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Rick Wakeman - Criminal Record  CD (album) cover

CRIMINAL RECORD

Rick Wakeman

 

Symphonic Prog

3.71 | 181 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I know that I've only heard about a tenth of Rick Wakeman's solo career, and a smaller portion of the total solo careers of all the various Yes members, but if this isn't the best Rick Wakeman solo album (and the best Yes-related solo album) I'll be shocked. I mean, it is still an album of lengthy keyboard wanks, and as such it could never be one of my favorite albums of all time, but it's the only Rick Wakeman album that I can honestly say I enjoy from start to finish. I almost never find myself getting exhausted with the style, and it's the only Wakeman album I know (as of writing) where the music is as interesting throughout as solo Wakeman so often is in small quantities.

There's a loose concept in the album, about criminal justice and law and all that, but it's only reflected in the titles; this kinda makes it a throwback to Six Wives, full of instrumentals that could have been given any title in the world, but I really contend that the music on this album is better than the music on that supposed classic. One thing that doesn't strike me as coincidental is that this album came about during roughly the same period as the recording of Going for the One. I've long felt that Wakeman's work on that album is some of the best keyboard work in prog rock history, both in terms of the actual parts and in terms of the sonic pallette, and I feel like a lot of his inspiration from those sessions leaked into this album. Plus, there's a good chunk of work from Squire and White, and while they're not particularly notable on the album, they're recognizable, and it's nice to have them instead of the usual shlubs from Wakeman's typical backing band.

In the end, though, these are just nice songs. They're each filled with a variety of memorable themes and melodies, and there's an equal amount of variety in the keyboard choices. There are but six tracks, with only two around four minutes in length and the rest significantly longer, but they're all really nice. I actually find it very difficult to pick. A lot of times it's the opening "Statue of Justice," which has a lot of entertaining build into an incredibly lovely theme that I get stuck in my head all of the time. Sometimes it's the closing "Judas Iscariot," which is essentially Rick's own solo version of "Awaken," filled to the brim with moody church organ and a Swiss choir. Sure, it might almost be considered Bach for dummies, taking on the form and majesty of something from JS with only a fraction of the actual "sophistication" of something he'd have written, but it's still really enjoyable nonetheless. I'm also very fond of "Crime of Passion," which careens through all sorts of moods and features a marvelous "stereotypical" Wakeman passage on one of his synths. Good stuff.

Among the others, "The Breathalyzer (Policeman's Holiday)" is a fun relative throwaway, most notable for an amusing vocal part (the only one of the album, unless you count the wordless Swiss choir singing of the next track) about getting forced to pee in a cup after refusing to take a breathalyzer. "Chamber of Horrors" and "Birdman of Alcatraz" aren't as amazing as the highlights of the album, but they each have a small number of nice themes, and they fill out the album nicely.

In short, if you're really feeling the need to get a Rick Wakeman album, this is probably the place to start. It doesn't have a lot of the fame of the earlier albums, but that's largely because it lacks a lot of those albums' flaws. Plus, I'd even dare say that every serious Yes fan should have this album.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |

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