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


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.73 | 349 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This album, along with the 'Henry VIII' suite, are generally considered to be THE essential Wakeman albums, and for good reason. This album was recorded live; according to Wakeman he didn't have the funds to record it in the studio. He is accompanied by not only the London Symphony Orchestra, but also the English Chamber Choir, who add to give this album a truly symphonic feel. Bar the split in the middle of the record, this is 40 minutes of continuous music, and was meant to be heard that way. Obviously this is a concept album which recounts the tale of the same name written by Jules Verne.

The Journey / Recollection The first half of this epic piece starts off in a very symphonic way, with the orchestra being the dominant force. In fact Wakeman himself is barely to be heard! The song then becomes more relaxed and surprisingly enough there are lyrics! The singer himself is good but not being at all famous, you have no idea where this guy was picked from. Afterwards there is another 10 minutes of instrumental. This is often punctuated by snippets of narration, no doubt taken from Verne's book itself. The narration, credited to David Hemmings, is clear and gives the listener a good idea of what's going on in the story. This is comparable to 'The Snow Goose' by Camel, where there is no narration at all, and so those who haven't read the story are unaware of what is happening. The music itself is also very interesting, at times peaceful and adventurous, and then turning very suddenly into dark moody parts. The orchestra augment the piece very well throughout, and Wakeman hardly puts himself on show. Funnily enough at about 13 mins, Wakeman decides he's had enough of the orchestra and breaks into a short rock instrumental. At about 16 mins, some vocals that are similar to the ones heard at the beginning of the track are heard. The track ends as symphonically as it begins, and we are made to turn over to side 2.

The Battle / The Forest We start with some more narration which leads into a rock based movement, rather than an orchestral movement. This part also has lyrics, which recount the terrible battle between two monsters in the story. The choir join in the lyrics as well, which is fun, although doesn't sound too great. I especially like how in the narration that follows, the whole band fade to a silence and then come back in full force after he's gone. We soon reach 'The Forest' which tells us of how the protagonists of the story discover some people living in the centre of the Earth. This movement isn't particularly good but is over quite quickly. Afterwards it's narration and instrumentals all the way to the end. In the final 6 minutes of this sweeping epic, we hear a cover of Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg, which goes surprisingly well with the mood! With 3 minutes left, it's time to bring up the main theme once more and this is played until the outro, where the ending feels very appropriate. The cheers of the audience, who must have felt very priveleged to be on such a standout live album, fade the album out.

This is one of prog rock's really important live albums, although surely not as important as 'Pictures at an Exhibition'. It feels rather patchy, some bits being better than others, and there are a few too many stop and starts. It is however very listenable for the entire 40 minutes. I very much recommend getting the vinyl if possible as there was a 6 page booklet with wacky artwork included that is sadly ommitted in the current CD edition.

baz91 | 4/5 |


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