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


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.73 | 343 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars You know, if you're going to leave a group on the grounds that you think it's become too overblown and pompous, it's probably not a good idea to make your first post-split solo album quite possibly the most overblown and pompous album ever made to that point in time. This is a live recording of a classical-rock fusion piece designed around the Jules Verne novel of the same name (which I have never read as of this writing, unfortunately), and it seems like, in conceiving the project, Rick went out of his way to include anything that would make the piece seem more puffed up than anything ever made. There's a full orchestra, a choir (the females of which have to sing some of the most cringeworthy lyrics I've come across in a long time, at least in the "Battle" section), a rather uninteresting narrator and a small "band" to accompany Rick and his army of keyboards.

I feel rather ambivalent towards this album, truth be told. I hated it the first time I listened to it, and even now when I basically like the album (even though the thought of saying so makes me cringe), there are quite a few things that bug me within it. Like, say, the voice of one of the male singers. One of the singers actually has a rather nice voice, which helps me enjoy the lovely melody of the first "song" of the album, but the other one must have had compromising photos of Rick with Jon Anderson to win the chance to sing on this album. He almost sounds like Gordon Haskell, and if you've read my Lizard review, you'll know that that's about the biggest insult I can foist on a prog vocalist.

It's also a little annoying that, well, I can't really get that worked up about this album for more than a little dose at a time. It's neat to hear the main classical-based themes alternate with lovely ballads with mildly funky patterns with whatever (all underpinned with Rick's sci-fi synths, with sounds he rarely brought out in his Yes stint), but it's also very difficult to keep my attention from fading in and out, especially in the second half when the sung parts disappear for a very long time near the end. I could see myself enjoying brief snippets of this as one of Rick's solo interludes during later Yes concerts, but as a whole, tied all together with that snooty narrator? Meh, that's a little harder.

I guess the big problem I have overall is that, while I enjoy the album (for the most part), it also provides a clear example to me of why British prog rock, a perfectly decent genre from the early 70's, eventually earned so much disdain from so many people. Nice as it is, there are still too many orchestral passages that sound nice but undistinguished, too many synth passages that sound cool but kinda pointless, and too much of an all-encompassing feel of stuffiness throughout. And this bugs me, because I almost never feel this way with Yes. Anderson might have had pompous lyrical topics, but in essence he was just somebody who was very spiritual yet very confused, and who thought that singing (in his own bizarre way) about spiritual topics he liked would be neat. And as for the instrumentalists, well, I guess the best thing about having so much talent in the band was that no one person could outright dominate the musical direction of the group, whereas giving Wakeman full control resulted in things like this.

So ... I dunno. I like quite a good deal of this album, but I also feel dirty and ashamed in saying so. I probably won't listen to it again for a long time, though I am playing it as I write this, and I'm enjoying it, so draw your own conclusions. If you're a hardcore progger, you might love it, though.

PS: When I bought this album, the other CD I purchased was The Clash (US). I half expected my bag to burst into flames from a bad chemical reaction on the way home.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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