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Rick Wakeman - Retro CD (album) cover

RETRO

Rick Wakeman

 

Symphonic Prog

3.03 | 39 ratings

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Atavachron
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In the process of moving, Rick Wakeman came across a bunch of old equipment he'd not used for thirty years. He used this equipment to make 'Retro', as he explains; "As more and more flight cases were opened to check contents, my engineer was continually coming out with comments such as: 'That's got to be older than me!' and 'When was the last time you plugged that in?' The average age of the keyboards used was around 35... the most commonly heard phrase over the first few days was 'can you smell something burning?' Our only concession to the 21st century was that of using modern recording techniques and therefore to record onto hard disk, but no sequencing or music software was used in any way".

That alone is enough to make this project worthwhile. The music isn't bad either and though it may not have the grand spirit of vintage Wakeman, it certainly has the sounds of that period and is a treat for fans and synth-heads. Beefy arcade waves start 'Just Another Day' and are followed-up by a 'tron, Rick's electric piano and some downright Yes-like lines for a bit of old-style Wakeman and plenty of classic keyboard sounds from his endless assortment of Hammonds, Moogs, Korgs and Prophets. Grating pop tune 'Mr. Lonely' is irritating but 'One in the Eye' is back with slippery synths and a fresh take on old ideas. The bright modern drum sound proves a distraction throughout most of this recording and doesn't match the old fashioned tone here, and would've done with a warmer quality. But a very nice twin-synth duet supported by the grind of an ancient mellotron for 'Men in Suits' and though the vocal performance is more theatrical than serious, it has some real cool noodling from Rick. Showcase track 'Waveform' cuts along nicely, Wakeman pulling out all his tricks as he moves from keyboard to keyboard, sound to sound, setting to setting. It's at this point one wonders why Keith Emerson hasn't made a solo album so good and 'Retrospective' is even better, setting a film score atmosphere. 'Homage to the Doctor' is questionable but at nine minutes covers enough good ground to merit some attention. It's when he lets go that Wakeman really shines, unhindered by trying to write 'a song' and just doing his neo-classical thing better than anyone.

Quite uneven and the commercial stuff may nauseate, but there is enough good stuff here and 'Retro' is probably the most interesting thing this icon has done in awhile.

Atavachron | 3/5 |

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