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

JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH

Rick Wakeman

 

Symphonic Prog

3.77 | 109 ratings

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Dapper~Blueberries
5 stars In recent memory, Yes has been one of the more respected Prog bands, with some of the greatest albums I have heard like Close To The Edge, Fragile, and Tales From Topographic Oceans, heck even their pop stuff isn't half bad (not including Open Your Eyes obviously). They have some great musicians in the band too with some respectable careers of their own. Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, and of course the focal point of this review, Rick Wakeman.

Out of any member of Yes, Rick has the biggest discography, of 80 albums, not including compilations or live albums, that is more albums than the entire discography of all the members of Yes, which is approximately 63 albums. It is a discography that is very formidable with some amazing albums, some not so good albums, and some albums that seem otherworldly. One album that feels beyond this world is 'Journey To The Centre Of The Earth'. This album is actually a re-recording of a live show in 1974 by the same name, however this is considerably longer than that album, and for clarity's sake, I listened to the old live show to get a grasp on what was improved and what was lacking from this new version of this journey, and I did notice a few things, but we'll get to that later, for now let's talk about the album.

So I like to preferably listen to the full 54 minute song version of the album, usually seen in streaming services like Spotify and Amazon Music. This is so I can fully gather my thoughts on this album without making a track by track analysis, especially since with the sections sometimes being very short, sometimes being just a few seconds long. With that in mind, oh my god I love this giant suite. You can tell Rick was having a blast making this. From start to finish this is a blast to get through, with twists, turns, beauty, profoundness, and adventure.

The start of the song we get a short introductory sentence that starts to journey out, not with a bang, but with a couple of words to fully captivate the listener to see what is in store with this tale. After this introduction ends we get to a bang with an orchestral moment. Lots of violins, horns, very bombastic and classical. So far this starts the whole album off almost perfectly, almost since I am not a fan of classical music so when I first heard this I was fearing I might've started a listen with a classical album instead of a rock album, and was a bit turned off, though that doesn't persist when it shifts away to a new part of the journey.

The song takes a turn to a more acoustic Prog sound with acoustics and flutes, but with a bit of Rick's electronic piano playing to tie things together. Not only that but towards the end it starts to get a bit poppy, but it doesn't go to a new wave or an unsustainable pop sound, it feels in place and it feels indulgent in itself, which I really like. Furthermore, after a few more monologues and orchestral bits and pieces, we get a bombastic guitar, drum, and electronic piano session with lots of verbose playing that leads to a new section of orchestration and narrative driven monologues. This is what I feel like is the album's biggest strong points, how it is able to smoothly blend the eclectic Prog rock with symphonic orchestra plus the more pop like approach with some of these sections, it's melting with a beauty and grace that I love, and this perfectly shows why progressive rock is so good on how it can blend many styles and make it work.

I don't wanna spoil too much of the album so I'll skip a few bits and pieces, but I do wanna talk about two more parts on this album that being the section coined as The Battle and the two ending sections of In The Hall Of The Mountain King and Mount Etna. Let's start with The Battle, which is my favorite section of this suite. I am always a sucker for more punchy, weird-like sections in my suites like with Supper's Ready's Willow Farm or Tarkus' Mass. It blends the more eclectic Prog rock with the orchestration super well to where it gives a sense of epicness, but also mixes with the wobbly sounding piano Rick plays with, it gives a sort of odd ball feeling with the song and Rick's singing fits this track perfectly, especially with his more older voice, giving the track an older and more grander feel. Now let's talk about Mountain King and Mount Etna, so Mountain King, personally is not that special but within the context of all that happened with this suite, it gives a whole flurry of meaning and awesomeness, and it leads to that grand closer most Prog epics have. However it's not grand in a sense where it's a part that goes beyond, but it rather builds upon itself with Orchestration that leads into the magnificent part of the song where the beauty of Rick's playing mashes together with the symphonics to create a compact and masterful work of art that gushes with beauty, to where I cannot begin to describe it, and after such a long stretch of music, it just adds onto that. I cannot recommend this entire suite to any Prog fan enough, it's just so amazing that the 54 minute run time makes it all the more worthwhile.

But now we have a question, obviously, how does this fare against the old 1974 version? Is it better or worse? Well, this may be my young mind talking and my whole first listening bias talking but this is way better than the original live composition. The 1974 version definitely gets the job done, and I love the more olden and almost rustic feel this version has compared to the slicker and modern version, but this feels more complete and just brimming with more flare and transcendent sounds to where it's way better in my mind compared to the old 1974 version, though I do see why people would prefer the old version more whether it's for its older sound or it's more nostalgic reasons, whatever it is I can definitely see the appeal of the OG album.

So, overall this album and this suite as a whole is so good. It's a masterpiece of Progressive Rock music and I'd totally recommend this to any Prog fan, whether they like classic Prog or modern Prog, whatever, it's brimming with some amazing symphonies, amazing music, and above all one of the best closings to an epic I have heard in the past few weeks. Do not be afraid of its run time, you'll not be disappointed.

Dapper~Blueberries | 5/5 |

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