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Rick Wakeman - Criminal Record CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.79 | 293 ratings

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3 stars When Wakeman released his first few solo albums, not many groups got by without a guitar player. As keyboard dominated as was his sound, he still inserted guest guitars when appropriate, and their secondary role made them all the more welcome when they took center stage. Even ELP gave Lake a chance to play more than bass. But by the mid 70s we were starting to see albums that proudly proclaimed no fretted instruments. I remember GARY WRIGHT's saccharine smash "Dream Weaver" was one of the first to make a big deal out of it, and by 1977 it was no surprise that Wakeman's "Criminal Record" became yet another vehicle for proclaiming that the mighty keyboard can do all.

Nowhere does any track come closer to this hand-behind-the-back ideal than "Chamber of Horrors", the album's juggernaut, in which all manner of keys indulge all manner of eclectic themes wrapped around a superb recurring melody. Alan White and Chris Squire spot the tune well, and there are just enough crisp changes to keep everyone interested. Not that "Statue of Justice" is chopped liver or anything - it shows Wakeman can still conjure magic with the organ, as it references his early extended live work with STRAWBS. But probably the second best piece is the lovely piano ballad "Birdman of Alcatraz". Gorgeous melody and technique.

The rest is substantially weaker. "Crime of Passion" begins gently and builds well, but the middle section is a bit too heavy on the histrionics - screeching synths ooze from every groove, yet it sounds curiously honky tonk. "The Breathalyzer" resorts to gimmickry even before the unwelcome but thankfully brief vocal section at the end. And I'd rather attend a postlude at church than sit through 5 minutes of the tedium that is "Judas Iscariot". At least I would enjoy the organ parts. Yet one can tell that this finale was supposed to be the album's coup de grace.

Overall, this is a good solo album by Wakeman. Nothing criminal here, but not exactly something you would reach for when entering solitary confinement.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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