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


Rick Wakeman

Symphonic Prog

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3 stars The original LP on Coda records is a very pleasant and polished new age recording, quite worthwhile for fans of Roedelius or Roger Eno for example.

Wakeman then re-recorded the album a few years later for CD on a new label. This IMHO is a disaster. Ridiculously florid. The musical equivalent of a particularly OTT Mills & Boon novel. What was originally nicely restrained and spacious became a monument to over- ornementation and arpeggio. What's better than one note? Four (or more).

My three star rating is for the original LP. I would give the CD version (1992 re-recording) a zero. I have had the Cd album for 12 years and never been able to finish listening to it.

Report this review (#27513)
Posted Thursday, August 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars Coda Records was a short-lived label that tried to cash in on the popularity of New Age music in the mid-eighties. Wakeman had the highest profile, but there were other "name" artists, notably Claire Hamill (who did an interesting but simplistic vocal and sampled-vocal album) and Thomas Newman (who did a couple of pretty good instrumental albums). This album did little for me; it sounded more like George Winston than anything done previously by Wakeman. And it's not that I was hoping for a typical Rick Wakeman album. I thought that the album cover and title promised something slow, quiet and minimal, and I imagined Wakeman attempting a "reinvention". Becoming one of the zillions of George Winston imitators is not what I had in mind.
Report this review (#27514)
Posted Monday, April 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars One of Rick's better New Age affairs; pleasant, but nothing special and certainly not "prog rock". I bought it and played it twice, it has remained on the shelf since; unless you have to have every one of Rick's albums (and there's a lot to collect) I'd give it a miss - if however you do wish to hear some of his New Age music then this is as good if not better than most.
Report this review (#36735)
Posted Friday, June 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wow! I should support a good album. It is underestimated. Slow, meditative, good music. I listened to it more often, than "Round table...", at which higher rating. Four stars. Product shows Rick skills as the pianist. Not masterpiece but simple good album.
Report this review (#57598)
Posted Wednesday, November 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This instrumental record contains only piano tracks. The tracks are all short. The airs are quite good and very melodic, although not unforgettable. The music is definitely borderline New Age. The tracks are neither dark nor really simple. On the other hand, Wakeman's legendary piano catchiness is reduced here: it is just simply hard to sing the airs! "All the tracks are the same", will you say, and maybe you are right: the sound is about the same everywhere, and the compositions have a bit the same pattern and speed from one track to another. Rick Wakeman still has his very personal style on piano, but I must admit that he slightly disappoints me here. Compared to Eddie Jobson, Lyle Mays and Patrick Moraz, Rick is definitely less elaborated, refined and captivating here. Nevertheless, this album is beautiful, relaxing, not depressing and always good to listen.
Report this review (#95885)
Posted Thursday, October 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is one of the most beautiful music albums ever.

Beautiful melodies, memorable climate and fantastic solos made 'Country Airs' one of the topest CD in my collection. I will not describe each track because this review will become one of the longest in progarchives history ;-)

Just put this CD and push play. I guarantee that You will not be dissapointed.

Report this review (#111007)
Posted Thursday, February 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
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.

Report this review (#950813)
Posted Saturday, April 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
3 stars I have the 10 tracks edition, the one without "New Age" clearly written on, probably because once you start listening to this album what it's about is clear enough.

10 piano solo tracks on which the Wakeman's style is unmistakeable. Listen to track three, Ducks and Drakes" as example. You can't think to any other keyboardist.

New age I was saying...yes. I think it's the first fully newage oriented album by Wakeman, but I don't have "The Family Album" and some of the soundtracks released between the poor "Zodiaque" and this one,so I can be wrong. When I have bought it I was quite into newage. The instrumental soundscapes were able to give me the sensations I was missing in the 80s, when "prog" was brought on by few neo bands like Marillion and some dynosaurus like Waters and Yes (don't want to mention Genesis of that period).

Well, this album has a newage flavor mainly because is all piano instrumental highly influenced by classical composers, I think to Chopin but it's just the first name that coms in mind. This newage flavor is mitigated by Rick's skill and technique. As I have written, it's clearly Rick Wakeman's playing. It has no Jon Anderson singing, no Squire or Howe, no Bruford at drums, only piano but you can imagine how those tracks can sound with a prog arrangement.

It's a highly enjoyable album, you have to stay in the right situation and one can argue that it's not properly a prog album.

Well, I think it is prog, instead, as well as Emerson's Piano Concerto N.1 is.

3 good stars.

Report this review (#1053345)
Posted Friday, October 4, 2013 | Review Permalink

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