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Rick Wakeman - Country Airs - Piano Solos CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.24 | 48 ratings

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4 stars A sublime collection of wonderful timeless music to treasure.

Upon seeing the `New Age Collection' tag on the front cover of Rick Wakeman's `Country Airs', I expected to find a disc full of faceless digital synths to backing sounds of nature and stormy rainforests. What a pleasure to find not a single cold machine, instead a stunning collection of solo piano pieces. On the first of a trio of piano albums by the artist, it's wondrous to hear Rick work in this style, ditching the mini-moogs and mellotrons of old for a subtle, restrained and moving work. It's a real jewel in the artists' wide and numerous discography, and stripped of his usual army of keyboards, Wakeman has never sounded so heartfelt, warm and human.

Comprised of 10 pieces full of endless lovely melodies, the 37 minute album could easily appeal to classical fans, but it's never bombastic or overly complex, and there's certainly no classical themes or interpretations worked into this music. But best of all, not for one single second is the album schmaltzy, sappy or bland. This is no elevator muzak, or some shopping centre food court piano playing, rather it's the work of a true artist sounding like he never has before, revealing subtle intricacies and new possibilities.

Despite being written and performed only on piano, the album manages plenty of variety. There's darker, more reflective pieces, such as the low-key and fragile opener `Dandelion Dreams' that sets the tone for the rest of the album. The majestic `Ducks and Drakes', haunting `Waterfalls' and the stunning contemplative `Quiet Valleys' are all standouts. The tiptoeing `Lakeland Walks' sounds like the soundtrack to a ghost story of lost love, full of yearning and longing. There's also softer romantic pieces, like the pretty `Morning Haze', optimistic and heartbreaking `Nature Trails' and the protective and comforting `Heather Carpets'. A nice surprise is the final track `Wild Moors' that almost brings a brief taste of the usual epic trademark sound of the artist. Full of dramatic passion and rising triumph, it ends the album in a grand way while not sounding at odds with the rest of the album.

I remember a striking image of electronic artist Adelbert von Deyen on a beach, looking like a messiah figure surrounded by his bank of keyboards inside one of his LP sleeves. It's not much of a stretch here to imagine Mr Wakeman performing alone at his piano in a tranquil forest like the one on the album cover here too.

Highly recommended, and `Country Airs' has quickly become a very special album to me! Hope you fall for it as much as I did.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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