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Customer Review

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chess- a superb yet underrated musical, 5 May 2004
This review is from: Chess (Audio CD)
"Chess" is usually regarded by critics as being a somewhat patchy follow up to Abba's music- very good in places, yet too corny and cheesy for sophisticated theatre audiences as a whole.
However, I believe it is a very underrated musical, certainly on hearing it for myself(I have yet to see it on stage, for I'm only 20 and thereby too young to have been able to see it initially). I think part of the problem with critics is that they may have thought that because Andersson and Ulvaeus were from Abba, they expected "Chess" to be like Abba's music. And let's face it, if you don't like Abba's music in the first place, you're not going to take projects like this seriously, are you?
To counter the critics- it needs to be emphasised that this was intended to go beyond Abba, even if Andersson and Ulvaeus' roots obviously lay there. Sure, there are the classic pop songs- most notably "One Night in Bangkok" and "I Know Him So Well"- and both are very good songs. But there is SO much more to Ulvaeus and Andersson's composing than pop- within Chess there is some amazing orchestration(e.g. "Merano", "Chess", "Endgame") that shows their talents as composers. There is also a vast range of songs within the musical- solos, duets, trios, even quartets- which further highlight the versatility of the Swedish duo.
As for lyrics, Tim Rice is able to veer between the humourously sarcastic (Take "One Night in Bangkok", "Where I Want to Be") and the touchingly poignant ("I Know Him So Well", "Heaven Help My Heart"). That takes some skill to do that- and much as he had done before with "Cats", "Evita" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" Tim Rice manages to strike gold here with his creativity.
Without doubt, any musical which combines an intellectual board game, the Cold War and a complicated love story would be a massive gamble to take, given that chess and politics are not renowned for being sexy. Yet superb music and a mix of witty oneliners and powerful ballads combined to produce a musical of masterful genius. In my view, the 3 best bits on the OST album are:
1) "One Night in Bangkok"- okay, probably the corniest song in the musical, but the American's lyrics are incredibly acerbic, and the chorus sticks in the head!
2) "I Know Him So Well"- an absolutely beautiful, flawless song. Think Abba at their best combined with wonderfully elegant yet poignant lyrics by Rice. Elaine Paige and Barbra Dickson really could not have sung that song better, though.
3)"Opening Ceremony (Arbiter's Song)"- superb rock song, and incredibly catchy beat and lyrics. Plus Bjorn Skifs is a fantastic singer, if you've heard "Hooked On A feeling" by Blue Swede from "Reservoir Dogs" you will know what I mean.
Overall, this is a superb project, and one that showed that the guys from Abba were in fact accomplished musicians(indeed, working with Tim Rice would have boosted their credibility in any case). However, it needs to be said that this is very underrated by many. Okay, there are a few moments where the music "could" be considered to be cheesy pop, but for the most part this is sophisticated music that is wider ranging than what Abba achieved. It's just a pity I probably won't be able to see this musical!
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Dec 2010 16:06:57 GMT
I would point out to this reviewer that the lyrics to Cats are not by Tim Rice, but by T.S. Elliott!.
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