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Rick Wakeman - 1984 CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.40 | 167 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I wouldn't call myself a fan of Rick Wakeman. His first three albums were great. After that, there's still some excellent work released every now and then but on some albums he tries to capture new musical territories like new age or classical music. You have to like the quoted styles to appreciate Wakeman's approach to it. On other albums he still tries to maintain the progressive style but fails. So when I first played this record for the first time, I didn't know what to expect.

On 1984 you can hear a very strange mixture of keyboard based progressive rock and American pop of the early eighties. One thing is for sure ; in today's world this album is completely out of date. Is this album still enjoyable after all those years, that's the question. I believe it is. At least.most of it. Though the sounds of the keyboards are completely outdated, these are still the most interesting musical part of the album which comes as no surprise cause Wakeman's keyboards are known as an essential part of the sound of Yes.

And now for the tracks. The instrumental "ouverture" sounds great. You 'll find a number of majestic sounding excerpts succeeding each other rapidly. The atmosphere is comparable to the opening theme of "King Arthur and." not in the least because of the use of a choir and orchestra. If you didn't know the keyboards could easily be handled by 100 men instead of one Wakeman. This excellent opening track sets the stage for 1984 and soon your expectations are growing. On "War games" a very odd combination of the voice of Chaka Khan and progressive instruments works really well, her voice adds a bit of soul to the progressive music which the music often describes as being cold and emotionless. A good track with some excellent keyboards. But not all the vocal tracks are that good. Like on other progressive efforts Wakeman should have included more instrumental music instead of vocal tracks. The ballad "Julia" does remind me on the music of Andrew Loyd Webber and I don't mean that in the positive way. This cheesy track can't hold my attention for very long. It isn't exactly Khan's best vocal performance either.

It's no surprise that Jon Anderson is the vocalist on "Hymn", this kind of religious stuff suits him perfectly. It does remind me to his Christmas album "Three ships", but this "hymn" has a higher quality level thanks to the excellent keyboard parts on the behalf of Wakeman. On this short song it does sound a lot more exciting. Although you would suspect this track for being too much Yes, knowing those guys were ex members who quit Yes in 1979 at the same time, It still sounds very typical Wakeman.

On the next track "The room" Wakeman shows what he does the best.: flashy keyboards, great moodswings and background voices that add a special atmosphere to it. On "Robot man" the Motown and funky bass lines are dominating the progressive pretty much. Even though the melodies on this song are excellent, it may be too swinging for listeners to this kind of music. Maybe this is personal but I recall the title track of a televsion show called Fame by hearing this song. The next track "Sorry" is a wonderful instrumental track which is based on a great piano melody. Again, this could have ended up on one of Wakeman's classic albums. The characteristic vocals of Steve Harley gives the excellent "No name" something extra. The Cockney rebel front man sings his heart out and it works. The opening tones may sound poppy, cheap and childish, later on an emotional Harley leads the band to a big symphonic ending. "Forgotten memories" is another short instrumental break which isn't bad at all but isn't too memorable as well. Nice piano work anyway. If you ever wondered what it would be like to have Mick Jagger to sing on a Wakeman album "Proles" gives you an idea, although it isn't Jagger but a vocalist with a similar sounding voice. This rock'n roll track which includes also the sound of a sax, could easily be included as part of a musical. Maybe Wakeman had the intention to transform this in a stage production on Broadway at the time, I don't know..the thing I do know that 1984 is a conceptual album based on the tale of George Orwell. Even though you'll find some very different pieces of music on this record, there's enough threads to tie this thing together as a solid unit. Last track is the title track of the album. Here you find reprises of the best melodies of the album stringed together by some complex rhythm breaks and interesting mood changes. The combination of an orchestra and keyboards sounds quite good again, no wonder this has become Wakeman's trademark over the years. You'll also notice lots of instruments featured in the orchestra like a French horn, violins, oboe and much more. This project must have lead the artist close to bankruptcy but form a listeners point of view it's a delight. This big sounding finale is the excellent climax of 1984.

Unfortunately this album has a bad production There's too much high tones and the sound of the rhythm section isn't coming through on all of the tracks. But let's not forget this album appeared 24 years ago. Also I don't think this weak spot is a big issue. Overall 1984 is an interesting but remarkable album in the back catalogue of Rick Wakeman. I wouldn't recommended as a successor to his masterpieces of the seventies, but it comes damn close. This albums holds many differences in musical style. Some tracks are typical Wakeman while on others he clearly tries to adapt his sound with influences from the beginning of the eighties, the era the record was released. Most efforts to actualise his sound are sounding surprisingly good and are still enjoyable today Too bad, this album is out of print today though there is a CD which has 1984 and Lisztomania in one package.

between three and a half and four stars

Fishy | 3/5 |


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