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Rick Wakeman - No Earthly Connection CD (album) cover

NO EARTHLY CONNECTION

Rick Wakeman

 

Symphonic Prog

3.72 | 149 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Don't ask about the waterfall effects

This is quite a difficult album to get into when compared with its immediate predecessors ("Arthur" and "Journey"). The songs are not generally as accessible, the music being slightly heavier, and more complex. It is however well worth the effort, as the album can be very rewarding,

The concept is based on Wakeman's belief that there is life and "unknown dimensions" beyond what we know of.

The whole of the first side (of the LP, CD versions of the album are very rare), and part of the second is taken up by the "Music reincarnate suite". Four of the five sections are on the first side. The opening minute or so is magnificently striking, with layer after layer of held synthesiser note building to a crescendo. "Part 1, The warning" jumps from theme to theme as Ashley Holt leads the proceedings in a predominantly vocal piece. Wakeman's keyboards are countered by the unusual inclusion of brass instruments, offering a vaguely jazz rock feel (especially in view of Holt's vocal similarity to David Clayton Thomas of Blood Sweat and Tears). "The warning" may well scare off a few Wakeman aficionados, such is the diversity of the track.

"Part 2, music of my soul" is one of my favourite Wakeman pieces. This haunting soft ballad includes a wonderful duet (embarrassingly, I cannot say who the higher voice belongs to but I think it is Roger Newell, it is superb anyway) and some more conventional but nonetheless excellent synth by Wakeman. "Paer 3, The spaceman" is a more upbeat rock number, while "Part 5, The realisation" has a stage show feel. The final part of the suite, "Part 5, the reaper", opens the second side of the album. The superb vocal melody of the verses is interrupted by a lengthy middle section. This contains brief extracts of the vocal melodies from the first 4 parts, which drift in and out as if they are being spasmodically picked up from space. The track closes with a haunting epitaph and a return of the layered synthesiser notes. Throughout the suite various themes re-emerge as Wakeman interweaves them with new ones.

"Music reincarnate" stands as one of Wakeman's most complex and ambitious pieces. Many, especially those who only hear it once or twice, will most likely fail to grasp the depth of the composition. If fact it stands proudly among Wakeman's finest works, but one which is woefully under-recognised.

The album is completed by two stand alone tracks. "The prisoner" appears to have been inspired by the Strawbs "Hangman and the papist", which Wakeman of course played on. The songs sits rather uncomfortably with the rest of the album. "The lost cycle" is not about a missing bike! While the song returns to the main theme of the album, it is messy and disjointed.

The album cover has an obscure circular picture of Rick on the front, and a similar image on the reverse. Inside the LP sleeve was a square of reflective foil, and instructions on how to roll it up, place it on the cover and thus see the images in all their glory. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time! In recent times, Wakeman released what he himself called the follow up to "No earthy connection" in the form of his "Out there" album.

For what appear to be contractual reasons, the album has been rather left by the wayside in the flood of subsequent Wakeman releases and has never been released in full on CD (apart from in Japan), all the indications being that this sorry state of affairs is unlikely to change.

After the monstrous success of his early albums, "No earthly connection" sold relatively poorly causing panic at Wakeman's record label. As Rick points out though, it still sold over 4 million copies. "No earthly connection" is undoubtedly among Rick's best albums, and certainly worthy of a place in any decent record collection. By the way, Wakeman's official website has an amusing tale of how the waterfall sound effects were created.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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