Lloyd Webber is one of those composers you never think about; his music has become the background sound to modern culture in a way that few other performers manage. Don’t Cry For Me Argentina is a song that everyone can sing along to, from youngsters to pensioners.
Listening to this four CD boxset, the overwhelming feeling is that anyone could do this: he writes simple tunes that sometimes barely exist. You feel that with an hour to spare and the internet to raid you could knock up something close. Even his clever tunes seem easy: Theme And Variations 1-4 (the Southbank Show theme) is Paganini’s 24th caprice (reviewed here in classical form recently); Lloyd Webber just added variations for cello and rock band.
But of course, you can’t do any of that, which is why he is famous and very rich, and we are writing this is in a room with a cold radiator because we don’t want to turn the heating on.
Lloyd Webber has a knack for turning out catchy tunes or big songs that resonate with audiences. He might be able to write more subtle stuff, but he masks that under mass appeal.
Perhaps his real genius is the topics he picks: ok, so the bible is a rich seam for composers, so the boy Joseph and his walking Dulux catalogue overcoat is not too out there, but a musical based on a labour activist suffragette who died young of cancer? Evita is not an obvious choice.
Or a musical based on a poet who once wrote: “That corpse you planted last year in your garden…”; Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by TS Eliot proved successful for LW. Or a musical on roller skates based on a children’s story about old rolling stock?
All his hits are on here. The CDs feature newly-recorded versions of songs by the likes of Lana Del Rey, and all-time favourites by performers such as Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman and Elvis Presley.