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


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.73 | 343 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review Nš 88

"Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" is the debut solo live album of Rick Wakeman and was released in 1974. Chronologically, it's his third solo album and it was recorded between his debut studio album "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" and his second studio album "The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table".

"Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" is a different live album because is a new musical work which was never released as a studio album. The album is a live recording from his second of two sold out concerts, in 18 January 1974 at the Royal Festival Hall, in London. Wakeman decided to hold a live recording of this album, due to its high cost. He couldn't totally afford the production involving an orchestra and a choir with so many elements. The solution was to do it as a show paid. At the time, his record label A&M, English business, didn't agree to pay all the production, and so, it was necessary to convince A&M, American business to do so, and Wakeman was very well succeeded with that.

"Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" is another Wakeman's conceptual album. This time it's based on the Jules Verne's eponymous science fiction novel. Verne was a famous French writer of the nineteenth century, who pioneered the science fiction literary genre which became best known because his novels "A Journey To The Centre Of The Earth", "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea" and "Around The World In Eighty Days".

"Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" tells us the story of professor Lidenbrock, his nephew Axel, and their guide Hans, who follow a passage to the centre of the Earth, originally discovered by Anne Saknussemm, an Iceland alchemist. They encounter many adventures, including prehistoric animals and natural hazards. As the music is dotted by telling the story based on Verne's novel, there was need to have a narrator in a prominent position in the recording. Then, the actor David Hemmings was the person chosen and so, he provides the narration of the story on the album.

Wakeman performs "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" with the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Choir and a hand full of musicians, Gary Pickford-Hopkins (vocals), Ashley Holt (vocals), Mike Egan (electric guitar), Roger Newell (bass guitar) and Barney James (drums). The use of Wakeman's keyboards, perfectly couple with the orchestra, created the ambient needed to the great audio success of the story and of the music on the album.

Recorded at the London's Royal Festival Hall, the tale is broken into four parts. The first and second parts, "The Journey"/"Recollection", take our adventures from the surface of the Earth to the lost world inside it, encountering various difficulties along the way. The music is great, at times peaceful and adventurous and in others with dark moody parts. It starts explosively in a very symphonic way, with the orchestra being the dominant force. The epic has many musical changes, soft passages sung by Pickford and Holt, frantic keyboard sections, aggressive rock & roll chords always supported by the correct narration of Hemmings with his very well educated English accent. The track ends symphonically as it begins. The third and fourth parts, "The Battle"/"The Forest" are much more complex. "The Battle" starts with some more narrative that describes the battle between two sea monsters, which leads to a rock based movement and it has also lyrics and a choir. Wakeman's keyboards and Egan's guitar create a perfect musical mixture of baroque, classical and heavy rock which places the listener in a ringside too see not only the big fight but also a huge storm, where Wakeman does his best, describing the winds with his Minimoog. "The Forest" situates us when the expedition reaches the centre of the earth. Musically, is extremely beautiful and again the voices of Pickford and Holt sound perfect. "The Forest" includes also an excerpt of "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" of Edvard Grieg.

Conclusion: "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" is a very special album for me. The first Wakeman's albums I knew were "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth", "The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table", "Lisztomania" and "No Earthly Connection". However, "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" was my first contact with his solo albums, in the 70's. So, it was a very important album into my musical education. My first version of this album was a cassette tape, which a friend recorded for me. Often I listened to it on a small mono tape recorder. For those who are very young and not lived through those times, imagine the technical and monetary conditions that my generation had in those days. However, our union and solidarity were incredible in our love for music in general and particularly by the progressive rock music genre. Whether or not by this motif, "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" always had a very special place into my heart. However, besides that, "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" remains as one of the best and innovative progressive musical projects of the 70's, I think.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |


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