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Rick Wakeman - The Red Planet CD (album) cover

THE RED PLANET

Rick Wakeman

 

Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 151 ratings

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BrufordFreak
3 stars One of Rick's better solo releases (some say his best!) in which I still find all of the usual weaknesses.

1. "Aseraeus Mons" (5:52) marching organ chord progression and stereotypic prog tom-tom drum fills open what turns out to be a fairly nice weave of keyboard layers and melodic hooks. A little too syrupy and prog-pandering for me. The best part is the bank of female choir "oohs" at the end. (8.25/10)

2. "Tharsis Tholus" (6:16) opens with a Camel/Babylon familiarity. Prog lite with some nice codas and bridges, shoddy guitar work, and Rick wailing away on a few of his favorite keyboards. It just sounds tired. (8.5/10)

3. "Arsia Mons" (6:10) starts out as Rick pulling from some of the Tony Banks/Genesis bag of tricks before going sappy David Gilmour acoustic guitar in the second minute. The panning Vangelis synth is cool, as is the chunky bass, and it's pretty, but there's nothing very new or innovative here. Still, this is the first song with any kind twists and turns, which I've been waiting for. (8.75/10)

4. "Olympus Mons" (5:20) Rick's now in full gear, prog rockin' at its fullest--as the drummer and bass player are in full sympathy. The first two minutes kind of noodle around before a shift at 1:55 takes us into a couple new and more lively motifs--the second of which takes us pretty much to the end as Rick loses himself with his Minimoog soloing. (8.75/10)

5. "The North Plain" (6:53) opens with eerie synth and treated piano sounds slowly trailing across the spacey soundscape. At 1:26 drums and a Keith Emerson "Tarkus"/Edgar Winter "Frankenstein" kind of motif establishes itself. Solid play from his bandmates while Rick plays around with a pitch bender and then another synth (Arp?) before everything collapses into a kind of chaotic blackhole. It really sounds as if all of the instruments are being sucked down a toilet! When we finally emerge "on the other side" it is to a thicker, heavier version of the formerly organ-dominated "Tarkus-Frankenstein" motif--this one more in the wheelhouse of Blue Öyster Cult. Nice! (9/10)

6. "Pavonis Mons" (7:13) a bit of a Punk Rock guitar beat opens this one (think The Clash or The Police) before Rick's soloing synths take on the first and then second lead melodies. A plodding 4/4 surprises me--except for the "choruses." The song basically continues on this path with Rick trading keyboard for keyboard every 20 seconds or so for the duration of the song. Too bad! (12.5/15)

7. "South Pole" (7:35) another GENESIS-like opening sound palette leads into a little more VANGELIS territory--which is nice and relaxing but, eventually, a little too simple and New Age-y--despite the fine chunky bass play from Lee Pomeroy. Move to solo piano at the end of the third minute, and we are treated to some of Rick's classically-trained melody-making magic. At 4:20, Lee and the others begin rejoining as Rick switches to more Blade Runner sounds and melodies. A very pretty, nicely arranged prog lite song, it could also almost fit nicely into a CAMEL story. (13.25/15)

8. "Valles Marineris" (10:02) the best drumming on the album doesn't save this rather dull and straightforward song. (17.5/20)

Total Time 55:21

Quality symphonic prog compositions performed very competently just lacking any bite or exposition of anything new or innovative; a rehashing of the old sounds, styles, and motifs. The predominant use of 4/4 straight-time signatures is a bit surprising to me--making it feel more like Prog-Lite.

B/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection and one that I would recommend checking out for yourselves.

BrufordFreak | 3/5 |

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