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Rick Wakeman

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Rick Wakeman The Red Planet album cover
3.81 | 214 ratings | 14 reviews | 28% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2020

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Ascraeus Mons (5:52)
2. Tharsis Tholus (6:16)
3. Arsia Mons (6:10)
4. Olympus Mons (5:20)
5. The North Plain (6:53)
6. Pavonis Mons (7:13)
7. South Pole (7:35)
8. Valles Marineris (10:02)

Total Time 55:21

Bonus DVD:
- Tracks in 5.1/hi-res stereo:
1. Ascraeus Mons (5:53)
2. Tharsis Tholus (6:17)
3. Arsia Mons (6:10)
4. Olympus Mons (5:20)
5. The North Plain (6:53)
6. Pavonis Mons (7:14)
7. South Pole (7:35)
8. Valles Marineris (10:02)
- Mini promo films:
9. Tharsis Tholus (1:52)
10. Arsia Mons (2:09)
11. The North Plain (2:29)
- Documentary:
12. The Making of the Red Planet (70:00)

Total Time 131:54

Line-up / Musicians

- Rick Wakeman / keyboards
- Dave Colquhoun / guitars
- Lee Pomeroy / bass
- Ash Soan / drums

Releases information

Label: R&D MultiMedia
Formats: 2LP, CD+DVD, CD, Digital
June 19, 2020 (Digital), June 28, 2020 (CD, Vinyl)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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RICK WAKEMAN The Red Planet ratings distribution

(214 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(28%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

RICK WAKEMAN The Red Planet reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
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!

Review by 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.

Review by 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.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Progressive rock's self proclaimed "Grumpy old rock star" in 2020 appears to be revisiting his roots.

"Mission To Mars" draws on the the stylings of Wakeman's earliest solo album "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" and delivers a pleasing concept piece.

Using traditional classical influences as his base, he and The English Rock Ensemble (Dave Colquhoun, Lee Pomeroy and Ash Soan) have delivered one of his best albums that I've heard in some time (admittedly, I've only heard a few dozen of his 100,000 or so releases).

While not as bombastic as most of his high-rated albums, it is a very pleasing and cohesive collection.

The concept is an homage to the many exploratory missions to Mars, with each track taking the name of a particular location studied by various unmanned spacecraft and landers. The CD booklet is filled with photos and information about the Mars missions.

The highlights: "Tharsis Tholus": This piece is primarily a moody, and mostly low-key prog piece, broken up with some startling off- time interludes that gives the song some exhilaration.

"The North Plain": I suspect this track is a bit of a tribute to Keith Emerson. Wakeman does a decent job of imitating Keith's Hammond organ abuse (I presume electronically, as I cannot imagine Rick throwing knives into his keyboard, or tossing a heavy organ around studio). If it's not a tribute, it still is a damn fine song.

"Valles Marineris": You would think that the obligatory not to Gustav Holst's "Mars - The Bringer of War" has been done too many time over the years, and I agree. But Wakeman and his band have created their own bolero rhythm that just barely sounds like the classical piece. I particularly like Pomeroy's solo within the rhythm near the opening of the track.

I love this album, and it became one of my soundtracks for getting through the hideous year 2020.

Review by kev rowland
4 stars I have lost count of how many Wakeman albums I actually own, but including live works it must be approaching 100, so it is safe to say I am a fan. But if someone twisted my arm behind my back and ask what the last truly essential studio album he had released; I would probably point to 2003's 'Out There'. That album was, and is, a tour de force with everything gelling together and Damian Wilson's vocals fitting in perfectly with the over-the-top proggy mastery. That Wilson left abruptly shorty after release and before the subsequent tour is a real shame, as I would have loved to have heard more from that combination, but The English Rock Ensemble is back, and on hearing this one can see why Rick has brought that title alive again.

Bassist Lee Pomeroy is still there, as he has been for very many years, but these days the other two slots are filled by drummer Ash Soan, and guitarist Dave Colquhoun. I always find it strange when Rick uses a drummer outside Tony Fernandez, but the latter is now full-time with The Strawbs which I guess makes it difficult for timetables to coincide. However, all these musicians have also been playing with Rick for some time, and together they provide the support for Rick to go right back to the beginning of his solo career. There are times when this is incredibly reminiscent of both 'Journey' and 'Six Wives', although this has no vocalists. This is Rick dusting off his favourite analogue keyboards and combining those sounds with his latest keyboards, and Lee often playing the melodic foil. Here we have a master not pandering to anything around him, but instead going back to his roots and consequently providing an album which many will say is his finest for years, and rightly so. It is not as rock-based as 'Out There', yet both have similar space themes, and he has taken that concept and added sounds and touches to this album which really does make one believe they are visiting Mars.

Rick released his multi-million selling debut solo album back in 1973, and in 2020 has released something that in many ways feels like a logical "progression" from that. Indispensable for progheads everywhere.

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
3 stars Yet another Rick Wakeman album (it has become quite impossible to track down how many solo releases the keyboard wizard has, but this one would around the eightieth, I believe). What is there to say about it? A seasoned veteran who has achieved everything, and has really done everything in his career, is desiring to have some fun, releasing a collection of grandiose keyboard compositions, with the help of other very well-rounded and experienced musicians (billed as the English Rock Ensemble). All fine, as Wakeman is proposing a fiesta of the full possibilities of modern technology, adopting a myriad of sounds, and playing around with his set of innumerable keyboards to deliver these songs that are said to make up a concept album about 'The Red Planet'.

I consider this record a great and enjoyable sit-down listen, if you will to have a slice of keyboard wizardry, or just get that retro 70s feel, when the instrumental prog rock album was a thing, and people loved it - but 'The Red Planet' could not and does not bring much to the table. Rick Wakeman is doing what he does best in creating explosive and mind-blowing pieces on his keys, but we have all heard that in full bloom four decades ago (and he has not stopped doing it ever since!) Some do consider this a masterpiece, and I also consider it a must-listen for prog rock and especially Rick Wakeman fans, but this is not universally compelling, or a genre-bending masterpiece, it is simply a very good instrumental album that is fun, well-written and perfectly well-performed.

Latest members reviews

4 stars This album has to be rated in two different scales, first there is the Rick Wakeman scale, on how this album stands among his other 3000 albums. Then there is the general progressive rock scale, how this album stands against all other progressive rock being produced. Let's start with the Rick Wakema ... (read more)

Report this review (#2776392) | Posted by Andis | Tuesday, July 12, 2022 | Review Permanlink

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 g ... (read more)

Report this review (#2480198) | Posted by frareinif | Thursday, November 26, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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. ... (read more)

Report this review (#2458566) | Posted by BlazingProg | Friday, October 23, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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 m ... (read more)

Report this review (#2443934) | Posted by hegelec | Wednesday, September 2, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#2443549) | Posted by Squire Jaco | Monday, August 31, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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 time ... (read more)

Report this review (#2439463) | Posted by rdenney | Wednesday, August 19, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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, s ... (read more)

Report this review (#2420033) | Posted by ToANMusic | Thursday, July 16, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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 (space ... (read more)

Report this review (#2414013) | Posted by Soul2Create | Friday, June 19, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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