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Rick Wakeman - White Rock CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.22 | 136 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I know that this is the soundtrack to a film of the same name (about the 1976 Winter Olympics), but could there be a more unintentionally hilarious name for a Rick Wakeman solo album than White Rock? This is actually more of a true solo album than the other albums he'd done since launching his career with Six Wives: whereas Journey and King Arthur included very large ensembles, and Six Wives and NEC included a large number of contributors in their own right, this one is just Rick, a drummer and a female choir on two tracks. Needless to say, anybody wanting to hear Rick's keyboards in the context of ensemble performance should probably stay away from here.

This is a very silly album. It's also an album with a good share of interesting ideas and themes, and more importantly it's one filled to the brim with piano mixed with all sorts of glorious 70's keyboard sounds, played with typically superhuman speed and fluidity. The opening title track may be underpinned by one of the lamest attempts at a "Latin" rhythm ever (at least that's how it sounds to me), and the keyboards may be set on full-on wank mode (and they sound way more like what I'd expect from Emerson than from Wakeman on a given Yes album), but I find myself drawn in more than I might like, and I'd have to give the track a thumbs up. The next two tracks ("Searching for Gold" and "The Loser") feature the only instances of vocals on the album (courtesy of the female choir), though they're mostly indecipherable apart from an occasional "Searching for gold" line (the line makes its way into both tracks, and an instrumental reprise of the theme can be found in a later track). "Searching for Gold" doesn't sound worse than a typical Six Wives track to me (perhaps with a little less direction, but there are some really lovely mellotron-sounding moments interspersed with other sounds), and "The Loser" has some really lovely piano parts (with other keyboards giving texture as needed).

Hitting the other tracks: "The Shoot" (which makes me think of skiing in the faster parts for some reason) has some goofy pseudo-honky-tonk parts interspersed with piano. "Lax'x" (what a strange name) is a bit of a bore in its "main" portion, but when the mellotron flutes come out I'm very happy, not to mention that the synth-driven reprise of the "Searching for Gold" part is surprisingly moving. Also, am I wrong in thinking that a lot of the last portion sounds awfully "Ritual"-esque? "After the Ball" is a very lovely, very tender piano-dominated piece (with synths coming in a little over a minute into it); "Montezuma's Revenge" is a goofy synth-reinvention of Gypsy music (which for whatever reason brings to my mind an image of miniature Krusty the Clowns quickly shooting up and down in a whack-a-mole game), and the closing "Ice Run" is surprisingly eerie and majestic (at least, if you're into cheeseball synth moods) in its first half before turning into a rather typical up-tempo solo Wakeman passage (it does have some Hammond, though, which hadn't been a Wakeman staple lately).

Honestly, there's probably no chance somebody who doesn't somehow already have this would ever listen to it; it's ridiculously out-of-print except as a Japanese import (and not even available on iTunes or other legal downloading sites), and I can hardly recommend putting a ton of effort into trying to seek it out. And yet, I can definitely say that this fits very well into my established pattern of listening to (most) 70's solo Wakeman as effective background music that's sporadically very entertaining. If you're incredibly curious, try to seek it out. It's no worse than his most famous albums, I think.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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