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Rick Wakeman - Silent Nights CD (album) cover

SILENT NIGHTS

Rick Wakeman

 

Symphonic Prog

2.33 | 28 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars In his own words "He's an ageing man without a future plan, he was a star but now they've all forgot. Now he just lives in the past, he's just a blast from the past. Our ageing star has lost the plot." ("Ghost of a rock and roll star")

The title of this 1985 release is deceptive, as it implies the music of Wakeman's new age sojourn. In fact this is a full blown band album with dominant vocals on most tracks, and Wakeman taking his place as a soloist and backing musician.

The lengthy list of guest musicians includes sometime Strawbs rhythm players Tony Fernandez and Chas Cronk, plus Rick Fenn on guitar. Most of the lead vocals are provided by Scotsman Gordon Neville, a leading session musician who has worked with such artist as Elton John and The New London Chorale. Wakeman himself takes lead vocal on "The dancer", but more of that later. The list of backing musicians includes Tony Burrows, who in the early 1970s sang lead vocals on hits by many bands including Edison Lighthouse, Brotherhood of Man and White Plains.

The album opens with two decent but largely anonymous rock tracks. The third track, "The opera" is optimistically described by Wakeman as "Prog rock", presumably due to its more complex structure. Sue Glover's harmony vocals certainly give the track an appealing atmosphere, but the rather jarring contrast between the two main sections is less than satisfactory.

"Man's best friend" is a ubiquitous Wakeman instrumental tribute to an unidentified dog. "Glory boys" was released as a single; surprising in that it is the most forgettable (but not the worst) track on the album. The title track is a meandering, atmospheric piece which bizarrely finds Neville moving into a Jamaican reggae sounding vocal towards the end.

Of the two tracks "Ghost of a rock and roll star" and "The dancer", Rick says that he turned them into " Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band type of efforts". That is perhaps a little unkind (to the Bonzos!) but there's no denying they are the low points of the album, being rooted in the plastic pop of the 80's. The processing of Wakeman's vocals on the latter track fails to adequately disguise his shortcomings in that department.

Fortunately things pick up again, in relative terms at least, for the softly inoffensive instrumental "Elgin mansions", but as we all know, Wakeman can churn out 20 such pieces before breakfast. We close with "That's who I am", an undistinguished piece of 80's pop rock.

Wakeman himself describes this album as "confused" in terms of its direction. At the time he felt that no matter what he did, the press would slate it, and was thus trying various styles in the hope of finding a style which would meet with approval.

In all, an effort by Wakeman to move with the times which unfortunately did not work. The album is neither good quality pop or inspired traditional Wakeman, and as such lies in the great no-mans-land of heroic failures.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |

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