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Various Artists (Tributes) - The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performs the best known works of Rick Wakeman CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Tributes)


Various Genres

2.56 | 20 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Orchestrating the orchestration!

This is a performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra which focuses on Wakeman's pieces from his early solo albums. The music is arranged and conducted by Richard Hartley, a talented composer in his own right (see the entry for Continuum on this site).

There have been many albums with orchestral versions of rock classics, with entire albums being dedicated to the music of bands such as Yes and Genesis. This appears to be a lucrative furrow to plough, and such albums often sell in respectable quantities. With Wakeman's penchant for classical influences, it therefore makes sense that his music should receive the orchestration treatment.

All the music here is taken from Wakeman's first three albums, plus his soundtrack for the documentary film "White rock". It is arranged into three suites, one for each album, plus "After the ball" from "White rock".

The opening track is an "Orchestral suite from the Myths and legends of King Arthur..", which takes extracts from four tracks on that album and segues them form a coherent whole. With the original album being heavily orchestrated and Wakeman often using symphonic sounds on his keyboards, the results are not radically different from the original album. Indeed, in many ways this simply sounds like the backing track to Wakeman's original.

From "Six wives..", two tracks "Catherine Howard" and "Anne Boleyn" are taken. Here the orchestral nature of the interpretation is more noticeable, particularly in view of the absence of soaring synthesisers. Strangely, the closing "Day thou gavest.." section is missing from "Anne Boleyn".

The "Journey to the centre of the earth" suite is the longest of the three, occupying most of the side two of the album. All four sections of the original piece are included in abbreviated form, some much more shortened than others. The use of an uncredited choir makes this suite sound even more like the original, which also featured choral sections.

The closing "After the ball" features piano as the main instrument, rendering the track little more than a faithful reproduction of the "White rock" original.

In all, a pleasant if undemanding take on some of Wakeman's early works. Since those works are generally regarded to be his best, the music here is naturally also of a high quality. The lush strings which play many of the main themes are pleasant and harmonic. There can be a tendency though with works of this type to overuse the brass and percussion sections, which leads to an over literal interpretation of the work. Hartley generally tends to avoid this, but at times he does fall into the trap.

Perversely, the techniques used to record the album were those normally used for a rock band, with individual microphones for each section of the orchestra, and a back beat which only the musicians could hear, to keep things in sync. A very advanced (for the time) computer process was used to mix the sound.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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