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Rick Wakeman - Lisztomania (OST) CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

2.57 | 135 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars Review Nš 294

"Lisztomania" is the fourth solo studio album of Rick Wakeman and was released in 1975. It was composed to be the soundtrack of a film with the same name and that would be released by the English film director Ken Russell. It was made, supposedly, to be a filmed biography of the Hungarian classical composer, pianist, conductor and teacher Franz Liszt. However, the album was later upgraded by Wakeman as, "The Real Lisztomania". Why he did it? Because, he himself became very dissatisfied, disappointed and frustrated with the original release of the album, indeed.

As many of we know, almost of all Ken Russell's works are marked by imaginative and provocative films, almost all dedicated to the music of the great classical composers. In between, there is the rock opera "Tommy", released in 1975, with the soundtrack of the charismatic band The Who and also starring Roger Daltrey, the famous singer of the group, besides other famous artists such as Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton and even Jack Nicholson. To adapt the rock opera for the screen, Ken Russell had the famous composer and guitarist of The Who, Pete Townshend. "Tommy" has become a cult film and a favourite for critics and fans, especially in the time when it was released and directed.

Building on the success of the opera rock "Tommy", Russell joined the cast of the film and held "Lisztomania", also in the year of 1975. In short, "Lisztomania" is a musical fantasy about the life of Liszt, shown on the film as a pop star and with the role also performed by Daltrey. The soundtrack was produced and performed by Wakeman, who appears on the film acting as Thor, the god of the thunder, and there's even a cameo appearance of Ringo Starr, on the film, in the role of Pope. However, mainly due to the abuse of situations and grotesque caricatures, the film hasn't been great and was considered too outlandish, even for some Russell's fans. So, it was never able to reach the status of "Tommy".

The line up on the album is Rick Wakeman (keyboards and synthesizers), David Wilde (Liszt piano music), Roger Daltrey (vocals), Linda Lewis (vocals) and Paul Nicholas (vocals). The album had also the musical contributions from The English Rock Ensemble and from The National Philharmonic Orchestra.

"Lisztomania" is a very short album with about thirty minutes and twelve tracks. So, "Lisztomania" is a soundtrack of a Ken Russell's film featuring the music of Liszt and Wagner adapted to symphonic rock. Wakeman composed a short piece of music and added lyrics to another one. Most of the songs are sung by Daltrey and Wakeman plays Moogs, very well as ever. However, Wakeman always said that he didn't like this album, but perhaps, it will please for some of those who liked his first albums. Despite I'm not an expert on Liszt or Wagner, I only know that most of the soundtrack is based upon Wakeman's rather liberal reinvention of extracts from both composers' works. But expert or not, there is hardly even a single, even the tiniest reason on Earth, to make somebody want to go out and buy this collection of rag-taggy "musical pieces". All the actual pieces can be divided in two major groups: Wakeman fiddling around on piano solo, occasionally with a very light touch of orchestration, or Wakeman making some bombastic arrangement or other, hopping on top of a synthesizer or two and making the formerly classical composition "rock out". Group number one is more tolerable in general, but more pointless, because, like I said, I don't see any use in hearing Wakeman playing Liszt. Perhaps he would have done a better job if he just, well you know, had recorded an entire album of "Wakeman Plays Liszt". This would just look like a normal thing. And it would liberate us of the necessity to hear group number two, synthesizer-treated and at times rock-band-treated reinterpretations of Liszt and Wagner. In their banality and ugliness, these passages have nothing to do with Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Pictures At An Exhibition". The latter displayed some true creativity, innovation, improvisation and a great band playing. In short, "Pictures At An Exhibition" remains a great album, but in here, everything is a waste of time. Even Wakeman said, about this album, "It stinks".

Conclusion: "Lisztomania" is a very different album from what Wakeman made until that moment, "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII", "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" and "The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table". The songs aren't properly progressive and they range different styles, from classical music, ballads, pop and electronic music. I never was a big fan of film soundtracks, especially made by progressive rock bands. So, when I knew that Wakeman accepted a commission from the controversial and megalomaniac film director Russell, to produce a soundtrack for a film, I didn't expect anything good of it. All in all, "Lisztomania" isn't a bad album but isn't a good album either. It has some good musical moments but this is very short for a Wakeman's work, especially at the peak of his career. It isn't a coherent, cohesive, balanced and well constructed work. It's like more a punch of songs put together in the same bag. Even the vocal tracks, mostly sung by the living legend Daltrey, aren't always sung very well. I think it was a mistake Wakeman has accepted this lunatic commission. Anyway, he has already still recognized it.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 2/5 |


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