Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Andrew Lloyd Webber - Variations (1978)

(UK 1965-Present)
Andrew Lloyd Webber has achieved great popular success in musical theatre, and has been referred to as "the most commercially successful composer in history." Several of his musicals have run for more than a decade both in the West End and on Broadway. He has composed 13 musicals, a song cycle, a set of variations, two film scores, and a Latin Requiem Mass. He has also gained a number of honours, including a knighthood in 1992, followed by a peerage from the British Government for services to Music, seven Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, fourteen Ivor Novello Awards, seven Olivier Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2006. Several of his songs, notably "The Music of the Night" from The Phantom of the Opera, "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Jesus Christ Superstar, "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" from Evita, "Any Dream Will Do" from "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Memory" from Cats have been widely recorded and were hits outside of their parent musicals. [extract from wikipedia]

.Variations is a Classical/Rock fusion album by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Lloyd Webber were always very close, but their two different careers (a rock musical composer and a classical cellist) meant that a collaboration seemed unlikely. It wasn't until Julian beat his brother in a bet on a Leyton Orient football match that Andrew was forced to write his cello work.
As his subject, Andrew chose the theme of Paganini's 24th caprice and added 23 variations for cello and rock band. The work premiered at the 1977 Sydmonton Festival with rock band Colosseum II, featuring Gary Moore, being joined by Barbara Thompson (Sax, Flute), Rod Argent, (Piano, Synthesizer, Keyboards) and Julian Lloyd Webber (Cello). It was subsequently rearranged and recorded in 1978. It reached number 2 in the album charts.
The work was used in Song and Dance and David Cullen made an arrangement of the work for cello and orchestra. The opening and closing variations have been rewritten for cello and piano, the latter of which Julian often uses as an encore, due to its amusing glissando down to Bottom A (forcing a mid piece re-tune) to conclude.
The opening theme is used as the theme to 'The South Bank Show' and "Variation 5" became "Unexpected Song" with lyrics by Don Black. "Variation 18" is an instrumental version of the title song from the first Rice/Webber musical "The Likes of Us".
The reason why I was drawn to this album was two fold. Firstly, I had read somewhere that Gary Moore (ex Thin Lizzy) played guitar on the album and I was interested to hear what he would sound like in a different context.
Secondly, when I saw the album cover curiosity had certainly got the better of me, as I am quiet partial to Classical Music (believe it or not), through my own musical background in piano and flute. I didn't really know who Andrew Lloyd Webber was at the time, but I was certainly familiar with some of his famous musicals.
I gotta say, I really love this modern take on a favourite amongst the classic scene. Even if you are not big on Classical music, there is enough 'rock fusion' and 'groovy vibes' on this LP to keep you happy.

Oh ! by the way, take note of the 'breast button' pinned on 'Mademoiselle' to the right of the cello player. It says 'Bored Teenager'! And what's that I can see lying at her feet? This quartet really was ahead of its time.
The rip was taken from my vinyl copy at 320kps and includes full album artwork from both CD and LP, including a wonderful tree representation of the many composers who have used the theme from Paganini's Caprice to compose their own works.
Track Listing
01. Introduction

02. Theme (Paganini Caprice in A minor No. 24) & Variations 1-4

03. Variations 5 and 6

04. Variation 7
05. Variation 8

06. Variation 9

07. Variation 10

08. Variations 11-15 (including the Tributes)

09. Variation 16

10. Variations 13-14 Varied (listed as 14-15)

11. Variation 17

12. Variation 18

13. Variations 19, 20 and 5 Varied (listed as 6)

14. Variations 21 and 22

15. Variation 23

Don Airey - Grand Piano, ARP Odyssey, Minimoog, Solina String Ensemble, Fender Rhodes Piano

Rod Argent - Grand Piano, Minimog, Roland RS-202, Yamaha CS-80

Gary Moore - Gibson Les Paul, Rickenbacker electric 12 string Guitar, Guild acoustic, Fender Stratocaster
Barbara Thompson - Flute, Alto Flute, Alto & Tenor Saxophone

Jon Hiseman - Arbiter Auto-Tune drums, Paiste cymbals & gongs, Percussion

John Mole - Fender Precision Bass, Hayman fretless bass guitar

Julian Lloyd Webber - cello

Additional Performers:

Dave Caddick - Piano

Phil Collins - Drums and percussion

Herbie Flowers - Bass

Bill Le Sage - Vibes

Andrew Lloyd Webber - Synthesisers

Variations Link (71Mb) New Link 02/05/2020


  1. Another gem that I used to own. Recently I managed to find a copy of the orchestral version of this, but have always been searching for the original rock version. Once again, thanks so much for adding invaluable music to my collection.

  2. Class ... love this album, thanks. Apparently, Gary was the only one playing by ear!

  3. Indeed, a great album. I was listen to a lot more this album at the time of its release .Then it was never appear in one place. I'm happy to remember again. Thanks
    Feyyaz Aysoy

  4. Thanks for this interesting post. I've mislaid my LP, but have my own CD of this wonderful piece of music.
    Is there a higher res scan of the A Minor Caprice tree available anywhere, please?

  5. Hey David - The Minor Caprice Tree was scanned at 300dpi and in available in the download (image above is a reduced sized for the web page). If this doesn't suffice your needs, then let me know and I'll see if I can organise a 600dpi scan for ya.

  6. To put it simple. I love this album!!. I own an old vinyl copy (with a cheap sleeve, as it was usual in Argentina in the 70´s)but with good pressing quality. I bought it as a special offer at very low price and didn´t have many expectations on it. But when I listened, it inmediately became one of my favorites. I have been listening music for more than forty years. I own lots of records. And amonst them it is one of the ones I like most. Thank you for the post.