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Rick Wakeman

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Rick Wakeman Journey To The Centre Of The Earth album cover
3.75 | 415 ratings | 44 reviews | 34% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Live, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Journey / Recollection (21:11)
2. The Battle / The Forest (18:57)

Total Time: 40:08

Recorded in concert at The Royal Festival Hall London on Friday January 18th 1974.

Line-up / Musicians

-Rick Wakeman / piano, RMI & Rhodes electric pianos, Hammond, Hohner clavinet, Mini-Moog, synths, Mellotrons, producer

- Garry Pickford-Hopkins / lead vocals
- Ashley Holt / lead vocals
- David Hemmings / narration
- Mike Egan / guitar
- Barney James / drums
- Roger Newell / bass
- The London Symphony Orchestra
- The English Chamber Choir
- David Measham / choir & orchestra conductor
- Danny Beckerman / choir & orchestra arrangements
- Wil Malone / choir & orchestra arrangements
- Lou Reizner / production coordination

Releases information

ArtWork: Michael Doud (Art Direction) with Michael Wade (design)

LP A&M Records ‎- SP-3156 (1974, UK)

CD Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab ‎- MFCD 848 (1987, UK)

NB: See also the 2012 expanded re-recording

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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RICK WAKEMAN Journey To The Centre Of The Earth ratings distribution

(415 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(34%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (17%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

RICK WAKEMAN Journey To The Centre Of The Earth reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
1 stars This is the kind of album that brought the world to laugh at prog two years later. Second class as Gary Brooker of Procol Harum might have done much better but not have saved the concept(although the general public accepted this highly laughable project)
Review by lor68
4 stars The same consideration as for the above "Six Wives of Henry VIII", even though - unlike this latter - it has never been performed live with YES. It never minds, this work is quite essential and anyway recommended!!
Review by daveconn
3 stars In the mid '70s, great excess translated into great success, thus the hearty reception that met RICK WAKEMAN's "Journey to the Centre of the Earth". Today, the mix of orchestra, narration and dated songs will be met with a few raised eyebrows. The idea of transforming JULES VERNE's classic into a musical work is unquestionably admirable, but the album itself is an ichthyosaurus, with the head of a GILBERT & SULLIVAN overture and the body of a boring English class. Listeners will need to sit down and absorb this over several sittings before becoming acclimated to the unusual mix of sounds; unlike "Six Wives of Henry VIII", which moved with genuine purpose, this recording changes course with the celerity of a confused hummingbird. Each of the four sections features a song encased in the middle, although the vocals of ASHLEY HOLT and GARRY PICKFORD-HOPKINS give the material a very antideluvian feel. "The Battle" is arguably the most ennervating of the four pieces, yet each has its moments.

Many fans regard this record as Wakeman's magnum opus. It's easily the most ambitious work he ever undertook, performing the work live for this recording, and producing subsequent concerts on ice (thus making escape impossible). It's ironic that he left Yes after the inscrutable "Tales from Topographic Oceans" to create something even more indulgent, but again one needs to remember the times to understand the temptation. As much as I like RICK WAKEMAN, and appreciate his trying to expand the lexicon of modern music with this narrative, "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" is ultimately a quixotic venture.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Pompous, pretentious, overrated and egomaniac performance are some of the adjectives I heard over the years by people who describe this album, and they have some reason, but simply I don't care. Only Journey to the Centre of the Earth gives as the chance to listen a the best keyboardist of prog history playing with a competent band, The London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Chamber Choir.

It's not a secret that Rick Wakeman has an over dimensioned ego, but he has all the right, the guy is a genius, nobody plays all kinds of keyboards with his skill and acts as a front man at the same time, you can love or hate him but everybody knows he's one of the most capable keyboardists ever born.

Simply imagine a 24 years old kid wearing a bright cape surrounded by almost 300 musicians at the stage (most of them twice his age) in a crowded Royal Albert Hall and he's the center of that small universe. Nobody gave him anything for free, he earned it with great courage.

The first track (The Journey/Recollection) starts explosive with an introduction by the complete orchestra and choir, he saves nothing for the end it's simply impressive, the epic follows with many changes, soft passages sung by the normally terrible voices of Gary Pickford and mainly Ashley Holt (who in this case sound adequate for the primitive atmosphere); frantic keyboard sections, aggressive rock & Roll chords and the correct narration by David Hemmings, who with his well educated English takes the responsibility of carrying the weight of the story. A great track that has everything.

The Battle/The Forest is a more complex track, starts with a narration that describes the battle of two sea monsters one with the head of the lizard and the teeth of a crocodile (ictiosaurus), the other a serpent with a turtle head (pleciosaurus), but this detailed description is pale in comparison with the magnificent music and the adequate voices (lyrics are maybe a bit cheesy). Rick's Keyboards and Mike Egan's guitar create a perfect mixture of baroque classical and heavy rock which places the listener in ringside to see not only the big fight but also a huge storm, where Wakeman does his best describing the winds with his Minimoog.

The second section of this track (The Forest) situates us in the moment when the expedition reaches the center of the earth (a plain followed by a forest). The music is extreme beautiful and again the odd voices of Pickford and Holt sound perfect for this track.

From this point, everything leads to the end of the journey, the ascension from the depth to the top of Mount Etna is perfectly pictured with a fragment of Grieg's Peer Gynt, more precisely "In the Hall of the Mountain King" which prepares for the consisting in a softer remembrance of the starting section.

Not as musically perfect as Six Wives of Henry the VIII or lyrical as Myths and Legends, but much stronger than both, this essential album is a demonstration of individual talent, enormous courage and solid arrangements, an absolutely essential musical piece.

Review by Fitzcarraldo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Being a big fan of music using synthesizers and other keyboards, and having enjoyed RICK WAKEMAN's performance with YES and his previous solo album The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, with high hopes I bought the LP of "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" when it was released in 1974. Well, I have to say I was somewhat disappointed. The music, with orchestral and choral backing, is pleasant enough, but nothing in it really stands out as being special. Pretentiousness did not come into my mind at the time, just that the music itself sounded rather 'commercial' and just a bit too twee for my taste.

Eventually I gave the LP to a friend. Years later, when I started to buy CDs of the albums that I used to have as LPs, I did not consider getting "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" again. That says it all, really.

If you have recently read Jules Verne's Journey To The Centre Of The Earth then you might enjoy listening to this album, but otherwise I would say it's for collectors and fans of RICK WAKEMAN only.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Telling tales

Impressed as I was with "Six Wives", when this album was released I was initially hesitant to buy it. One album full of solo Wakeman keyboards was unquestionably impressive and worthwhile, but, I thought, quite enough to fulfil my desire for his solo output. When I saw the LP sleeve however, and read of the elaborate performance it contained, it was immediately apparent that this was not by any means, more of the same.

In a slightly strange move, the album was recorded live, nominally preventing Wakeman from inserting studio effects, and leaving it vulnerable to the odd bum note and missed cue (although as Wakeman admits on the sleeve, he did address this to some extent during mixing). I don't believe the work has ever been recorded in the studio in this form, something Wakeman should consider addressing (in the way ELP did with "Pictures at an exhibition" perhaps).

Unlike "Six wives", "Journey.." includes a full orchestra, vocals, and a complete rock combo. The vocals are shared between Ashley Holt and Gary Pickford-Hopkins. There is also brief narration of the Jules Verne story between the tracks, by David Hemmings.

Wakeman's keyboards, while dominant as would be expected, are very much a part of the big picture, with both orchestra and vocalists being afforded plenty of space to enhance the overall sound. The music is pompous and imaginative, complimenting the story perfectly. It is interesting that towards the end, perhaps in a momentary lapse of inspiration, Wakeman calls on the classics in the form of Greig's "Hall of the mountain king" to provide the build up to the finale.

An excellent album, which sounds as good today as it did upon release.

A good way to obtain the album is on the "Voyage (best of Wakeman)" collection, which includes the original album, remastered, in full.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The first time I knew this album was the first period I was introduced to progressive rock world by my brother, Henky, who then was the radio broadcaster for Geronimo radio station based in Yogya, Central Java. That was the time of my "right-placed childhood" (ugh .. what is it? It's an antithesis of Marillion "mis"placed childhood as I was so fortunate that I had a great big brother who forced me to prog .LOL!!!). He just gave me a "naked" cassette with no title at all, sent to me in Madiun, a small town in East Java. I remember that the recording quality was very poor. And at that time I never heard any kind of music with a lot of narration like this album. But the cassette really BLEW me!!! I played it everyday almost 2 or 3 times and not knowing who the artist/band was. I finally realized the artist behind the cassette after I catch a compilation of songs produced by Prambors radio (Jakarta) in which an edited version of "Journey" was listed and . yeah RICK WAKEMAN mannnnn!!! Wow .. no wonder! By that time I only knew RW through his involvement in YESsongs.

I admire on the high quality standard of this recorded live album. It's so fascinating music that has always make my adrenalin EXPLODED when I listen to this album! I mean it, my friend. No joke at all for a man as great as Mr. Wakeman! He's the greatest keyboard player I have ever known in my life. Needless to say that the overall composition of this album is definitely, absolutely top class! By that time I was not aware any inclusion of orchestra in rock music composition (later I knew DEEP PURPLE's Concerto for Groups and Orchestra and JON LORD's Windows).

Track-wise, it has only two but the overall flow of the music has brought me to an experience as if I really one of the members of the team who traveled to the centered of the earth. The narration has played a very important role in articulating the story. Decades after I knew this album the first time (I think it was 1976?) I found a leadership book titled "SERVANT LEADERSHIP" proposed by Robert Greenleaf. (Sorry, I'm an independent consultant by profession, so .. I keep track on any development of management and/or leadership thoughts.) The interesting part is that the book tells a story about a character of "Leo" who served the role of a true leader (not by position) from the book titled as JOURNEY to THE CENTER of THE EARTH. It fits the story of this album hah? I then grabbed RW Journey's CD while reading the book and sipped my coffee . wow . what a wonderful experience! It's an ultimate enjoyment that even Starrbucks coffee could not replace it! LOL.

This album is definitely MASTERPIECE!!! I even have collected various versions of this album: laserdisc of RW live in Australia, vinyl, CD, DVD. Shame on you if you don't have this album in your prog rock collection. No compromise, it's DEFINITELY FIVE STARRR ... - Gatot Widayanto, Indonesia.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I can't understand all the negative hype about this album. If pretentious leanings gives Journey To The Centre Of The Earth a bad name then what about Brain Salad Surgery by ELP? Pretentious is an adjective to apply to a lot of progressive music, depends how you take it, it is not necessarily good or bad. I do think Wakeman became way over the top from Rhapsodies onwards for a decade or so but the works he produced up until then were all pretty strong stuff. In retrospect some of the works have dated more than others but AT THE TIME pretentious was not really an issue unless you were an ardent reader of Melody Maker or NME who bashed anything progressive. I think the late David Hemmings narration is great, the music and tale unfolds perfectly. The song melody is strong especially on ' Recollection' and the "forest" but listen also the the ' Hanzbar' for some keyboard wizardry by the maestro in the middle of ' The Journey'.Great album but I think his best was yet to come.
Review by Guillermo
4 stars One of my brothers bought this album and also the "King Arthur" album by Wakeman in 1977, I think. At that time, I didn`t like both albums. In the summer of 1980, as I was waiting to enter to High School, I spent some time of my holidays reading Jules Verne`s book "Journey to the Centre of the Earth", and I read it for several weeks until I finished it, being itself a very long story. But it was maybe a year later that I finally listened again to this album and to the "King Arthur" album too, but I still didn`t like the "King Arthur" album, but I liked a lot this "Journey" album, which is more accessible than the "King Arthur" album, in my opinion. The Side One of the L.P ("The Journey/Recollection") is better, in my opinion. But Wakeman`s band in this album is not very good. I don`t like the voices of the lead singers Pickford- Hopkins and Holt. The bassist and the drummer only did they jobs, really. The guitarist played a solo, and after hearing Steve Howe in some YES`s albums with Wakeman, this guitarist is still good but I think that Wakeman could have chosen better musicians as his backing band. Wakeman employed other 2 musicians to do the orchestral and choral arrangements.The arrangements are very good. The narration is a good summary of the Jules Verne`s story, and when I found the narration written in one website dedicated to Wakeman, I printed it to read it when I listen to this album, and this makes me enjoy the album better. Wakeman`s keyboards are not as dominant in this album as in other albums he have recorded. He had to give time to the orchestra, only playing sometimes a subtle synth or piano, but there are several synth solos which are very good, despite some of the synths`s sounds sound somewhat dated now. This is a very good album.
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I have always believed that the best progressive rock albums have orchestral arrangements: it is clearly the case here. The album is very structured: the London Symphony Orchestra provide the classical moods (horns & strings arrangements), while the English Chamber Choir give a solemn touch to the heroic & mythical textures, directly inspired from a fantastic and legendary storytelling. The subtle and delicate mellotron - percussion combinations give a memorable magic & enchanted atmosphere. There is an omnipresent English narrator, having an absolutely noble British accent a la Ian Anderson: this contributes to enhance the grandeur of this album. There are some rock electric guitar and clavinet parts to remind the listener that this record is classical rock oriented. Ashley Holt and Gary Pickford's melodic lead vocals are absolutely appropriate for this kind of music. Compared to the previous album, Wakeman's keyboards here less monopolize the music, giving a perfect balance between all the instruments. Some subtle classical parts remind me the Renaissance's Scheherazade album.


Review by Tony Fisher
1 stars All I can say is that I bought this on the day of issue based on the strength of Six Wives. I played it once and that was the last time it left its sleeve until 30 years later when I listened to it to write this. It sounds worse now than it did then; pompous, pretentious and overblown. Sure the orchestra play well, but the material is uninspiring, some of the band's playing is mediocre, especially the vocals, and no matter how good Wakeman is, he can't salvage it. The narration is fairly tedious (no reflection on David Hemmings, a fine actor) and the whole thing comes out as the sort of mess that made some people laugh at prog. And that gave us punk and the death of many fine prog bands (Druid for one). Thanks a bundle.
Review by Zitro
5 stars What a journey! This is my favourite Rick Wakeman album for being a 40-minute long epic with great musicianship, lyrics, solos, structure, and arrangements. While the vocalists are not liked by everybody, and the album might sound a little pretentious ... this is Progressive Rock! Expect pompous pretentious pieces of music.

Here, RickWakeman performed live a concept piece based on the novel with a full orchestra and his keyboard arsenal. It is a perfect blend of Classical music and rock.

Highlights :

_The overture _guitar driven section _the battle of the monsters on side 2 with synth solos and a clavinet ending _The reference to the major clasical work _The narration following perfectly the great adventure novel.

My Grade : A-

Review by erik neuteboom
5 stars This album is rated between 1 and 5 stars so it evokes mixed emotions and impressions, from tedious narration and rather commercial to masterpiece, excellent album and highly recommended! Well, I tend to choose the 4 and 5 star side because this ablum simply touches me very much: for me this is a very compelling experience, I like the narration (in my opinion inspired and expressive) and I'm blown away by the amazing array of vintage keyboards, from the grand piano and Hammond organ to the clavinet and Minimoog synthesizers. I have to admit that I'm a sensitive and emotional person with a hugh fantasy and a preference for a bombastic and pretentious approach so the concept on this album appeals to me, you can say!! I can understand that progheads are not really pleased with this album but every session with "Journey to the centre of the earth" I let myself carry away to a progwalhalla! THANKS MR RICK WAKEMAN ON KEYBOARDS!!!
Review by ghost_of_morphy
5 stars Pompous, pretentious, egotistical....

Yep, Journey to the Center of the Earth is all of that. So is progressive rock in general. Nobody would call The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, for example, an understated and self-effacing excursion into humility. Yet The Lamb is one of those huge monuments of progressive rock jutting out of the landscape. And Journey to the Center of the Earth is another, a seminal album for all fans of progressive rock.

I'm not going to argue that it is perfect, of course. Vocal performances are frankly odd (and Rick's insistence on keeping Mr. Holt for a few more albums is quite perplexing.) The quality of the recording is not that great, especially on the first side. Sometimes the combination of rock ensemble and choir doesn't quite gel (like in parts of the Battle.) At times the narration seems to go on longer than necessary. And there are a few places where you wish that Rick would either go ahead and launch into a full blown solo or keep his hands off the keys entirely.

All of that said, the real beauty behind this lies in the concept and composition of this gorgeous piece of programmatic music. Yes, it's pompous and bombastic, but it also works and serves to illuminate a singular story which is just pompous and bombastic. Or if you prefer, epic. There is nothing else in progressive rock that comes as close to being so monumental and so successful as a composition, despite it's flaws.

Is it Rick's best work? Well, it's hard to judge this against the rest of Rick's solo work, as Rick wrote this large, to encompass orchestra, choir, and rock ensemble. Musically speaking, Six Wives accomplishes morre in a more cleveer manner. But few albums capture the spirit of progressiive rock as well and on as large a scale as Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Review by loserboy
4 stars Here is another one of those albums that I suppose you could say I grew up with and in fact was really thru this album that I discovered the beauty of the music of YES. I recently snagged the Japanese remastered version in the CD gatefold sleeve (which is an exact replica of my vinyl version) but with very much enriched sound. This was Wakeman with his band and the London Symphony Orchestra with English Chamber Choir which melts together to create one of the most fascinating listens. In fact for all "Journey" enthusiasts like me have to get this version. This I consider to be Wakeman's greatest musical achievement and remains to this day one of Unger's most beloved recordings.
Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars While I can't fault his ambition in not choosing to repeat the brilliant Six Wives Of Henry VIII, the chart-topping Journey To The Centre Of The Earth is actually something of a letdown. Too much time is spent on narration and sweeping orchestral moments for my liking, and I am also not too convinced by the vocalists employed here. Nonetheless there are still enough sizzling Wakeman moments for me to turn to this album from time to time.

In some ways, this album is still amazing ... in between listens, I almost always forget that it is a live recording and the interaction between Wakeman, his rock band, the London Symphony Orchestra and The English Chamber Choir is pretty hard to fault!

But the compositional style is far removed from that of the album that preceeded it, and I feel that Wakeman's determination to give this album an epic feel backfired. It is divided into two parts (as per the dictates of the LP format) and each track is roughly 20 minutes in length (and the guy had the cheek to complain about the scale of Yes' Tales Of Topographic Oceans!).

The first part The Journey/Recollection has many lengthy narrative sections and a lot of atmospheric classical themes, but the main highlights are a melancholic synth melody around the 6 minute mark (built up by the chorale vocals of The English Chamber Choir) and the funky harpsichord sequence that starts up at the 13 minute mark (with a nice guitar solo from Mark Egan).

While the first half of the album promises much and delivers a little, the second part The Battle/The Forest is even weaker. There's an electric piano passage halfway through, some great synths three-quarters of the way through and some brassy bombast to conclude it all, but by and large, Wakeman was pleasant without being remotely intriguing.

Frankly, this album didn't even come close to the level I'd come in expecting. I consider it to be marginally weaker than The Alan Parsons' Project Tales Of Mystery And Imagination and distinctly less exciting than Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds (two other symphonic, narrative albums that always come to mind when I listen to this). In fact, this is my least favourite of Wakeman's classic trio of solo albums. ... 55% on the MPV scale

Review by Australian
4 stars Rick Wakeman's "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" characterises his career and most symphonic prog perfectly. The epic nature, meter changes, vocals and the incorporation of classical elements all make J"ourney to the Centre of the Earth" a genuine progressive album. One of Rick Wakeman's better works as he has a larger budget than he usually does and the composition of the two songs is creative and enjoyable. The album is based upon Jules Verne's legendary novel "Journey to the Centre of the Earth", just in case you haven't noticed. Like any adaptation of a book the story suffers, but it's not too bad here, luckily.

"Journey to the Centre of the Earth" is one rare occasion where Rick Wakeman doesn't go stingy on backing musicians as he had the London Symphony Orchestra and The English Camber Choir at his disposal. In addition to these two groups were two vocalists - Garry Pickford Hopkins and Ashley Holt, as well as Mike Egan on guitar, Roger Newell on Bass and Barney James on Drums. With such a large array of musicians something good has to have come out of it. Needless to say the album is dominated by Rick Wakeman's synthesizers which are played insanely fast in parts.

The album begins with The J"ourney/Recollection", the opening three minutes of the piece is basically an overture which is mainly orchestral with synths dotted here and there. This section dies down and one of the vocalists (Ashley Holt I think) sings against a lush backdrop of orchestral music. This section is enhanced by an equally good synthesizer solo which is then followed by more vocals. The first section of narration begins following this section. There is one breath taking passage of music which begins around the twelfth minute in which there is a great guitar solo from Mike Egan and keyboard backing. The song ends on an epic note and leads into the second part.

Next is "The Battle/The Forest" which begins immediately with narration, another lively passage ensues after the narration. This section is another major highlight of the album and it is a delight to hear. The next five or so minutes is quieter and is focused more on the story. The closing section of the song is something special.

1.The Journey/Recollection (4/5) 2.The Battle/The Forest (4/5) Excellent addition to any prog music collection

Four stars is a very fitting rating for "Journey to the Centre of the Earth", the album loses some points due to the fact that, overall it is very difficult to get into and is not very accessible in length. I'd recommend "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" to any Yes or Symphonic prog fan, but as you can probably see it isn't to everyone's satisfaction.

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars Ah nostalgia for the days when progressive rock could be engaging, pompous and chart topping all at the same time. Let me add one more - it could contain a live album of never before released material. Journey to the Center of the Earth is far and away the crowning achievement for Rick Wakeman, and one of the critical pieces of the genre. The use of a top notch backing band, the compelling narration, the sympathetic vocals all bolster the man's keyboard wizardry while keeping it in check, unlike in Six Wives where he became his own enfant terrible.

In spite of these accolades, I give the album only 4 stars because The Battle loses a bit of the user friendliness and gets mired in its own excesses. But the first side is so full of wonderful segments bursting with colour and emotion that it is worth the price of several albums. It is rare that a solo work outshines a performer's collective oeuvre with his band, but to have this occur in a live setting warts and all only adds to the mystique of a day now long past.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
5 stars One of prog rocks most important albums ever. Rick Wakeman dared to prove once and for all rock was not disposable music. With this album he reached not only huge commercial success, but also imense prestige, even among the very demanding classical audience and critics. It is hard nowadays to believe that such elaborated piece of work was such a popular hit. Maybe too popular, for he became later the epitome of what the punks hated about prog rock. It was pehaps too pretentious and bloated affair for many, but its historical importance can not be denied, specially here on PA.

Ok, maybe the music is more classical than really progresive as someone has already pointed out, but it was a giant step forward to popular music. t proved that rock music could blend nicely to classical without distorcing any of them. the musical elements of this album, based on the Jules Verne famous book, with all the narration, choirs and orchestration were very well done and clearly showed Wakeman at his creative peak. Everything works in this record, and some songs are still quite unique, like The Battle (yes, he can rock!). the moogs, the band, teh orchestra and the choir all shine and blend. The recording is absolute fantastic for the time. It was a surprise worldwide hit, including in Brazil, where he was the first major rock figure to play here (with thw Brazilian philarmonic orchestra backing) in 1975.

Unfortunatly it also became the album that was too overplayed, and later labeled as an empty, bloated, self indulgent and pretentious affair. That was not the case, of course, but the label stuck since then. It was a refreshing experience to hear it again after so many years and find it as fresh and exciting as I thought of at the time. A bold work and a damn good one too! For anyone who is interested in prog history, this is a must have. An essential masterpiece that never really got the historical recognition it surely deserves.

A classic in all aspects. 5 stars, no less!

Review by Neu!mann
1 stars Not even the most forgiving of rose-colored memories can salvage this relic of Progressive Rock's golden age, starring keyboard maestro Rick Wakeman (resplendent in white-caped, full-Prog plumage) live in concert alongside the London Symphony Orchestra and English Chamber Choir. Yes, I know a lot of fans still regard it as a five-star classic, but when revisited in the harsh glare of 20-20 hindsight (for me, after more than thirty years) the album survives only as one of the more prominent nails sealing the coffin Prog was buried in at the end of the 1970s.

I honestly don't have any problems with the concept, tacky though it was, even then (musically the album does for Jules Verne what Hollywood showman Cecil B. DeMille did for the Old Testament in his 1956 Technicolor guilty pleasure "The Ten Commandments"). Nor do I take issue with the narration by David Hemmings, although it eats up more than nine minutes of a forty minute performance (do the math: that's almost one-quarter of the entire album!).

No, it's the execution that stinks. By 1974 the cycle of symphonic / rock collaborations had long since run its course, and Wakeman adds nothing new to a novelty already exhausted years earlier by THE MOODY BLUES, PINK FLOYD, DEEP PURPLE, THE NICE, and even the pre-Wakeman YES (among many others, and most of it circa 1970). Perhaps the results might have been different if Wakeman had actually enlisted members of YES for his backing band, because the second-rate rockers here can't hope to compete with the LSO: listen to the uncertain timing of the supposedly dramatic bass ostinato nine minutes into "Part One", or the boilerplate funk workout four minutes later.

The keyboard wizard's unimaginative synthesizer patches don't help either, spoiling more than one episode (for example the heroic orchestral fanfare opening the album) with what sounds like the buzz of an improperly grounded electrical circuit. The musical low point, however, is an unexpected quotation from Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King", the sort of instantly recognizable musical non-sequitur best left to featherweight classical rockers like the ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA.

Charity forbids me from even mentioning the actual songs, except to quote a more or less representative lyric, in this case from "The Journey", sung with all the heartfelt conviction of a Karen Carpenter ballad:

"Roped as one for safety through the long descent, Into the crater of volcanic rock they went..."

Pure poetry, that. And it reaches a nadir at the nine-minute mark of "Part Two", when the clearly overtaxed vocalist croons in ascending off-key flatness: "Journey on through ages gone, to the center of the Earth..!"

Thirty years ago my high school Proghead friends and I laughed at the overwrought theatrics, but the instrumental passages made it worthwhile at the time. Well, even that silver lining has tarnished over the years, and badly. Maybe it's true: you can't go home again. But on the evidence of this ambitious but lead-footed clunker, why would you want to?

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I was never sure what to make of this album when I first purchased it. On the one hand, I love orchestral music, but on the other, the thought of an ostentatious orchestra with Moog solos and clavichord somehow didn't quite appeal to me. That said, I wasn't utterly disappointed, but there are two very dreadful aspects to this album: The first is the narration. I'm sorry, but narration is generally awfully cheesy, especially when a story should be effectively conveyed in the music and lyrics (if applicable). Otherwise, I'll read the book, thanks. The second is the vocal sections. I remember thinking that I was listening to Linda Ronstadt music ("Blue Lagoon" occasionally would spring to mind), and the vocals are garbled and not very good at all. While that doesn't mean I don't like it necessarily, the vocal passages simply do not fit the overall tenor of the album. Then again, a lot of the music doesn't exactly fit, such as how one part is a bluesy section with a guitar solo backed by a clavichord. The second half is more symphonic, yet somehow not as interesting, as the synthesizer solos seem forced upon the opus. An orchestra doesn't necessarily make something breathtaking. A dozen keyboards with a master player doesn't necessarily make something grand. A piece of literature doesn't necessarily make for a marvelous musical interpretation. And, as I learned a long time ago, capes don't make heroes, even if they have sequins. Much like tossing a large supreme pizza, a Samuel Adams, an ice cream cone, and a beautiful woman in a blender, combining so many good things doesn't necessarily produce a wonderful result.
Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This must have been a grand achievement for its for its time but the momentum of this over-the-top performance of the famous Jules Verne classic Journey To The Centre Of The Earth has lost some of its spark over the years.

I enjoyed this album the first few times I've listened to it, but after it actually settled in it all became a bit tiresome. The first complaint that everyone already mentioned is the narration that abrupts the music flow almost after each passage. This is a minor problem considering the narration sections were removed on later compilations. By far the biggest drawback for me are the two lead vocalists that are below my average preference standard and I actually consider myself not too picky when it comes to vocals in general.

To summarize, the music is good, arrangements are great, except for vocals and the narrations could have been skipped entirely. Therefore it's a good, but non-essential for an average progressive rock fan. You can probably add an extra star if you're a huge fan of Symphonic Prog... or subtract one if you're not a fan!

**** star songs: The Journey / Recollection (21:11)

*** star songs: The Battle / The Forest (18:57)

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After listening one story in Grumpy Old Rock Star, I knew that I have to get this album sooner or later. Now is sooner.

It is all these nasty adjectives which people use to describe Journey - pompous, pretentious, grandiose and some others. But for me, they are positive ones, they are advantages. Adventurous, not bounded by anything (except budget). Symphonic (they have orchestra), extremely melodic, concept album depicting quite good story (there are more complex, but also less enjoyable Verne stories). Fine homage, even narrated parts are my least favourite. Garry Pickford-Hopkins is great vocalist, with tender (lower pitched Jon Anderson almost) and mellow voice.

4(+), so basically there is not much things to hate. It's quite original (music) too, it's big (and I like such megalomanic projects) and most of all, I like it. It's very important indicator here, because when you like it, you can appreciate. Otherwise, you'll end up like those who strongly dislike it. There are usually two poles, not much opinions left between them.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Journey to the Centre of The Worthless

This live obsession has been described as pompous, pretentious and overblown. I concur with these words and would like to add boring as watching grass grow. It really is a mediocre affair. Narrations of incomparable dreariness and lush eternity lasting orchestrations that will have you in one of two camps; you will adore this treasure and hail it a mastepriece that must not be missed, or you will wonder what all the fuss is about. I am in the latter category. I have this on vinyl and love perusing the lavish sleeve notes and booklet. Then I saw it in the bargain bin for a ridiculously cheap price and thought, well it's an important album so I should buy this for that price. You know I played it the same amount of times as the vinyl; a grand total of once!

There is so much great prog out there, why would one waste precious time listening to this overblown nonsense? Why indeed. And yet I have this album on two mediums; where is the logic? I must suffer from a prog disease that is spreading around here - the disease of the overrated album. Here it sits, folks in all it's pompous glory. This overrated album of Wakeman's is an insufferable bore with dreary concepts and mind numbing instrumental sections. Then he has the audacity to release this on other albums in various forms. It just goes on for an eternity and its enough to want to slap your grandmother when he gets into those string sections and overlong keyboard swirls. This is dated and obsolete; nobody really listens to this anymore surely. It has made its impact and now needs to sit in bargain bins. I love what Wakeman does with Yes but this needs to be thrown unceremoniously into the sea of forgetfulness. 2 stars for the design and concept, the rest is absolutely cringe worthy, believe me.

Review by tarkus1980
3 stars You know, if you're going to leave a group on the grounds that you think it's become too overblown and pompous, it's probably not a good idea to make your first post-split solo album quite possibly the most overblown and pompous album ever made to that point in time. This is a live recording of a classical-rock fusion piece designed around the Jules Verne novel of the same name (which I have never read as of this writing, unfortunately), and it seems like, in conceiving the project, Rick went out of his way to include anything that would make the piece seem more puffed up than anything ever made. There's a full orchestra, a choir (the females of which have to sing some of the most cringeworthy lyrics I've come across in a long time, at least in the "Battle" section), a rather uninteresting narrator and a small "band" to accompany Rick and his army of keyboards.

I feel rather ambivalent towards this album, truth be told. I hated it the first time I listened to it, and even now when I basically like the album (even though the thought of saying so makes me cringe), there are quite a few things that bug me within it. Like, say, the voice of one of the male singers. One of the singers actually has a rather nice voice, which helps me enjoy the lovely melody of the first "song" of the album, but the other one must have had compromising photos of Rick with Jon Anderson to win the chance to sing on this album. He almost sounds like Gordon Haskell, and if you've read my Lizard review, you'll know that that's about the biggest insult I can foist on a prog vocalist.

It's also a little annoying that, well, I can't really get that worked up about this album for more than a little dose at a time. It's neat to hear the main classical-based themes alternate with lovely ballads with mildly funky patterns with whatever (all underpinned with Rick's sci-fi synths, with sounds he rarely brought out in his Yes stint), but it's also very difficult to keep my attention from fading in and out, especially in the second half when the sung parts disappear for a very long time near the end. I could see myself enjoying brief snippets of this as one of Rick's solo interludes during later Yes concerts, but as a whole, tied all together with that snooty narrator? Meh, that's a little harder.

I guess the big problem I have overall is that, while I enjoy the album (for the most part), it also provides a clear example to me of why British prog rock, a perfectly decent genre from the early 70's, eventually earned so much disdain from so many people. Nice as it is, there are still too many orchestral passages that sound nice but undistinguished, too many synth passages that sound cool but kinda pointless, and too much of an all-encompassing feel of stuffiness throughout. And this bugs me, because I almost never feel this way with Yes. Anderson might have had pompous lyrical topics, but in essence he was just somebody who was very spiritual yet very confused, and who thought that singing (in his own bizarre way) about spiritual topics he liked would be neat. And as for the instrumentalists, well, I guess the best thing about having so much talent in the band was that no one person could outright dominate the musical direction of the group, whereas giving Wakeman full control resulted in things like this.

So ... I dunno. I like quite a good deal of this album, but I also feel dirty and ashamed in saying so. I probably won't listen to it again for a long time, though I am playing it as I write this, and I'm enjoying it, so draw your own conclusions. If you're a hardcore progger, you might love it, though.

PS: When I bought this album, the other CD I purchased was The Clash (US). I half expected my bag to burst into flames from a bad chemical reaction on the way home.

Review by baz91
4 stars This album, along with the 'Henry VIII' suite, are generally considered to be THE essential Wakeman albums, and for good reason. This album was recorded live; according to Wakeman he didn't have the funds to record it in the studio. He is accompanied by not only the London Symphony Orchestra, but also the English Chamber Choir, who add to give this album a truly symphonic feel. Bar the split in the middle of the record, this is 40 minutes of continuous music, and was meant to be heard that way. Obviously this is a concept album which recounts the tale of the same name written by Jules Verne.

The Journey / Recollection The first half of this epic piece starts off in a very symphonic way, with the orchestra being the dominant force. In fact Wakeman himself is barely to be heard! The song then becomes more relaxed and surprisingly enough there are lyrics! The singer himself is good but not being at all famous, you have no idea where this guy was picked from. Afterwards there is another 10 minutes of instrumental. This is often punctuated by snippets of narration, no doubt taken from Verne's book itself. The narration, credited to David Hemmings, is clear and gives the listener a good idea of what's going on in the story. This is comparable to 'The Snow Goose' by Camel, where there is no narration at all, and so those who haven't read the story are unaware of what is happening. The music itself is also very interesting, at times peaceful and adventurous, and then turning very suddenly into dark moody parts. The orchestra augment the piece very well throughout, and Wakeman hardly puts himself on show. Funnily enough at about 13 mins, Wakeman decides he's had enough of the orchestra and breaks into a short rock instrumental. At about 16 mins, some vocals that are similar to the ones heard at the beginning of the track are heard. The track ends as symphonically as it begins, and we are made to turn over to side 2.

The Battle / The Forest We start with some more narration which leads into a rock based movement, rather than an orchestral movement. This part also has lyrics, which recount the terrible battle between two monsters in the story. The choir join in the lyrics as well, which is fun, although doesn't sound too great. I especially like how in the narration that follows, the whole band fade to a silence and then come back in full force after he's gone. We soon reach 'The Forest' which tells us of how the protagonists of the story discover some people living in the centre of the Earth. This movement isn't particularly good but is over quite quickly. Afterwards it's narration and instrumentals all the way to the end. In the final 6 minutes of this sweeping epic, we hear a cover of Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg, which goes surprisingly well with the mood! With 3 minutes left, it's time to bring up the main theme once more and this is played until the outro, where the ending feels very appropriate. The cheers of the audience, who must have felt very priveleged to be on such a standout live album, fade the album out.

This is one of prog rock's really important live albums, although surely not as important as 'Pictures at an Exhibition'. It feels rather patchy, some bits being better than others, and there are a few too many stop and starts. It is however very listenable for the entire 40 minutes. I very much recommend getting the vinyl if possible as there was a 6 page booklet with wacky artwork included that is sadly ommitted in the current CD edition.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars I remember watching the TV special of the performance of this album, and being underwhelmed then, too. While the idea is tremendous in scope, the production, and some of the compositions bring the entire album down. Although it's good to hear that Wakeman went back to this piece and spruced it up, with great results (check out The Definitive Music collection to hear it).

The book is well known, and the narration is kept to a minimum, but it does help to know what part of the story the music is depicting, especially since the singers and chorus can barely be understood on most of the album. The orchestrations are grandiose, and Wakeman's keyboard work is strong. But that makes the contrast of the weak vocal sections that much more difficult to listen to.

And coming back to the album years later, it doesn't get any better.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After the ''Tales from topographic oceans'' album, which accordingly to Wakeman was one of the worst records he ever played on, Rick was about to part ways with Yes and focus on his solo career.He composed a long suite entitled ''Journey to the Centre of the Earth'', based on Jules Verne's eponymous science fiction novel and performed it twice on a back-to-back live set at the Royal Festival Hall in London on 18 January 1974.Wakeman was accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Choir along with a supporting group of musicians on rock instrumentation.Due to financial reasons, only one of these performances was recorded and released through A&M Records.

Wakeman displayed a huge array of keyboard equipment, including Mellotron, organs, grand piano, clavinet and moog synths, but the fact that the album was recorded live prevented actually the use of dual keyboard themes.''Journey to the Centre of the Earth'' is another one of his Classical-oriented Symphonic Rock releases and his performance was definitely great without signs of self-indulgence, maybe because it wasn't really possible to come up with a full-blown keyboard sound because of the live performance.The live was split into two almost 20-min. movements with impressive work by the orchestra and the English Chamber Choir, supported by the now measured Wakeman and his sometimes excellent keyboard delivery.The moog synth parts are actually the best with a very personal sound and some virtuosic textures, still the presence of various different keys offers a lot of diversity and shifting moods, from dreamy and ethereal soundscapes to grandiose and cinematic themes, always with a huge symphonic sound.Following steadily the whole concept, the album however suffers from the interrupting and long narrations of actor David Hemmings, which do not allow the music to unfold fully, but this would definitely make an impressive live experience.

This is one of the albums you would actually prefer to taste through a DVD, or, even better, should have been a fantastic experience if you were part of these early live sets.Wakeman delivers great moments of keyboard-led instrumental Progressive Rock, but as a whole this work is a bit inconsistent.However this remains a nice chance to meet the talent of this legendary keyboard wizard.Recommended.

Review by GruvanDahlman
5 stars My goodness! This album is THE best example of prog extravaganza. It is the most pompous piece of work you can listen to. And I mean it in the most affectionate way. What we have here is nothing short of brilliance and genius.

Rick Wakemans solo efforts are quite clear, in my mind, some of prog's best work, covering history (Wives of Henry VIII), myth (Arthur) and fiction (Journey to the centre of the Earth). The last one is the best of them. Musically it's spellbinding in every sense but it's the complete work that is so breathtaking, with it's symphonic orchestra and the brilliant, utterly dramatic narration.

Two long tracks only. You won't ever need any more. I happen to own the CD-edition containing a DVD of one of the shows and it's quite something to behold, the master himself behind his huge walls of keyboards and electronics. Always a favorite of mine, Journey to the centre of the Earth always delivers, bringing a huge smile to my face. Utterly epic!

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars My first Wakeman's album and still the one I like most. Ok, I have to admit that it can be considered pompous, self-indulgent and all the worst that can be said about rock dynosaurs, but I'm not Jonny Rotten and I don't care of it. Let me say that Wakeman is still making albums and I don't know what John Lydon is doing currently.

I saw the album at a friend's home. He was a bit older than me and I didn't own a turntable at that time. I was impressed by the cover art with the booklet made of photo shots inspired to the Verne's novel but in debt with the 1959's movie which was one of the first hollywood sci-fi movies full of special effects. The movie amazed me as well when I was a child so I was captured by that package.

When it went on the turntable I was even more surprised. It was different from anything I had heard before. I already knew and loved Emerson Lake and Palmer but the orchestra, the choir...I was actually listening to country and blues, you can imagine what kind of impact it was.

What I found negative was the fact that only 4 sections of the whole opera had lyrics, in the sense that only four topic moments of the story are represented. Also, not knowing English at that time, I had some problems with the narrator. Luckily the background music while he speaks was good enough so I never had the impulse of moving the pick-up ahead.

Apart of that, I wasn't expecting the quote of Grieg's Hall Of The Mountain King. The Peer Gynt Suite was one of the first classical music works that I have appreciated since my early childhood, so it made everything sound very familiar.

Today, of course, my perception of the album is different, but the pleasure of following the story building a theathre (not a movie) in my mind is still great. I don't listen to it very often, but when I do it I like staying concentrated on each single note and respect to the past I'm also able to understand what the speaker says.

Somebody can think, and it's correct, that this is the kind of things that have caused the decline of prog. I partially disagree. In a world in which the labels had the power to decide who to publish and who don't, were self-production and bandcamp were not available they have maybe chosen to influence the public in the direction of easy low-cost productions like Sex Pistols. Never Mind The Bullocks (which I like, I admit) costed surely less than Journey.

This dynosaur has been acually able to play with the orchestra and the choir in a perfectly integrated manner, composing what I think is a wonderful piece. In the 80s I've been at a Wakeman's concert. He had just a group made of bass, drums and vocalist but he played the whole "Journey" and I don't think I'll ever forget that performance.

Long life to dynosaurs.

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review Nš 88

"Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" is the debut solo live album of Rick Wakeman and was released in 1974. Chronologically, it's his third solo album and it was recorded between his debut studio album "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" and his second studio album "The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table".

"Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" is a different live album because is a new musical work which was never released as a studio album. The album is a live recording from his second of two sold out concerts, in 18 January 1974 at the Royal Festival Hall, in London. Wakeman decided to hold a live recording of this album, due to its high cost. He couldn't totally afford the production involving an orchestra and a choir with so many elements. The solution was to do it as a show paid. At the time, his record label A&M, English business, didn't agree to pay all the production, and so, it was necessary to convince A&M, American business to do so, and Wakeman was very well succeeded with that.

"Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" is another Wakeman's conceptual album. This time it's based on the Jules Verne's eponymous science fiction novel. Verne was a famous French writer of the nineteenth century, who pioneered the science fiction literary genre which became best known because his novels "A Journey To The Centre Of The Earth", "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea" and "Around The World In Eighty Days".

"Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" tells us the story of professor Lidenbrock, his nephew Axel, and their guide Hans, who follow a passage to the centre of the Earth, originally discovered by Anne Saknussemm, an Iceland alchemist. They encounter many adventures, including prehistoric animals and natural hazards. As the music is dotted by telling the story based on Verne's novel, there was need to have a narrator in a prominent position in the recording. Then, the actor David Hemmings was the person chosen and so, he provides the narration of the story on the album.

Wakeman performs "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" with the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Choir and a hand full of musicians, Gary Pickford-Hopkins (vocals), Ashley Holt (vocals), Mike Egan (electric guitar), Roger Newell (bass guitar) and Barney James (drums). The use of Wakeman's keyboards, perfectly couple with the orchestra, created the ambient needed to the great audio success of the story and of the music on the album.

Recorded at the London's Royal Festival Hall, the tale is broken into four parts. The first and second parts, "The Journey"/"Recollection", take our adventures from the surface of the Earth to the lost world inside it, encountering various difficulties along the way. The music is great, at times peaceful and adventurous and in others with dark moody parts. It starts explosively in a very symphonic way, with the orchestra being the dominant force. The epic has many musical changes, soft passages sung by Pickford and Holt, frantic keyboard sections, aggressive rock & roll chords always supported by the correct narration of Hemmings with his very well educated English accent. The track ends symphonically as it begins. The third and fourth parts, "The Battle"/"The Forest" are much more complex. "The Battle" starts with some more narrative that describes the battle between two sea monsters, which leads to a rock based movement and it has also lyrics and a choir. Wakeman's keyboards and Egan's guitar create a perfect musical mixture of baroque, classical and heavy rock which places the listener in a ringside too see not only the big fight but also a huge storm, where Wakeman does his best, describing the winds with his Minimoog. "The Forest" situates us when the expedition reaches the centre of the earth. Musically, is extremely beautiful and again the voices of Pickford and Holt sound perfect. "The Forest" includes also an excerpt of "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" of Edvard Grieg.

Conclusion: "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" is a very special album for me. The first Wakeman's albums I knew were "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth", "The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table", "Lisztomania" and "No Earthly Connection". However, "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" was my first contact with his solo albums, in the 70's. So, it was a very important album into my musical education. My first version of this album was a cassette tape, which a friend recorded for me. Often I listened to it on a small mono tape recorder. For those who are very young and not lived through those times, imagine the technical and monetary conditions that my generation had in those days. However, our union and solidarity were incredible in our love for music in general and particularly by the progressive rock music genre. Whether or not by this motif, "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" always had a very special place into my heart. However, besides that, "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" remains as one of the best and innovative progressive musical projects of the 70's, I think.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by Warthur
4 stars Rick Wakeman's musical adaptation of Jules Verne's novel for orchestra, choir, rock band, synthesiser array, and narrator was recorded when he was still - barely - a member of Yes. He'd been unhappy during the recording of Tales From Topographic Oceans, but even so he kept up his role in the band and mounted this concert series during a break on Yes's touring schedule. However, with The Six Wives of Henry VIII having been a massive commercial success (to the extent that selections from it ended up on the Yes live repertoire) and this one also becoming a hit, it was very apparent that Rick could viably go solo full-time, and so it was that he'd leave Yes by the middle of the year.

Whereas Six Wives was all-instrumental, this one has vocals, and the emphasis on telling a coherent, condensed version of the Jules Verne narrative is certainly a contrast with the abstract explorations that Yes was more interested in at this point in time.

It's all rather fun, though Wakeman's synthesisers are at points rather shrill and in general the quality of the live recording feels a little murky at points even by the standards of the era. Still, you can't fault Rick for his ambition, and he certainly in his own way manages a skilled fusion of orchestral music, rock, and synthesiser which perhaps only Camel on The Snow Goose could rival at the time.

Review by Hector Enrique
4 stars Rick Wakeman was at a stellar moment when he embarked on the ambitious challenge of musically recreating Jules Verne's novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864). With the successful "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" under his belt and his decisive contribution to Yes still resonating, and, like his music, habitually passing along the paths of grandiloquence and virtuosity, Wakeman sumptuously approaches this project, summoning the prestigious "The London Symphony Orchestra" and "The English Chamber Choir", accompanied by a rock band conceived for the occasion. Divided into two major segments, the album is narrated by the actor David Hemmings as the main thread of the fantastic adventures of the German professor Lindbrook, his nephew Alex and the guide Hans on their way to the centre of the earth.

The departure of the adventurous trio from Hamburg to the summit of the extinct volcano Sneffels Yokul (Iceland) and their perilous descent is described in "The Journey", where after an orchestral introduction accompanied by a heavenly choir (as in most of the work), Wakeman's moog opens the way for the peaceful singing of Garry Pickford- Hopkins; and all the landscapes inside the volcano and the anguish of the uncertain return are represented in "Recollection" by a machine-gunned opening synthesizer, an intense rock section crowned by Mike Egan's very good guitar solo, and the dramatic orchestration that closes the first segment.

The best moments are in the second half, with the melodic opening notes of Wakeman's harpsichord accompanied by the band in the excellent rendition of the fierce battle of two huge sea monsters in "The Battle" to the terrified presence of the adventurers, and with the revelatory discovery of a remote civilisation in "The Forest" and Ashley Holt's demanding singing underpinned by Wakeman's misty, splendid keyboard and a choir more celestial and dramatic than ever. One of the best passages on the album, if not the best. The last few minutes of the work run in a smooth ambience that exchanges the protagonism of the orchestration with the keyboards and the moog, at times overused, until its epic ending.

"Journey to the Centre of the Earth", loved by fans of the genre and not so much by its detractors, is one of the high points in the discography of the English musician, and reaffirmed him as one of the pioneers in the use of synthesizers for symphonic rock.

3.5/4 stars

Latest members reviews

4 stars Journey to the Centre of the Earth is a live recording album by Rick Wakeman, musicalizing Jules Verne's science fiction novel of the same title. It was recorded in 1974 where he worked with his band, the London Symphony Orchestra and English Chamber Choir. This album consists of two long tracks ( ... (read more)

Report this review (#2380888) | Posted by Mark-P | Wednesday, May 13, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Almost at the same level as Tales From The Topographic Oceans (his previous work with Yes), Rick Wakeman (24) do the Journey To The Centre of The Earth. This album is a storytelling musical adaptation from the Jules Verne classic, recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, and it's the ki ... (read more)

Report this review (#970608) | Posted by VOTOMS | Monday, June 3, 2013 | Review Permanlink

1 stars After hearing 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII', this came down as a huge disappointment. The composition itself is ridiculously naive and cheesy, and the execution, apart from Wakeman himself (though most of his synth work here makes me cringe), the orchestra and the choir, leaves a lot to be des ... (read more)

Report this review (#523494) | Posted by Ludjak | Wednesday, September 14, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Yet another one of the classic Love or Hate symphonic albums. 'Pretentious' is the most popular way both critics and listeners have used to describe this work, a 40 minute musical telling of Jules Verne's novel was bound to get a battering from the critics but i am surprised at the hate this oft ... (read more)

Report this review (#414665) | Posted by topographicbroadways | Saturday, March 12, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars One of the infamous soloalbums of prog, it is well known for its pretentiousness. Rick Wakeman is one of my big idols, but he does become, as people were starting to call progressive rock in the late seventies, pretentious. On the keyboard front, the musicianship here is nothing but excellent. ... (read more)

Report this review (#159391) | Posted by MusicalSalmacis | Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Journey to the Centre of the Music Pretentious? maybe... but original. I think Rick Wakeman was a pioneer. He brought the keyboards to their top expression. This album shows that. When I was about 13 years old I found "The Battle/The Forest" in a compilation. That track impressed me. I knew n ... (read more)

Report this review (#123262) | Posted by Marcos | Thursday, May 24, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Rick Wakeman's third solo album is brilliant. Pompous? Pretentious? I don't think so. As has been said before by Ivan Melgar, Rick was only 24 years old and he was in front of a symphonic orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, after selling almost everything he owned in order to record this album ... (read more)

Report this review (#120184) | Posted by Gabriel.V | Monday, April 30, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Where to start! This highly unorthodox album is amazing. The yes man Rick Wakeman has brought an orchestra and choir together to perform his musical rendition of journey to the center of the earth. There's even a narrator who leads you on through this amazing journey, prompting your imaginatio ... (read more)

Report this review (#104814) | Posted by purplepiper | Thursday, December 28, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Itīs not a bad album at all, with a good concept(Julius verneīs fascinating story), and storng musicianship. However, it has two clear defects: the excessive use of the orchestra, which in some times becomes boring with meaningless repetitions, and the escess of time of the narration. I want to l ... (read more)

Report this review (#80723) | Posted by Evandro Martini | Thursday, June 8, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I purchased this album recently and I was totally amazed. All that is great in prog is in this album and as always Wakey is simply a genius. His compositions, his virtuosity and his performance are all superb. I have no idea why so many people hate this album and trash it every time they can, which ... (read more)

Report this review (#53583) | Posted by progron | Thursday, October 27, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I love this album its a magical trip to a fantasy land, i honestly thinks the album is beter then the book. At first the guy telling the story was a bit strange inturupting in the middle of the music all the time but now i think its great and very uniq, on this album Wakeman shows what hes rea ... (read more)

Report this review (#38502) | Posted by Zargus | Monday, July 4, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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