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Rick Wakeman - Journey To The Centre Of The Earth CD (album) cover

JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH

Rick Wakeman

 

Symphonic Prog

3.78 | 53 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Zitro
Prog Reviewer
4 stars A very strong effort that modernizes the music, develops it, addresses some of the original's failings while introducing new flaws that prevents this from getting 5 stars from me.

Chances are, if you are a member of this site, you may be familiar with Wakeman putting 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' to music. He did not have the resources nor support to record this idea in a studio. Having it recorded live was risky but still a good decision as this is the album that brought him fame outside of Yes. The album is exciting, passionate, classically beautiful. The album is also poorly mixed, the performance from the orchestra is not too great, Wakeman plays the synthesizer too often, and he brought mediocre singers who were off-key at times.

Enter a remake nearly 40 years later that tries well to address these flaws. The sound quality is crystal clear, it is properly mixed, boasts a more professional orchestra, has a more restrained Wakeman with a more varied palette of keyboard tones, and even introduces two songs. So why not 5 stars?

_The narration, while having superior background music, can't stand up to the original: David Hemmins was simply more exciting to listen to.

_The music is too perfect and loses some of its dynamics and excitement. Not to the extent of being soulless, but think of how inspired young Wakeman was when recording live a 40 minute long composition surrounded by an orchestra! Similarly, some of the flaws from the original had their charm (more on that later) Is it just me? My father feels the same way.

_Synthesizers. I know I also considered them a strength earlier in the review, but they sometimes sound a bit sterile and just adequate. Remember the fiery synthesizer in the beginning of "The Battle" and "The Storm"? The 'liquid' synthesizer in Hansbach? Well ... they're gone.

Given lack of many reviews, I'm going to compare this album with the original in detail

* Preface - Overture: I would remove the spoken word intro and head straight to the music. I forgive it as when the music starts, it is as majestic as it could ever get with the improved orchestra. Rick Wakeman restrained his playing but kept the original synthesizer sounds in important parts of the overture.

* Journey's Dawn: A female singer? She has a rich, warm voice and it surely makes the album sound more accessible and mainstream. Do you miss the terribly off-key vocal outro of the original? Beautiful, if modern, synthesizer solo upfront in the mix.

*Crystals - Gothic Cathedral - A Quest for Water: Lots of narration, I miss the original ('they called the stream - the HANSBACH!'. On the other hand, the orchestra in 'Cathedral' is more layered and utterly beautiful. Quest for Water sounds very renaissance.

*The Hansbach - Fervent Prayer: Nice retro synthesizers that sound better than the 'underwater- sounding' originals and with a rockier rhythm instead of just bass guitar. The original visual of the running stream gets lost. The orchestra-driven 2nd half with twinkling piano and the following narration track sounds far superior.

*The Recollection - Lost & Found: The reprise of Journey's Dawn was brought earlier and makes sense in my opinion. Ashley Holt's singing sounds on-key and quite acceptable! Amazing outro with choirs and retro synthesizers and more impeccable orchestra during the narration. Very beautiful. *Echoes: The first of the new songs. A quality pop song somewhat inspired by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Sandra sings mainstream melodies on the first minute with harmonically layered instrumentation. An uplifting chorus with loud strings and guitars follows and leads to an outstanding synthesizer solo. This is good.

*The Reunion: Great rocking tune! Guitar and drums dominate in a heavier fashion than the original. Solo dominates and sounds more hard rock/metal than the prog-rock shredding of the original. The incredibly badly mixed clavichord got replaced by a softer harpsichord playing as a rhythm to great female choral arrangements. I might personally prefer the choppier guitar solo of the original but this is a great remake.

*A New Vista - A World Within a World: modern keyboards with narration giving way to bombastic orchestration for a minute and then more restrained arrangenements.. Puts the original to shame.

*The Battle - Cumulus Clouds: Where's that fiery synthesizer? It leaves a void in the song. The song sure rocks hard, the orchestra riff doesn't sound sloppy now, the choirs are so dense. It's a matter of preference which version you prefer. You do get two nice synthesizer solos stretching out the song to nearly 6 minutes. The clavichord at the end got replaced by heavy strings. I do miss its heavily processed sound to it.

*The Storm: His 90s synthesizer is back and is rather out of place. A shame because the actual notes he plays would be so exciting with the retro synthesizers. I like the updated choirs and the guitar and the end, but this song is nevertheless a misfire because it fails to invoke visuals of a storm. It's just a cool jam. On the other hand, I love how 'The Cemetery' blends in violins with male choirs.

*Quaternary Man: My personal favorite of the new songs. With retro-sounding keyboards, Strawberry- Fields-Mellotron, and a simple percussion line (reminiscent of 'And You and I'), he created a rather hypnotic ambient soundscape. Sandra sings descending and ascending melodies in the verses and pre-choruses, respectively. The choruses make the orchestra sound catchy. Another pop song? Not necessarily with its extended instrumental section with guitar solos that sound like Yes' Steve Howe. The synthesizer solo is a bit too high-pitched for me. The latter minutes are great as they reintroduce Sandra and heavy use of choirs. Strawberry-Fields Mellotron end the song.

*The Cemetery - Mastodons: These are the narrative pieces in between Quaternary Man. I love how violins blend with male choirs in both pieces.

*The Forest: This song is actually rather listenable! I would prefer Sandra to sing the softer first half but Ashley captures the spirit of the original and sings a bit better. This is almost like a remastered version than a remake as I find it hard to tell differences other than sound quality.

*Ages of Man - The Tunnel - Hall of the Mountain King: Bassline of 'The Storm' comes back during this narration piece with mellotron embellishes. Wakeman sure listened to a lot of 'Strawberry Fields' during the time of the recording. The basis of 'Ages of Man' is developed in 'The Tunnel' and he plays one of his more energetic solos in the album. The 'porno-sounding' guitars are thankfully replaced by distorted metal chords. The Hall of the Mountain King starts well, has more 'strawberry fields mellotrons', and then lets the orchestra go nuts. Ends too soon and excludes the synthesizer playing on top. Shame as it had lots of potential if it went on for only 20 more seconds.

*Mount Edna: Just outstanding, and he actually isn't afraid of using retro synthesizers here. That and the powerful orchestra make a very fitting finale.

Zitro | 4/5 |

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