The special edition of Jeff Wayne's oversized 1978 rock opera adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds makes a mockery of all other expanded special edition reissues. The Who's Who's Next and the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo spread out over two discs? That's nothing. Jeff Buckley's Grace filled out to a three-disc set, including a DVD? Doesn't compare to this. The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds chronicled as a four-disc box set, complete with instrumental backing tracks and excerpts from the sessions, or even Rhino Handmade's inexplicably lavish complete sessions treatment of the Stooges' Fun House pale next to Sony/Columbia's 2005 deluxe collector's edition of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds. This contains no less than seven discs: two hybrid SACDs capturing the original album (including new 5.1 Surround mixes -- and if there ever was an album meant to be heard in surround sound, it's this; in fact, it's a wonder that quadraphonic sound wasn't revived in 1978 for the original vinyl release); one CD of remixes, mixed sometime between 1979 and 2005; two CDs of rarities, outtakes, and demos; one DVD, containing a 92-minute documentary of the making of The War of the Worlds. All of this is a packaged in an LP-sized hardcover book-styled box, which includes an 80-page book that has not only all the original artwork from the album, but a bunch of new essays, photo and art galleries, and detailed track notes. Not only is it hard to imagine a grander, more exhaustive, or more loving reissue of this album, it's hard to imagine any album being given such an extravagant treatment.
Of course, anybody hearing The War of the Worlds for the first time will most certainly not plunk down upward of 130 dollars for a deluxe collector's edition, no matter how exquisite the packaging is. This is for the people who already love the album, either as nostalgia, as a grandiose piece of electronic prog rock pomp with few equals, or as one of the few rock albums made for sci-fi fans who hate rock, even in its artiest incarnations. They love the album so much, they won't settle for the simultaneously released double-disc hybrid SACD reissue, because they want to spend some time leisurely gazing at the artwork in this hardcover book, or to hear an early 1972 incarnation of "Forever Autumn," or perhaps the Lego TV commercial from 1969 that inspired the composition of that tune. For that fan -- the fan who does not mind spending over 100 dollars for these privileges -- this is surely worth the expense, since this could not be packaged better, nor could this explain the origin, recording, release, and phenomenon of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds