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Rick Wakeman - The Red Planet CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 193 ratings

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Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Progressive rock's self proclaimed "Grumpy old rock star" in 2020 appears to be revisiting his roots.

"Mission To Mars" draws on the the stylings of Wakeman's earliest solo album "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" and delivers a pleasing concept piece.

Using traditional classical influences as his base, he and The English Rock Ensemble (Dave Colquhoun, Lee Pomeroy and Ash Soan) have delivered one of his best albums that I've heard in some time (admittedly, I've only heard a few dozen of his 100,000 or so releases).

While not as bombastic as most of his high-rated albums, it is a very pleasing and cohesive collection.

The concept is an homage to the many exploratory missions to Mars, with each track taking the name of a particular location studied by various unmanned spacecraft and landers. The CD booklet is filled with photos and information about the Mars missions.

The highlights: "Tharsis Tholus": This piece is primarily a moody, and mostly low-key prog piece, broken up with some startling off- time interludes that gives the song some exhilaration.

"The North Plain": I suspect this track is a bit of a tribute to Keith Emerson. Wakeman does a decent job of imitating Keith's Hammond organ abuse (I presume electronically, as I cannot imagine Rick throwing knives into his keyboard, or tossing a heavy organ around studio). If it's not a tribute, it still is a damn fine song.

"Valles Marineris": You would think that the obligatory not to Gustav Holst's "Mars - The Bringer of War" has been done too many time over the years, and I agree. But Wakeman and his band have created their own bolero rhythm that just barely sounds like the classical piece. I particularly like Pomeroy's solo within the rhythm near the opening of the track.

I love this album, and it became one of my soundtracks for getting through the hideous year 2020.

Evolver | 4/5 |


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