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Rick Wakeman - No Earthly Connection CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.74 | 242 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars Chances are this album will sound as turgid to you as Wakeman's later solo effort OUT THERE did to me, when I bought the latter on the strength of some of the recommendations on this site. (Wakeman has recorded a lot of turkeys, but OUT THERE was to-tal-ly unbearable.)

Much depends on what you make of Ashley Holt's sturdy tenor. On KING ARTHUR, Holt shared duties with another lead vocalist whose voice sounded fragile and somewhat effeminate, but here it's JUST HIM, and if you don't like his blustering style you may be in trouble. An additional problem is that he's been given such lines as: 'Feel and touch the music sense. / Hear the cycle man should have. / Feel and touch the music sense. / To fight emotion, man's defence.' No comment.

To tell you the truth, when NO EARTHLY CONNECTION was first released, I felt happy there was a new album from Rick Wakeman, and I remembered Ashley Holt from previous albums, so I simply accepted him. The idea of Wakeman using a stripped down English Rock Ensemble (i.e. without any symphony orchestras blasting away in the background) seemed an attractive one, and in fact the presence of a two-man horn section is one of this album's great strengths. The horns lend a lot of warmth to "Music Reincarnate", the suite that occupies all of Side One as well as the first track of Side Two. They also blend well with Rick's grand piano, synths and occasional mellotron.

The first ever rock concert I attended was the Brussels gig by the band that appears on this album, and I remember that Rick and his ensemble managed to reproduce the best bits from ARTHUR so well that you didn't even miss a full orchestra. I also remember Holt throwing his tambourine high in the air during "The Prisoner", probably the strongest composition on this album. "The Prisoner" contains several exciting harpsichord solos (Rick's best since "Siberian Khatru") that are strongly reminiscent of J.S. Bach's keyboard suites; these actually encouraged me to start exploring Bach himself.

Because of the concert I now find it impossible to review such tunes as "The Maker" and "The Spaceman" objectively. They will always sound lovely to me (no matter how strange anyone else may find them) because they sounded wonderful that night. And let's face it, in spite of the pedestrian lyrics (and in spite of Holt's falsetto) "The Maker" IS a touching paean to music, starting as it does with the same sensitive grand piano you will hear on "Life on Mars" or "Morning has broken".

NO EARTHLY CONNECTION does contain some weak moments. Towards the end of "The Warning", Rick plays an unexciting solo on what sounds like a Dutch barrel organ - a foretaste of even cheesier things to come on his future albums. On "The Realisation" Ashley Holt sounds so incredibly melodramatic that even my concert memories will never save him. The final part of "Music Incarnate" is a dud: what's the use of rehashing all of the suite's themes, in vastly inferior sound? And the album's final track is simply terrible: horrible lyrics, no melody worth speaking of, uninspired solos.

I guess this is strictly one for the fans, although I'd advise everyone else to try and hear it at least once. I bought a Japanese paper sleeve CD of the album a few years ago. It neatly reproduces the inner sleeve with all those incomparable lyrics, and it even includes a square of aluminium foil which, when rolled up, ought to show you a reflection of the flattened keyboard wizard depicted on the outer sleeve - a trick I've never managed to perform.

Two and a half stars!

fuxi | 2/5 |


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