Man, I love musical theater, and the first big Broadway-style show I ever saw live—Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera—is still one of my favorites. I haven’t heard much of Jesus Christ Superstar, Webber’s 1970 rock opera, but now that Mike Patton has collaborated with comedian Neil Hamburger to cover that musical’s “Everything’s Alright,” I had to give the original a listen.
And I dig it—which surprised me because I didn’t care for Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, which had been released by Webber only two years earlier and which just seemed really outdated by the time I saw it in the first decade of this century.
Here’s the original “Everything’s Alright.”
And here’s the version created by Hamburger and Patton and, yes, Jack Black (!).
Here’s who Neil Hamburger is, via the Duluth News Tribune: “Hamburger is not a real person, but a comedian character played by a man named Gregg Turkington. The way Turkington presents Hamburger is as an old-school comic that somehow soured due to depression and alcohol abuse, a tuxedo-clad relic with a wicked combover who took a wrong turn at the Catskills in about 1961 and never recovered. Or something. He’s miserable and unfunny, and that’s what makes the whole deal transcendentally hilarious.”
I had never heard his version of “Everything’s Alright” until just now. Hamburger sounds like a Muppet singing his part, but Black shows off his vocal range, singing high and giving it that Black flavor that never delves over the line into comedy. Meanwhile, Patton’s singing reminds me of his Mondo Cane work (including “Scalinatella”), and at the end of his cameo, his voice soars like it should.
Patton and Black make this song tolerable. But if you enjoy the original version better, well, I don’t necessarily disagree with your opinion.