino
    #1 Vinny Marino 4 August, 2021, 16:06

    DECCA, not MCA.

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  2. 122intheshade
    #2 122intheshade 5 August, 2021, 00:13

    Was this not just the neatest album when it came out? Call it sacrilegious if you want . . . it’s damn funny. In a year of terrific hard rock albums from Zep and the Stones et al, one song EVERYONE was talking about and playing on the record player, was “Herod’s Song”. What a hoot!

    I suppose a 5.1 mix is out of the question.

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