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Rick Wakeman - Solo Career Appreciation

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Green Shield Stamp View Drop Down
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    Posted: May 04 2015 at 09:25
  I have always had a fondness for Rick Wakeman and his music.  As a musician, he is one of the greatest in any genre.  He also has enormous talent in composition.  However, Rick is like a Persian carpet. (There's an old Persian proverb that says, "A Persian Rug is Perfectly Imperfect, and Precisely Imprecise". This notion of intentionally including slight and minor irregularities is derived from the religious belief that God is the only perfect being and that attempting absolute perfection would be claiming the position of the Almighty.) In all of his works there are flaws.  This keyboard god definitely has feet of clay and Rick is the first to admit this.  If you visit his website, you will find Rick passing verdict on the albums that he has recorded and often he is his harshest critic.  Regularly there are comments such as ‘If you want to hear what I was recording when I was somewhat confused as to what direction to go in, then this is the album for you.’  and ‘One for the collectors - but not really anybody else!!’  In other places he complains about how a lack of budget stopped him from making the album he wanted to make.  Sometimes Rick’s critical judgement is questionable.  On the album Time Machine’ there is a song called ‘Ice’.  Let’s just say that it is not great.  

Have a listen: 

Most would agree that it is not one of Rick’s finest moments.

Take a look at this critique (it’s quite funny – though the kid is a little annoying):

 

So what does Rick, himself say about the song?  Well, on his website he say this: ‘Ice is for me the best overall song I have ever written.’ This doesn’t seem to be said with any irony!!!

I have about 40 of Rick’s solo albums and although most of them are far from perfect, every one of them is worth listening to.  Even the weakest albums have charm, humour, interesting melodic invention and heart.  There is something irrepressible and likeable about Rick Wakeman that I find utterly engaging. His blokey, down-to-earth charm is often at odds with his flamboyant music and keyboard style.  His utter lack of pretension is refreshing in a musical genre that is sometimes otherwise.  Other members of Yes perhaps fair less favourably in this regard.  Take for instance the comments on Steve Howe and Yes by John Martyn: ‘They were snotty, horrible people who thought they were intellectuals. They were hot from the university circuit, just hateful. I quite liked the drummer, Alan someone-or-other [White], but the guitar player [Steve Howe] I never could stand at any price’

My favourite Rick Wakeman albums are as follows:

1.      Six Wives of Henry VIII

2.      Six Wives of Henry VIII (2009 live version)

3.      Criminal Record

4.      Journey to the Centre of the Earth (2012 studio version)

5.      Journey to the Centre of the Earth (original version)

6.      The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

7.      No Earthly Connection

8.      Out There

9.      Retro II

10.   Retro I

11.   1984

12.   Can You Hear Me

13.   White Rock

14.   Fields of Green

15.   Softsword

How about you?  What are your thoughts on all things Wakeman?



Edited by Green Shield Stamp - May 04 2015 at 15:08
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dellinger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 04 2015 at 22:52
Oh, I really love his music too. He was one of the first prog artists I knew, before I even knew the genre existed (a friend of mine lent me a tape with Myths and Legends recorded on it... didn't really know what to make of it, and though Rick was the singer or something, but I warmed up to it and it is perhaps my favourite from him, along with 6 wives). Actually, I knew Wakeman's music before Yes, and it was this connection that led me to know Yes too, and it was about then that I became aware of prog. I don't think I have as much as 40 albums from him, but I do have quiet a few, and indeed all of them have something to enjoy. I would say he is among my favourite 5 artists, along with Pink Floyd, Yes themselves, Dream Theater, and Mike Oldfield.

About his judgements towards his own albums (well, I think it was under little known trivia and not in the veredicts) I remember one album (not which one, though) in which he said "To be brutally honest, I don't even remember recording this one"... that's how many albums he got.

About the song Ice, I actually enjoy that one very much (indeed not his very best song, but I still like it). Actually, I do remember reading him saying that thing of his best song. I also remember him saying something very similar about the Arthur song (though on that one I think he said "composition" instead of "song")... and on that one I certainly could agree.

So, about my favourite Wakeman albums (and actually, there are more albums from him in which I like most or all of the songs than with Yes albums), it would be something like this:

- Myths and Legends.
- 6 Wives (I guess I like slightly better the original one, though sometimes I might prefer to hear the live symphonic version... which I might add I attended and have a recording done at the very moment and which was ready 20 min after the concert... perfect sound quality).
- Out There.
- Criminal Record.
- Journey to the Center of the Earth (though I'm afraid I still don't know the new studio version... but it might arrive in a few weeks).

This last three ones I'm not sure in which order, but something like this. About the other ones you mention, "No Earthly Connection" didn't really work so well with me... it was kind of patchy, and the better melodies don't stay long enough and then come up again after too much time and so on... though the prisoner is indeed a wonderful song... and there is the live version from "Out of the Blue" which is really just about perfect in it's shortened form, and more cohesive... usually I don't like medleys, but this one is the exception (and this concert was played by the same line-up that did Out There, and since the concepts are suposed to be connected, it is nice to play this version of the song before puting that album). The Retro albums are both very nice too, and I do enjoy them a lot, though not all of the songs... I guess I could make a wonderful album out of the two. The same thing could be said about "Can you Hear me"... some really beautiful songs there. 1984 has a few good moments, but it's far from my favourite album by him. And I'm afraid I don't yet know "White Rock", "Fields of Green" and "Softsword"... I guess I should get them at some point.

Another few albums that I do enjoy from him, though not so proggy nor so utterly brilliant are Stella Bianca and The Lord of the Rings album (which I understand is just about the same as the originally 7 Wonders of the World... but the one I got is the LotR version)... on both of which I enjoy all of the songs... though they don't reach the same highs his really prog albums reach. There's also a special mention for albums like Phantom Power and Return to the Center of the Earth, which even though they have many songs that don't do much, they also have some really brilliant songs included (I really love Ramon Remedio's singing, and I wish Rick had done some really full blown prog rock album with him).

Edited by Dellinger - May 04 2015 at 22:54
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Green Shield Stamp Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 05 2015 at 13:24
Great comments! I agree that many of Rick Wakeman's albums are preferable to a good number of Yes albums. I also like the album Phantom Power. I can't believe that it is only rated 2.40 here at Prog Archives. Mind you, I think that there are some really strong moments on Rock N Roll Prophet and that is rated at 1.41!! I notice that the album Rhapsodies has been re-released in 2015. This one has been very difficult to get hold of on CD for several years (unless you were prepared to pay £40 or more). It's currently going for about £15 for a new copy - so I shall be sending for mine shortly. I notice that there is a new live album available (part of the 'Access all Areas series). It is a mid 1990s performance on both CD and DVD. I already have a lot of Rick's live albums but can always find room for antother.

Edited by Green Shield Stamp - May 05 2015 at 13:26
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dellinger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 05 2015 at 21:54
I don't have so many live albums from him, nor have I been looking out for whatever new he is releasing, so I might have missed a few things. I might want to check that one out, I usually love live albums. I have some album that includes a bonus CD... some "official bootleg" with horrible sound quality, but which includes a version of "Eleanor Rigby" with vocals, which is just great... but once again I can't get myself to listen to it because of it's horrible sound. There was some other song I really liked there that I haven't got on any other album... but don't quiet remember which one it is at the moment. Also, what I would love to get is the DVD from the Arthur on Ice concerts... but that one was only released as part of a boxset which was a bit expensive... and even more, I think not so easy to get.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote richardh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2015 at 02:50
I'm going to have to be brief because my computer time is limited (now just have the work PC as my home PC is broken)
Good beginning
Six Wives
Arthur
Criminal Record
 
all keyboard rock classics and challenging ELP in that regards.
 
I think Rick lost his way in the eighties although I do like his New Age trilogy (Night Airs , Country Airs, Sea Airs)
 
Came back strong in recent years with the excellent Out There and both Retro albums. Good to see him play Journey live last year with orchestra although would like to see him do Arthur at some point the same way
 
BTW Did anyone catch the ITV programme 'Perspectives' last Sunday? An interesting hour documentary about Vivaldi and a little bit of progging at the end as Rick put his own spin on The Four Seasons.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chopper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2015 at 03:06
He's made a lot of albums and some of them are duffers (although in a strange way I quite like "Ice"). As you say, he is a good bloke (the documentary on Vivaldi that Richard mentioned was interesting) but he lacks the melodic invention of most of his Yes colleagues.

Edited by chopper - May 06 2015 at 03:07
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tom Ozric Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2015 at 05:56
Apart from the 'usual suspects' i.e. Six Wives, Arthur etc. I really enjoy Silent Nights - he had a great band together here, and also the live Hammersmith album from this period is memorable.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Flight123 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2015 at 06:23
For UK readers, I took advantage of a £3 compilation in Sainsbury's and was very pleasantly surprised.  I liked Wakeman with Yes but never explored his solo albums but the ones represented here are good (especially 'Criminal Record').
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AEProgman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2015 at 07:43
I have been meaning to explore more of his solo works since I only have Six Wives and Journey (like them both).  His discography is massive to say the least.

He did a piano concert/interview type of thing on Satellite radio here in the States a few years ago and was quite the charming "bloke" as you fellows across the pond say and amazing piano play.

I think I will get King Author next, but not sure where to go after that.  Criminal Record seems to be mentioned here quite a bit...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dellinger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2015 at 21:54
Indeed, Criminal Record would be the next one for you to get after Arthur. And then, Out There.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tom Ozric Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 07 2015 at 01:13
Yep - Criminal Record is up there with his best.
And if you enjoy RPI - then his collaboration with Mario Fasciano, the fantastic Stella Bianca, well, I can't recommend this one highly enough.
Time Machine has some moments, but boy does it sound dated and hideously 80's.
I have his soundtrack to The Burning, but jeebus, I haven't spun it for years, can't even recall what it's like. May need to dig it out.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote verslibre Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 07 2015 at 09:48
Rick Wakeman is one of my favorite musicians ever, in and outside of prog.
 
Favorite albums:
 
Six Wives of Henry VIII
White Rock
Criminal Record
1984
G'ole!
The Burning
Family Album
Zodiaque
Night Airs
2000 A.D. Into The Future
Wakeman with Wakeman
Wakeman with Wakeman – No Expense Spared
Wakeman with Wakeman: The Official Bootleg
The Piano Album
Themes
Retro
Retro 2 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Green Shield Stamp Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 07 2015 at 12:44
^ several on the list here that I don't have. I see that you have included G'ole! How does this compare to White Rock? I don't have Zodiaque or Themes either yet but I think an Amazon order is on the cards
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote verslibre Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 07 2015 at 15:34
Originally posted by Green Shield Stamp Green Shield Stamp wrote:

^ several on the list here that I don't have. I see that you have included G'ole! How does this compare to White Rock? I don't have Zodiaque or Themes either yet but I think an Amazon order is on the cards
 
G'ole! and Themes are rather underrated entries in Rick's discography. G'ole! isn't too similar to White Rock, at least stylistically. Wonderful keyboard work and a touch more atmospheric, perhaps. Themes is right in there with his synth-heavy instrumental albums. Definitely get these!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dellinger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 07 2015 at 21:48
Rick has so many albums, that one can believe to have a rather healthy collection of albums and that only a few more are necessary, and then someone comes and talks highly about this one and that other one... and there are just too many left to dig. It's sort of a hopeless situation with this guy.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kati Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 07 2015 at 23:33
I love Rick Wakeman (Infact I even own a red cape), the great thing about him unlike others is that he did whatever he wanted or felt like. i.e. Leave YES and return when he felt like doing that also being welcomed upon his return to YES always LOL He is brilliant and spunky too. Big smileHug
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote verslibre Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 08 2015 at 00:07
Originally posted by Kati Kati wrote:

I love Rick Wakeman (Infact I even own a red cape), the great thing about him unlike others is that he did whatever he wanted or felt like. i.e. Leave YES and return when he felt like doing that also being welcomed upon his return to YES always LOL He is brilliant and spunky too. Big smileHug
 
Que preciosa eres, enseñame el foto (with you in it Wink)! LOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote geekfreak Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 11 2015 at 12:51
he is a one off great musician I`ve gotten a fair few solo albums by RW...
welcome to my f*** up MIND!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tom Ozric Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 13 2015 at 01:56
Silent Nights may not be a full-blown Prog extravaganza from him, but I find it quite underrated. I return to that one often, great album.
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