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Rick Wakeman - Retro 2 CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman

Symphonic Prog

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4 stars Another foray into the world of vintage keyboards from our erstwhile cape wearing wizard of prog.I was (and still is) a fan of his first Retro album and have had this for almost a year ,finally now getting round to reviewing it. It seems to me that Rick is not attempting to recreate seventies prog by going back to old keyboards but is in fact rying to find something new,or at least something that sits more comfortably with modern prog ideas. The sound is a lot cleaner which helps achieve that aim although fans of old style Rick Wakeman will be disappointed. So to the music:

1. Chasing The Devil (6.09) . A good solid instrumental start with excellent bass and drums.The band are smokin.8/10

2. Expect The Unexpected (4.38) .Gentler peice played in a relaxed jaunty way and featuring lead vocals from Elliot Tuffin. He has quite a gruff voice that suggests a bluesy background.Quite nice.7/10

3. Beyond The Void (9.04) .Trademark symphonic instrumental peice opening with a repetitive synth line that slowly builds.The keyboards are gradually layered on creating a stately ambience before the band kicks in after about 4 minutes.Then we have a more energetic and vibrant peice that recalls classic Wakeman.Best out and out prog track here by a country mile.9/10

4. An Angel Spoke To Me (5.33) .Delicate melodic song featuring the lovely voice of Ricks daughter Jemma.Very pretty music with nice Mellotron.7/10

5. The Soundtrack (7.29) .Quite a sombre slow paced track featuring some well judged Hammond organ.No fireworks although the mid section is quite heavy.OK but nothing more.6/10

6. The Fairgound Shuffle (4.34) .Another relaxed jaunty track that chugs along quite nicely.Nothing earth shattering although the Hammond organ is good. 6/10

7. Robert The Robot (3.44) .Elliot Tuffin features again.Pretty average and dangerously close to being 'filler'. 5/10

8. Standing Room Only (6.20) .More like it.Rockier hammond lead peice that brings a bit more energy to the proceedings. 7/10

9. Tigger The Bounce (4.42) Easily my favourite track on the album and the only piano peice. Rick is great here delicately caressing the keys and making the most of a nice theme.10/10

10.The Temple Of Life (11.02) .Longest track split into 4 sections. Jemma features strongly on the opener while the second section gets the Mellotron Choir treatment so beloved of Rick.The third section is a lot more energetic and brings the band more into the equation.The concluding section go full circle with Jemma heavily featured.7/10

Overall I feel this album is perched between good and excellent.Not a masterpeice but Rick succeeds in creating a perfectly enjoyable 'best of both worlds' keyboard album.

Report this review (#162196)
Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars Whilst I was not overly enamoured by Retro 1, I liked the idea enough to hope that Retro 2 would repeat the formula, only this time with good music to carry the pieces. I was skeptical, on the grounds that:

a) the band itself remained the same, meaning the same guitarist (eeek) and b) someone had seemingly misplaced Ashley Holt (no easy task). c) 'Tigger The Bounce' and 'Robert The Robot'? Who names these things?

'Chasing The Devil' begins very very badly. With the exact thing I hated most about Retro. The keyboard and guitar riffery is excruciating, and the skip button nearly took me away from the lovely tron choir, and a half decent guitar solo (?) and even some half-way decent drumming by Fernandez. It breaks mood abruptly, and sure enough decends into an inconsequential noodly jam with no real melodic statements and loads of superfluous widdly-widdly nonsense. And just fades out. Nasty.

Expect the Unexpected is no better. After a burst of slide guitar and blues, we get another 'Mr. Lonely' but without any of the quirkiness of that track that saved it. The lyrics are dreadful and the singer has no personality at all. After a sinewy and unexciting keyboard solo, we have another fade out. Very nasty.

Beyond The Void begins with a nice musical theme - arpeggio heavy, but thats OK. Sounds like an Olympic Theme from the early 70's. The Keyboards are a spot cheesy, in fact. But it's a variation of the norm in the sense that the material is stronger than the sounds used. When the mellotrons enter it sounds quite pompous - but thats fine by me. The track actually has the one thing that has been missing on these albums thus far - mood. Even the guitar solo at four and a half minutes doesn't spoil it.

And then after 5 minutes, the mood drifts away like flatulence in the night, as the shuffle feel and chuggy guitars steal the limelight and it all gets a bit crap. The only good thing during this bit is Lee Pomeroy's Chris Squire impression in the F minor section. The ending gets rather symphonic again, and is in all truth wonderful, but I'd usually have lost patience by that point and pressed skip.

The next piece is pleasant enough, but with a mawkish vocal and fairly inconsiquential keyboard work. A burst of tron here and there is nice, but hardly essential.

The Soundtrack begins OK- a little bit 'Catherine Parr' in places, but the drums give it a pedestrian plodding air that takes away from the nice chord work. The tron is great, actually, and the hammond sounds really nice. Then at 3 minutes, generic Ozzy riiff enters the room and leaves a nasty taste. I don't think this progressive rock. At all. After 2 woeful minutes, it becomes a Rick Wakeman piece again, but is still pedestrian.

The fairground shuffle is cheesy as hell. Other than a burst of nice hammond, the feel and the sounds are terrible. A spot in the middle show Fernandez still does syncopation - to a degree - before it's back to bathing in the fondue set.

Robert The Robot is, as one could quite reasonably expect, absolute trousers. I hate it. And understand why Ashley Holt may have not been involved. If shown those lyrics, I'd have bolted too.

Standing Room Only begins with a bit I detest, coupled to a classic Wakeman run up the arpeggios (like long distance runaround, but heavy) which is great. Before disolving into another 6/8 chuggy shuffle that is wearing VERY thin by now. And it also fades out.

Tigger The Bounce, as one reasonably wouldn't expect, is a lovely classical piece on piano that I have a suspicion wasn't destined for this misguided project at all and actually a genuine composition from Wakeman that proves he's still got it in him. When on solo piano, this man shines.

Temple Of Life begins sounding a bit yessy. In fact I can hear Anderson on this. Two minutes in it gets a bit Lloyd-Webber, but I blame the drums for that. The chords are quite nice, the melody is quite nice. There is some nice mellotron strings, like in side three of topographic oceans, all Elgarian, and then a 7/4 mellotron solo (featuring some hitherto unexploited syncopation from Fernandez), and despite some mild chugging, I can live with it as it's very low in the mix. It doesn't tend to do much though, and melodically follows much the same mood for much of it. Then it's back to the electric shuffle - again. The solo is not terribly interesting and the guitar is irritating. And then it's another recap of the intro.

The problem, as I see it, is the music is just not very interesting. There's no real excitement, say like the start of Arthur. There's no real melodic beauty, say like the End of Arthur. There's no feats of musical genius - say like all of Henry (the studio version...). Wakeman at his best, solo and with Yes, conjured up pictures and feelings. This does neither. The solos all feel improvised, as in uninspired first take material, and shoved out there.

I dare say if this album was done on digital synths, it'd be rated by nobody. It's style over substance, and even then, theres not much style.

I really dislike this record. I bought it and felt so overwhelmingly disappointed by it. There are fleetic moments of melody and some great sounds (and some very very duff ones. far more 80s and far less 70s), and one really lovely piano track with a terribly misleading name. But these are but brief moments on a truly forgettable record.

Get out your turntable and play Arthur instead. I'll grab me ice-skates.

Report this review (#284671)
Posted Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Review Permalink

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