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Rick Wakeman - Return To The Centre Of The Earth CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.54 | 170 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars A distant relative of a great album

As is apparent from the title, this was intended by Wakeman to be a belated follow up to "Journey to the centre of the earth". The story this time was written by Wakeman himself, "inspired" by Jules Verne.

"Return to the Centre of the earth" bears only passing resemblance to the original album though. This time we are presented with a studio recording, featuring a large number of separate songs performed by guest vocalists. Every alternate track is in the form of a narration by Patrick Stewart ("Captain Picard" in Star Trek, The Next Generation) backed by different orchestrations. While on "Journey.." the narration was brief, on "Return..", it gets to the stage where it can seem like you are listening to a talking book. This is apparently recognised in the accompanying booklet, which suggests that to omit the narration, programme your player to play the even numbered tracks only!

The guest vocalists are BIG names such as Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath), Justin Hayward (Moody Blues), and Trevor Rabin (Yes, who also contributes guitar solo), and they certainly perform their tasks well. Instrumentally, other than Wakeman, there's a full band, choir and orchestra.

Despite the solid line up and major investment by the record company, including a fine Roger Dean cover illustration, the album falls a bit flat. Comparisons with "Journey.." are inevitable, given that album's classic status, Rick burdened "Return.." with a lot to live up to.

While all the right ingredients are here, the grand orchestration, an imaginative (if somewhat derivative) story, and superb production, the compositions are generally weak and in need of inspiration. The album lacks the feel of a complete piece, coming across more as a collection of recitals by the numerous guests. While Wakeman contributes some of his distinctive keyboard work, his role here is more that of catalyst and co-ordinator.

Please don't think this is a bad album, it isn't, but it is a poor relation of its magnificent, and similarly named predecessor.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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