Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Rick Wakeman - The Red Planet CD (album) cover

THE RED PLANET

Rick Wakeman

Symphonic Prog


From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
4 stars Take The six wives of Henry VIII to space. Literally, that is how you are going to feel when you hear this album, from the magnificent intro to the epic finale. Rick Wakeman melts the classic textures, sounds and changes of that album with modern sounds that add a new dimension to his music (spacesynth breaks included!). I really like the guitar work, which reminds even Mike Oldfield in some passages (e.g. Arsia Mons).

This is a concept album, as the musical ideas, song tittles and overall feeling seem to tell the listener a story, but this is an instrumental album, so all you have to do is sit, relax, close your eyes and let the music create your particular martian story.

Overall, I am giving 4.3 stars to this, as I don't find it perfect, but it is the best album Rick Wakeman has composed since 1973, no less, no more.

Recommended for all fans of classic progressive rock and an essential work.

Report this review (#2414013)
Posted Friday, June 19, 2020 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
5 stars No earthly connection

Is it possible that Rick Wakeman could have released his best ever solo album some five decades into his recording career? Yes, it is possible! I must admit that I have not heard absolutely every record he has made - he has made so (too?) many. But a significant bunch of his output has been in classical, new-age, and other non-Rock genres. The Red Planet is a progressive Rock record through and through, and it is nothing short of phenomenal at that.

The album features eight new instrumental pieces inspired by the landscape and geography of the planet Mars. Recorded with a full band of drums, bass, guitars, and (no surprises there!) a wide range of keyboards, this is precisely the kind of album that the fans have been waiting a long time for.

I was previously familiar with the band Wakeman is using here as it is the same line-up (minus vocalist Ashley Holt) that was featured on the excellent live DVD Made In Cuba. Bassist Lee Pomeroy is a longtime Wakeman collaborator and he was also with Wakeman recently in "Yes featuring Anderson Rabin Wakeman". Here he does an excellent job throughout, but watch out especially for the brilliant bass line during the introduction to Valles Marineris. Guitarist Dave Colquhoun and drummer Ash Soan may be less known, but they are great musicians. Like when they played live (evidenced on the aforementioned DVD), Wakeman takes a democratic approach and lets his band contribute as equals and not just working as a backing band.

I usually abstain from reviewing new music so shortly after its release, but I am confident that The Red Planet will stand the test of time and become one of Wakeman's most beloved records.

Very highly recommended!

Report this review (#2416423)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2020 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars One of Rick's better solo releases (some say his best!) in which I still find all of the usual weaknesses.

1. "Aseraeus Mons" (5:52) marching organ chord progression and stereotypic prog tom-tom drum fills open what turns out to be a fairly nice weave of keyboard layers and melodic hooks. A little too syrupy and prog-pandering for me. The best part is the bank of female choir "oohs" at the end. (8.25/10)

2. "Tharsis Tholus" (6:16) opens with a Camel/Babylon familiarity. Prog lite with some nice codas and bridges, shoddy guitar work, and Rick wailing away on a few of his favorite keyboards. It just sounds tired. (8.5/10)

3. "Arsia Mons" (6:10) starts out as Rick pulling from some of the Tony Banks/Genesis bag of tricks before going sappy David Gilmour acoustic guitar in the second minute. The panning Vangelis synth is cool, as is the chunky bass, and it's pretty, but there's nothing very new or innovative here. Still, this is the first song with any kind twists and turns, which I've been waiting for. (8.75/10)

4. "Olympus Mons" (5:20) Rick's now in full gear, prog rockin' at its fullest--as the drummer and bass player are in full sympathy. The first two minutes kind of noodle around before a shift at 1:55 takes us into a couple new and more lively motifs--the second of which takes us pretty much to the end as Rick loses himself with his Minimoog soloing. (8.75/10)

5. "The North Plain" (6:53) opens with eerie synth and treated piano sounds slowly trailing across the spacey soundscape. At 1:26 drums and a Keith Emerson "Tarkus"/Edgar Winter "Frankenstein" kind of motif establishes itself. Solid play from his bandmates while Rick plays around with a pitch bender and then another synth (Arp?) before everything collapses into a kind of chaotic blackhole. It really sounds as if all of the instruments are being sucked down a toilet! When we finally emerge "on the other side" it is to a thicker, heavier version of the formerly organ-dominated "Tarkus-Frankenstein" motif--this one more in the wheelhouse of Blue Öyster Cult. Nice! (9/10)

6. "Pavonis Mons" (7:13) a bit of a Punk Rock guitar beat opens this one (think The Clash or The Police) before Rick's soloing synths take on the first and then second lead melodies. A plodding 4/4 surprises me--except for the "choruses." The song basically continues on this path with Rick trading keyboard for keyboard every 20 seconds or so for the duration of the song. Too bad! (12.5/15)

7. "South Pole" (7:35) another GENESIS-like opening sound palette leads into a little more VANGELIS territory--which is nice and relaxing but, eventually, a little too simple and New Age-y--despite the fine chunky bass play from Lee Pomeroy. Move to solo piano at the end of the third minute, and we are treated to some of Rick's classically-trained melody-making magic. At 4:20, Lee and the others begin rejoining as Rick switches to more Blade Runner sounds and melodies. A very pretty, nicely arranged prog lite song, it could also almost fit nicely into a CAMEL story. (13.25/15)

8. "Valles Marineris" (10:02) the best drumming on the album doesn't save this rather dull and straightforward song. (17.5/20)

Total Time 55:21

Quality symphonic prog compositions performed very competently just lacking any bite or exposition of anything new or innovative; a rehashing of the old sounds, styles, and motifs. The predominant use of 4/4 straight-time signatures is a bit surprising to me--making it feel more like Prog-Lite.

B/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection and one that I would recommend checking out for yourselves.

Report this review (#2419604)
Posted Tuesday, July 14, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars Firstly I'd like to say that this is my first review. It's been a long time coming as I've been a frequent guest on this site for many years now. I'm so grateful for all the music I've discovered from all the other contributors here and figured it was time I add something to the conversation, so here we go!

THEME - This latest instrumental album by Rick Wakeman attempts to explore the sonic soundscapes and emotions found within the context of the planet Mars. I think within the album this is depicted very well by the backing of The English Rock Ensemble who act as the rhythmically rocky ground which at times remind us of the crater ridden geographical landscape that is Mars. We feel this in a wide variety of musical moments which shift and morph from a sense of stability or gently walking along the flat lands of the planet, to pulsing cacophony, like riding on a bike up and down Mars' craters, and the feeling of being suspended in space, snug in your space suit while stars and asteroids swirl around your view. I think Rick Wakeman did a great job with the instrumentation and synthesizer sounds he chose to depict that galactic, interplanetary, vibe.

MUSICAL STYLE - This album is very "Prog" in the classic sense of the word, it features a story telling approach to song structure, with lots of emotional variety, impressive instrumental passages, incredibly atmospheric and musical extended solo sections taken by members of the band and overall a lot of skill and creativity found in the parts written by the musicians.

PRODUCTION - As for the production quality, this album is top notch. All the instruments sit very nicely in the mix, with no conflicting frequency ranges. Everything works well together, and you can see this in how tightly packed the rhythm section is in the central mix, while Wakeman's keyboards tend to sort of "surround" the rhythm, almost engulfing the other instruments in a spacial blanket, or perhaps cape. This can be heard well in the song The North Plain.

RATING - For a rating, I'm giving this a 4/5. I think it's a fantastic album of exceptional quality, and it's also a blast to listen to. I've given it quite a few listens since its release and will likely be playing it now and again throughout the future.

I will be pretty conservative with giving out 5 stars in my reviews, as I want to keep those for the numerous life changing or hugely inspirational albums that have found me throughout my life journey.

Report this review (#2420033)
Posted Thursday, July 16, 2020 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars 47 years after...Possibly some artists need to quit thinking to the market. Sometimes they should come back to their original soundscapes. So after decades of boring newage, Rick Wakeman finds himself back and gives us a great rock album, with a proper rock band and sticks to his symphonic roots. Some sounds, like the "ooh" sound dated, some passages remind to previous masterpieces (and this is good IMO).

The guitar solo on "Ascraeus Mons" brings the "Journey's caves" to space. "Tharsis Tholus" has links with No Earthly Connection (forgive the joke), a sort of quantistric entanglement crossing time instead of space, but also Judas Iscariot appears here and there. Important to say: this is not Mike Oldfield repeating the nth version of Tubular Bells. All the material is fresh and new. It's the mood that reminds to the old masterpieces.

"Arsia Mons" rocks. On this track I can see glimpses of 1984, quiet part included. Instrumentals are fine, but I personally think that a bit of Ashley Holt wouldn't have been bad.

For the highest mountain of the Solar System Mr Wakeman has created a complex track which is a follow-up of the previous one, but with a bit of imagination it could even be a ghost track from Going For The One. A highlight inside a great album.

We are on Mars, so a bit of space rock is required. It comes with the intro of "The North Plain": about 90 seconds of electronics introducing a classical Wakman part full of fast notes, then...I can't describe it. It's various, it has sudden unexpected changes and is completed by a skillfully played guitar,

"Pavonis Mons" Reminds to the Six Wives. I think it's good that Wakeman's style is so easily recognizable. You know what to expect even if you don't know when it comes. I remember when at one of his concerts I happened to stay very close to the stage. It was a small location so I was very close, watching his hands moving on the keys and wondering how many fingers he has.

"Vallis Marineris", where the Mariner probe landed many years ago. Percussion like a bolero and a bass riff which comes unexpected. How is it possible that a musician like Rick Wakeman can let another skilled player perform a riff like that on oe of his albums? This is the (unneeded) demonstration that he is first of all a musician and doesn't need to demonstrate anything. If that bass fits well in the track, let the bass overcome the keys.

Finally, from the equatorial zone of Mars, a long jump to the South Pole. It's the closer, so using the sounds of the final of "Journey" isn't a bad idea. Then the track evolves and after two minutes I can't name a specific album to tie it to.

In brief, this is the best album that Rick Wakeman has released in about 40 years.

Report this review (#2430913)
Posted Monday, July 20, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars TL;DR summary: it seems to me impossible to have a full understanding of symphonic prog over the decades without knowing at least some of the work of Rick Wakeman, and it's now impossible to have a full picture of Wakeman's instrumental prog breadth and depth without hearing Red Planet, several times at least. In my mind that makes it essential listening quite apart from whether I do or don't like the music. (But I do like the music.) Those who want extended, haunting melodies may not find them here, but the sounds and textures are an essential statement of what symphonic prog is to me.

The CD and LP include a lot of goofy and fun packaging theater, and outside of the music nobody can accuse Rick Wakeman of taking himself too seriously. But I for one am really glad to see a pure instrumental album--it has always seemed to me that Wakeman expresses his profundity in music far more effectively than in lyrics.

Track 1, Ascraeus Mons: The church organ opens with four bars of descending chords, in a driving 4, with drums coming in to intensify the drive, and a slow melody acting almost like a drone. This builds to a trumpet fanfare climax, and then starts over--a process that repeats several times. The point of it is a grand buildup, culminating in a final solid rock electric guitar solo. This is a good opener, but not why one should buy the album.

Track 2, Tharsis Tholus, follows the plan of many tracks, by opening with a short, simple melody in the flute effect repeated many times in different chords, and the feel is indeed reminiscent of No Earthly Connection as pointed out in another review. The extended chord progression is as important to what's happening as the melody. The music breaks into an interlude in 10/8 (maybe 11/8 or 13/8 or 17/8?I could not count it!), which reminds me of great pieces from the Yes repertoire in its ability to surprise the listener with sudden transitions that still somehow advance the plot. After the second of these, the music jumps to a driving 12/8 meter that builds in layers of keyboards to a soaring mini-moog solo that as clearly as anything on the album says "Rick Wakeman is here!" Noodling? Not hardly. Complexity increases, but it's not mere decoration, and each passing bar raises my heart rate. One Internet reviewer said the album lacked emotion. I beg to differ--it lacks an excess of sentimentality--but it's chock full of emotional power, befitting a mature musician playing for grown-up listeners. Another break, and the music jumps back to the mellower flute-sound opening. The piece ends with another break, this time transitioning to just the reverberation fading into the empty room. This piece is the one that sticks with me days later, and if this was the only good track on the album (it isn't), I would not feel cheated.

Track 3, Arsia Mons: An introduction spends a little over a minute sending a two-bar melody on a tour of chord changes like following a circle of fifths over a driving rock beat. Then it opens out into mellowed-out space music backing acoustic guitar. Then, it starts over, ending in an extended acoustic guitar solo that floats beautifully over a Fender Rhodes-sound piano counter-melody. The piece returns to the space-music backing, this time in front, enhanced by phase shifting and channel panning to transport us back to, oh, about 1975. And what a pleasant trip that is. But Arsia Mons is less about melody than feel.

Track 4, Olympus Mons, opens with a big drum break and the longest melody so far--two bars. This tune has changes--on the second theme we get a short Hammond solo, then back to the top. What gets into my brain in this recapitulation of the opening theme is the guitar, adding a stunning texture effect that I've never heard before, with enough stage separation in the mix to highlight it. A big Hammond-led third theme follows the recap, this time in a triple meter. It's all the way to the fourth variation, in a driving rock beat in four that we get the next classic Wakeman Mini-Moog solo, this time extending nearly two full minutes.

Track 5, The North Plain, starts misterioso with classic vintage space music and a loose, spare melody on piano (along with other effects) for a minute and a half until the drums, bass, guitar, and Hammond organ bring us back to hard-driving 70's rock. About three minutes in, we hear the Mini-Moog and the Mellotron, followed by space music with a funny 60's b-movie aliens-from-outer-space vibrato-filled organ interlude. But then the Hammond returns with force and seriousness of purpose. These Hammond sounds have the dry intensity of Rick's most percussive style--think the organ solo in Roundabout. No paint roller or Jon Lord flat-handed portamento here--more like Emerson. This is rock organ as percussion instrument with hard, driving articulations. Bring your acoustic suspension speakers! Is it space music or driving hard rock? In this one, the hard rock wins gloriously.

Track 6, Pavonis Mons, is about classic synthesizer sounds. The Moog leads the opening melody with answering melodies by a wooden flute sound pointing the way to more exploration of vintage synthesizer sounds. Piano makes an entrance here, and the Mellotron (strings and chorus sounds at least?maybe more) is distinctive in the orchestral tutti, as is the organ. And the bass drives consistently throughout and is never buried. But the synthesizers own this track more than most.

Track 7, the South Pole, starts on a much mellower and more cinematic note. The melody trades again between synthesizer and flute sounds, with a chorus backing, plus the ever-present bass and guitar. But the flute sound comes out on top. Then, the texture fades and we get an exquisitely extended (but still not long enough), gentle and tasteful piano solo. Flute sounds dominate the final repeat, but the track ends simply on a fading synth summary of the melody's essential elements.

Track 8, Valles Marineris, as has been said elsewhere, reminds us of Ravel's Bolero, which isn't about a dance, but about a theme that repeats many times with increasing orchestral texture and power until a surprise ending. But Valles doesn't build steadily from one end to the other, but rather in three sections. The time signature defies reverse engineering; large odd numbers are involved. At 50 seconds, drums enter with great complexity. A few seconds later, Lee Pomeroy's now-celebrated bass groove goes where no bass groove has gone before. At two minutes, the build culminates in an ascending scale in the guitars, ending the first build. The second build includes an amazing section where the Mellotron and drums set up a whole edifice of mood, ultimately leading to the piano restating the melody in pounding octaves. The piece takes a third trip through the build with still more texture, but the flute sounds are what stick with me this time.

While completely listenable the first time through, I think it took about ten times through before I could get a real sense of the music. But I did not tire of it in that time. This is, to me, a hallmark of great Symphonic prog--it holds up to repeated listenings just as well as, say, Shostakovich or Bach. Wakeman's best albums have that staying power, but perhaps the previous album of his that I can put on repeat and never be annoyed when it starts over is Criminal Record. This album isn't as aurally diverse as Criminal Record, but it's just as rewarding to listen to it often enough to commit it to memory. And in both cases, it takes a lot of repeats to get this in your head. It's worth the effort.

If I was trying to explain Rick Wakeman (or, indeed, instrumental symphonic prog) to some benighted soul who had never heard of him, and could demonstrate with just one album, Red Planet, among few others, would serve the purpose. It is indeed a masterpiece, though not perfect. Still, Five stars, because four just isn't enough.

Report this review (#2439463)
Posted Wednesday, August 19, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars Sheesh! I agree with the masses here in saying that this is the best thing that Rick Wakeman has done in decades. He uses a nice arsenal of keyboards here, often invoking the synth sounds of the seventies. (Try saying that 3 times real fast...)

These songs are all rather cool and appropriately spacey, almost laid back at times. But always interesting. Pomeroy's bass is a really nice addition - sort of how Squire added a nice dimension to Wakeman's "A Criminal Record" back in the day. The band that eventually became BRAND X produced an album called "Marscape" back in the mid-70's, and there are very close similitudes here to that great album.

I know that Mr. Wakeman has many musical styles that he likes to record in, but this is a real nice treat for we lovers of his prog side. Thank you for taking care of us here! ;-)

Report this review (#2443549)
Posted Monday, August 31, 2020 | Review Permalink
3 stars Rick hasn't picked up many new tricks in some 50 odd years: without question, he's a phenomenal musician, and yet much of his solo career defines what I like to call "regressive rock". But with "The Red Planet" Wakeman is reaching back into his familiar bag of tricks and pulling out a few from the most creative part of his career (the early 70's). The instrumentation and arrangements here are sure to please fans of 70's prog -- though not giving us anything we haven't heard before. In fairness to Rick, though, he seems to be pushing himself in the composition department. There are some really surprising chord progressions here and there, breaking out of the predictable diatonicism his style is known for. And in Tharsis Tholus and Olympus Mos, there's a few really surprising rhythmic shifts and even polyrhythms, without ever sounding "put on" or complex for its own sake. Nicely done.

The record's pretty darn good.

Report this review (#2443934)
Posted Wednesday, September 2, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars My favorite album this year so far, Rick is back and he still plays great. But let's not forget about how great the drumming and guitar playing are on this album. This album is the perfect Rick Wakeman album that you've been waiting for. I have heard this album many times and it still surprises me. Not one song on this album is weak or boring. After hearing this, I really wish Yes would reunite to create another album. Because if Rick played on that album like he played on this incredible album it would really be great. Overall this album is a must listen for anyone who likes symphonic prog, keyboards, Rick Wakeman or Yes.
Report this review (#2458566)
Posted Friday, October 23, 2020 | Review Permalink
2 stars Long time since my last purchase of a RW album... his 70s albums were among those forming my musical taste as a teen in spades. He was the first among the members of the then prog supergroups I noticed as a solo musician when listening to the "Six Wifes". But "Criminal record" was his last release getting hold of me and which I still listen to.

Since "The Red Planet" got so many excited reviews, I purchased it unchecked... I should have done it. Sorry, Rick, for being so straightforward. But comparing TRP to what means to me "Rick Wakeman" based on your early albums I have to say they are worlds apart.

While listening through the whole album, there was no moment I felt those reviews are right. Most of the time it is simply boring: always straightforward 4/4, simple harmonies and chord changes. I did not find any melodic line catching me immediately, to be honest not even after having heard it the second time. No compositional depth, no enthralling transitions. The whole thing feels like a patchwork of uninspired pieces lacking completely what made RW that outstanding musician at the dawn of his career. I remember an interview with him where he said regarding TRP something like "the best album of my career". I can't believe he meant it. If he did, my simple reply is "No, it is not".

Report this review (#2480198)
Posted Thursday, November 26, 2020 | Review Permalink

RICK WAKEMAN The Red Planet ratings only


chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of RICK WAKEMAN The Red Planet


You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.