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Rick Wakeman - Criminal Record CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 232 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Six more Wives

For me, this is when Wakeman's quality control started to go haywire. The success he had enjoyed taking various concepts and interpreting them musically, appears to have convinced him that all he had to do was knock out half a dozen or so tunes on his keyboards, and come up with a nominal concept to link them. With six tracks on the album, three on each side of the LP, Rick faced the challenge of finding another "Six" theme, the wives of Henry the eighth having been already spoken for. He therefore turned his attention to a loose theme of criminality and famous criminals. The inner sleeve contains lengthy narratives about what lies behind each of the pieces, plus details of 5 others who might have been used had the album been extended to two LPs. As with "Six wives", the music is simply instrumental performances by Wakeman, with no obvious links to the person or inanimate object nominated as the theme.

Perhaps expectations were too high for this album. Each preceding release had been innovative and different from the last. Here though, Rick takes a major step backwards, creating a facsimile of the "Six Wives" album. Unfortunately though, the actual compositions are not nearly as strong this time. Even with the Yes rhythm section (White and Squire) helping out on side one, the music is cold and often uninspired. The opening "Statue of justice" begins with rambling piano, then romps through various disconnected melodies played by various instruments. "Chamber of horrors" has a little more substance, but the theme changes are jarring and unsatisfactory. One minute it's a sedate church organ, the next it's a jaunty off key synth.

"The birdman of Alcatraz" which opens side two sounds like an outtake from the "Six wives" album, if only Henry had married one more time! "The breathalyser" is the oddity in more ways than one. It is of course a device used as part of the traffic law enforcement process. It is interesting reading the sleeve notes to reflect on how attitudes have changed towards drinking and driving since they were written. The track includes some ill advised vocals by Bill Oddie of the comedy trio The Goodies. Oddie by the way is in fact an accomplished singer and songwriter, try his song "Taking you back".

The album closes with the lengthy "Judas Iscariot", which in retrospect was an early indication of Wakeman's forthcoming religious awakening. The doomy church organ which opens the track is more reminiscent of the theme music from a horror movie. The parallels with "Six wives" relate not only to the dominant church organ, but also to the inclusion of an hymn theme.

The detailed sleeve notes, which strangely omit "Crime of passion" make for an interesting distraction from the music, but they can only gloss over the relative weaknesses temporarily. I say "relative weaknesses" since Rick is of course a highly talented musician and composer. By any standard, the musicianship here is unquestionably of a very high quality. It seems to me though that Rick was struggling for inspiration when he recorded this album, resulting in a Wakeman by the numbers release, devoid of emotion or passion.

At the time of its release my expectations were high; even now some 30 years later, the disappointment with what he came up with remains.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |


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