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Rick Wakeman

Symphonic Prog

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Rick Wakeman African Bach album cover
2.58 | 29 ratings | 2 reviews | 7% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1990

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. African Bach (3:56)
2. Message Of Mine (4:00)
3. My Homeland (4:16)
4. Liberty (5:18)
5. Anthem (6:08)
6. Brainstorm (4:35)
7. Face In The Crowd (4:19)
8. Just A Game (4:10)
9. Africa East (5:44)
10. Don't Touch The Merchandise (4:38)

Total time 47:04

Line-up / Musicians

- Rick Wakeman / keyboards, composer & co-producer

- Ashley Holt / vocals
- D'zal Martin / guitar
- David Patton / bass
- Tony Fernandez / drums
- South African Choir (?) / chorus vocals

Releases information

LP RPM Records ‎- RPM 1269 (1990, South Africa)

CD President Records ‎- RWCD 20 (1993, UK)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy RICK WAKEMAN African Bach Music

RICK WAKEMAN African Bach ratings distribution

(29 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(7%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(14%)
Good, but non-essential (38%)
Collectors/fans only (24%)
Poor. Only for completionists (17%)

RICK WAKEMAN African Bach reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars A tax loss!

Although not released in the UK until 1993, "African Bach" was originally released in Japan, and possibly South Africa in 1991 (the latter perhaps under the alternative title of "Anthems", information on this is sketchy!). At the time, Wakeman was churning out new age albums to meet the bills, so it is reassuring that this is more of a rock album than others of that period. It is however a pop rock album, with basic shortish song structures. Wakeman takes a back seat much of the time, leaving vocalist Ashley Holt to dominate proceedings.

The album has a strange mix of Holt's distinctive voice, and female African style choir singing on the choruses. The concept is "the suffering of mankind and his inhumanity toward his fellow man". Wakeman is quoted as rating the songwriting on it as some of his best ever, and certainly some of the tracks are lyrically well composed. Others such as "Just a game" and the title track ("He only comes in the dark, Mr. African Bach") however have a rather amateurish feel.

Musically, the softer and slower tracks are the most effective. "My homeland" emphasises the contrasting vocal styles, while "Anthem" has a hymnal quality. Too many of tracks though are basic pop rock fare, and some like "Face in the crowd" seem downright out of place lyrically.

Wakeman followed the "World music" trail to South Africa to record some of the album. He was apparently upset to find out later that the backers of the project had invested in it as a tax loss!

Better than the flood of new age albums which surrounded it, but not a patch on his great albums.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars A small oasis in a Sahara of mediocre albums

Rick Wakeman's discography is so vast that it is difficult even for the most ardent fan to navigate between the many stinkers and the few hidden gems. This 1991 album is, in my opinion, one of the few hidden gems. It is certainly not a masterpiece of progressive music or even remotely close to one, but it surely was (at the time of its release) one of Rick's most consistent and well written rock albums since the release of the concept album 1984 that was released in 1981 - ten years before this one!

All the lead vocals here are by Ashley Holt, a long standing and lojal Wakeman collaborator and principle vocalist on many of Wakeman's best (and best known) albums. Having Holt on board again, and making him the sole vocalist instead of having several different ones, gives African Bach a degree of consistency that most of his 80's and 90's albums simply lack. There are a lot of female backing vocals, but Holt is the sole lead vocalist.

Because of Holt's distinctive voice and Wakeman's always great keyboard playing (however, don't expect his typical Moog solos here) and writing, some parts remind slightly of No Earthly Connection or Journey To The Centre Of The Earth.

The 80's sounding drums and production, as well as the too limited presence of electric guitar, are the main problems here. But when there is a keyboard or guitar solo it really lifts the music up several levels. All the songs are well written and catchy, even if they do tend to sound a bit too similar to each other after a while.

From a marketing perspective, this album was a catastrophe. That is why very few people know this album. This is too bad, since African Bach is something like an oasis in a vast African desert of mediocre albums (why did he make so many?). Not until the new millennium would Rick again make an album that brought him close to the glories of the early to mid 70's. But while African Bach does not achieve this, it is still quite enjoyable nonetheless.

Good, but hardly essential by any means.

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