Despite some reservations, I bought this blind on the first day of release since I've always been a fan of the original and have got all the different versions that's been released, the original vinyl of course (bought some 25 years ago), the remastered CD bonus track edition, the 7-disc collector's edition, the ULLAdubULLA remix albums, the live DVD and I've also seen the live show on the first tour in 2006, so I should be well qualified to comment :-)
On the whole I think it's a great addition to all the other versions. The reservation I had was in particular the choice of Gary Barlow to replace Justin Hayward for the sung thoughts of the journalist, however he actually carries himself off without too much embarrassment, but only because he manages to imitate Justin Hayward's performance quite well. Joss Stone makes it her own and her performance as a more gutsy Beth is a nice touch and brings her character up-to-date. Liam Neeson is engaging and in top form throughout, and very brave considering that he knew comparisons to Richard Burton would be inevitable.
The rest of the performances are a bit middle-of-the-road by various youngish talent. Alex Clare steps into Chris Thomspon's shoes as "the voice of humanity", Maverick Sabre takes on Phil Lynott's part as Parson Nathanial and Ricky Wilson (Kaiser Chiefs' frontman) is the artilleryman originally played by David Essex. I wish Jeff Wayne had stuck with the actor Alexis James as the artilleryman from the first tour, he was brilliant, and the powerful vocals of Chris Thompson from the same cast is sorely missed, but I suppose the purpose of this "new generation" version is to appeal to younger listeners by using contemporary pop/rock stars instead, in fact that's exactly what the original did back in the day.
The music itself is just the right mix of new and old, I was worried it would lose too much of the original "sound" like some of the remix versions which are far out and doesn't really engage the listener like the original did. However, here I think Jeff Wayne has struck the right note and it's refreshing to hear a reinterpretation with the sound of a modern production rather than a remix for once.
If like me, you've listened to the original so many times that you can recall every minute detail in your head and have grown a little weary of it, I highly recommend this version to alleviate the overexposure of the original. Apart from the original and this "new generation" version, the only other version that really cuts it is the "LIVE ON STAGE!" DVD from the 2006 tour with Russell Watson, Alexis James, Tara Blaise plus the original artists Justin Hayward and Chris Thompson. (Avoid the other live version with Jennifer Ellison as Beth, she demolishes the part.)
So, to conclude, four stars and not five since there are better versions out there, however that won't stop me from listening to this new version from now on since it's a great update with a lot of new and interesting production ideas and it's a nice change from listening to the original. The last thing worth mentioning is that this double CD comes as a beautiful miniature hardback 50-page illustrated booklet with tastefully updated artwork, all in the style of the original LP booklet.