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Rick Wakeman

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Rick Wakeman Criminal Record album cover
3.81 | 290 ratings | 26 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1977

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Statue of Justice (6:20)
2. Crime of Passion (5:46)
3. Chamber of Horrors (6:40)
4. Birdman of Alcatraz (4:12)
5. The Breathalyser (3:51)
6. Judas Iscariot (12:15)

Total Time: 39:04

Line-up / Musicians

- Rick Wakeman / Steinway grand piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Moog & PolyMoog synths, organs (Hammond C3, Mander pipe, St. Martin church, Vevey), Birotron, harpsichord & electric harpsichord, Hohner clavinet, RMI computer keyboard, arranger & producer

- Chris Squire / bass (1-3)
- Alan White / drums (1-3)
- Frank Ricotti / percussion
- Bill Oddie / vocals (5)
- Ars Læta Choir of Lausanne / chorus (6) recorded at Église De Planches, Montreux
- Robert Mernoud / choir conductor

Releases information

ArtWork: Chuck Beeson (design) with Jim McCrary (photo) and Roland Young (Art Direction)

LP A&M Records ‎- AMLK 64660 (1977, Europe)

CD A&M Records ‎- D32Y3127 (1986, Japan)
CD A&M Records ‎- B0002885-02 (2006, US) Remastered by Gavin Lurssen

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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RICK WAKEMAN Criminal Record ratings distribution

(290 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (27%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

RICK WAKEMAN Criminal Record reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by daveconn
4 stars "Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record" was recorded during the sessions for YES' "Going for the One", which opened the door for the return of ALAN WHITE and CHRIS SQUIRE. They, along with percussionist FRANK RICOTTI, had last appeared on WAKEMAN's debut, "The Six Wives of Henry VIII", and in many ways this record is a return to the ennervated progressive rock arrangements of that album. The theme (and, with WAKEMAN, there's always a theme) is the history of the criminal justice system, from the pre-enlightened "Chamber of Horrors" to the modern-day "Breathalyser." At their best, these songs display WAKEMAN's notorious array of keyboard instruments: "Statue of Justice" employs eight different keyboards, "Crime of Passion" nine. The works are occasionally bombastic in their pursuit of prog rock's complexity, but fans of the genre aren't likely to mind. If tracks like "Statue of Justice" and "Chamber of Horrors" are guilty of excess, WAKEMAN is the perfect perpetrator, blending his keyboards with the clever rhythms of SQUIRE, WHITE and RICOTTI and implementing the artful turns that ensure things move briskly. There are a couple of sentimental songs at the piano, "Crime of Passion" and "Birdman of Alcatraz", that benefit from WAKEMAN's fancy flourishes, plus the orchestral "Judas Iscariot" (complete with a full choir and pipe organ) to exercise the keyboardist's serious side. Only the brief "Breathalyser", a pastiche of familiar themes that incorporates "Little Brown Jug" and includes an unfortunate vocal cameo from Bill Oddie, is dispensable. The connection between the songs and their subjects are pretty clear this time, including an appearance of WAKEMAN's macabre sense of humor on the reggae-tinged roller coaster interlude for "Chamber of Horrors."

While it's still a flashy affair, "Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record" is less ostentatious than anything since "Six Wives", allowing his keyboards to once again reclaim the spotlight. For many fans, this ranks among his most enjoyable work.

Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I was astonished to see how many albums of Wakeman ProgArchives collected so far! This guy even beats Zappa in number of releases, thus setting a real example of a hyperproduction! So the question is: how many of these albums are really worth hearing? I wonder is there any Wakeman fan owning a complete set? Now, about "Criminal Record" - it is not bad, it is still 70s era and prog masters are hanging around, trying to offer more ideas left over from the peak period of the genre and they usually fail. But here are two good compositions: "Statue of Justice" and "Judas Iscariot", opening and closing the album. The rest are uninventive keyboard play arounds, although "Breathalyser" is interesting blues-like number featuring vocals. I always preferred "Six Wives" or "Journey to Center of the Earth" to this one, which is listenable but really unimportant issue, while the Wakeman's overloaded catalogue makes it even less worth mentioning. For fans only.
Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When any normal fan was starting to loose his faith in Rick mostly because of the weak and ultra boring White Rock, the keyboard wizard surprised everybody with the wonderful "Criminal Record".

Not as pompous as Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Myths and Legends but almost as carefully elaborated as Six Wives of Henry the VIII, with the advantage of being much more descriptive without need of lyrics (Six Wives is a great album, but there's no relation between the music and the concept), Criminal Record is a mixture of everything Rick did before, the sordid atmosphere related with judicial affairs is perfectly achieved, and Wakeman plays with the listener going from excessive baroque tracks to softer ballads.

"Statue of Justice" is a powerful song and one of my favorites from this album, starts with a soft and mysterious piano that almost immediately changes with an explosion of violence and complexity hard to achieve, an excellent track where Wakeman proved why he is the best soloist of progressive Rock.

"Crime of Passion" somehow sounds more like a Classic Wakeman song, complex and elaborated, begins aggressive and haunting as if he was describing the jealousy (main element of a crime of passion) and lets himself go through contrasting sections that describe the steps of this crime, including the violence and later regret, excellent development. Squire and Alan White do an outstanding job in this track.

"Chamber of Horrors" is probably the only weak song; the music doesn't fit into the concept of a Chamber of Horrors, too fast and a terrible section that reminds more of a comedy, too light for the issue.

"Birdman of Alcatraz" is another extremely beautiful song where Rick plays the piano as the virtuoso he is, and shows the world his amazing skills, with a soft tune he tells the story of Robert Stroud, a violent pimp and murderer who had to be transferred of prison because of his violent behavior including stabbing a guard, but who also found peace observing birds and writing complete encyclopedias and veterinary works. Wakeman works more on the personality of the bird observer than in the criminal.

"The Breathalyzer", the only track with lyrics is a funny song that provides some humor before the dramatic closer, has a jazzy sound very pleasant, if you are waiting for anything serious may sound weak, but if you take it as a joke is a good track.

Judas Iscariot is a perfect closer, using the incredible Church organ of L'Eglise St. Martin, Vevey, recreates Bach's perfect baroque style with extreme strength that goes in crescendo, combines the dark atmosphere prevalent in the album with an almost angelical sound achieved with the help of the Ars Læta Choir of Lausanne, between the betrayal and regret there's no moment to rest and not a weak note, simply perfect

I believe nobody else except Rick Wakeman dared to make an album about criminals, traitors and horror with such beauty and perfection.

An excellent addition for any Prog' Collection and one of the last Wakeman masterpieces.

Review by loserboy
3 stars For me Rick WAKEMAN's solo work is often hit or miss but certainly "Journey and Six Wives" are pure classics and Rick landed something special with the release of "Criminal Record". Certainly the music contained on this album far exceeds the cheesie cover it is embarrassingly is adorned in. WAKEMAN recorded this album following his work with YES in 1977 on "Going for the One" and really catches him in a creative stratum. Rick is joined by fellow YES-men Chris Squire and Alan White who contribute some superb bass and drum interplay. Although this album is not as pompous as many of WAKEMAN's album he still does employ a wide range of keyboards including Grand Piano, Mini-Moog, Polymoog, Hammond C3 Organ, Birotron, Mander Pipe Organ, RMI Computer Keyboard, Harpsichord, Birotron, Fender Rhodes, Hohner Clavinet, Mander Pipe Organ, RMI, Mander Pipe Organ, Organ and Church Organ. The song writing on this album is also very strong with some breathtaking melodies and interludes. This is one of those albums that once you are roped into will sweep you away ands likely stay close to your hifi for eternity. The end result is an exceptional keyboard dominated prog rock album with that unique Rick WAKEMAN classical feel. Must also thank my pal Ken Baird for putting me onto this album of Rick's.
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This very progressive album is one of the best made by Rick Wakeman, the Yes' keyboardist. The album, as usual, is very keyboards oriented, although there are outstanding drums and bass parts too.

"Statue of justice" starts with an OUTSTANDING colorful piano solo, full of mid and bass frequencies; then, all the instruments embark to produce a pleasant, melodic and complex music: organ, moog, merging piano, modern keyboards, bass and drums; it is one of the best tracks from Wakeman, and it really has the Yes sound circa the "Going for the one" album, minus the absent guitars. The next track, "Crime of passion", still sounds like the "Going for the one" album, as reveals gentle church organ-like sound, piano and modern keyboards; the second part is more clinical & nervous: tons of moog and clavinet? produce pleasant and lively textures; the last part is a comeback to a more mellow and sentimental part, made of modern keyboards. The next track, "Chamber of horrors", is absolutely OUTSTANDING from beginning to the end: memorable piano, church organ-like notes, infernal modern keyboards parts: the keyboards form a nervous, clinical, complex and fully interlocking texture; the track is VERY progressive and structured; the bass is EXTREMELY melodic, complex and refined, especially in the end, and the drums are very elaborated. One must say that Alan White and Chris Squire are responsible of the excellent bass and drums on the first side of this record.

The side 2 is different, because White and Squire do not play on it; "Birdman of Alcatraz" is a superb lively piano performance: when the birds sounds appear, I suppose the piano style change gives a man the hope that he can really escape from Alcatraz. "Breathalizer" is a very well made funny song; the amazing thing is that Wakeman passes from a funny to a rather serious bit; the singer at the end sounds like a black man with a bad English accent. The last track "Judas Iscariot" is an epic church organ and choir performance: WOW! The only deplorable thing is the too loaded and flat sound: it is very hard for the speakers to drive all that music: indeed, the organ is absolutely powerful and monolithic, so that the piano and moog parts sound sissy. The numerous choir parts are majestic, and it gives a real church ambience. The combination church organ - choir at the end is totally APOCALYPTIC!


Review by Zitro
4 stars This is in my opinion Wakeman's 3rd best album, and I highly recommend this to any fan keyboard-driven compositions. Here, you can hear wakeman composing music darker than his usual compositions, yet putting a fun track and a pretty ballad for balance.

1. Statue of justice 7/10 : A good opener that sets the tone of the album. It is full of keyboard playing.

2. Crime of passion 8/10 : this track is stronger than Statue of Justice, and contains a great change from a pretty piano piece to a dark, heavy, and menacing sounding track.

3. Chamber of horrors 6/10 : The bass guitar work (from Squire) is pretty cool here, and the song is ok, yet it lacks the magic the album has. The keyboard solo in it is not for everyone, it sounds a little silly. The song ends with a powerful scream of terror from a girl.

4. Birdman of Alcatraz 10/10 : Probably my favourite piano solo piece of all times. I cannot exactly describe how beautiful this track is, and the amount of imagery it provides the listeners. It should be a classic on the classical music genre.

5. The breathalyser 7/10 : It is a fun track (that rocks!) and is finished with an amusing vocalist talking about getting arrested from alcohol intoxication while driving. The singer is really talented.

6. Judas Iscariot 10/10 : I think this is Wakeman's Finest work, and should be a classic in the Classical Music genre too. It combines church organ with keyboards to create a menacing atmosphere. The moods change often in this track, and sometimes with vocal choruses, it may sounds serene. The highlight of the track is when the moog synth takes over and plays one of the most inspired and best sounding moog solos I ever heard.

I highly recommend this album, especially for fans of classical music. Wakeman has never composed classical music of this quality.

Review by horza
3 stars I was 16 when I bought this album. Rick Wakeman was the keyboard player for my (then) favourite band. I had a leaflet from my local music shop which was all about the new polymoog,and when you opened it out it had a real-size picture of the polymoog's front. I used to lay this out and pretend I was the great man himself,playing all the tracks from 'Criminal Record'. Those were the days. Maybe I should have been out in the fresh air with my friends. I'm 43 now and feel that the one track which makes this album really worth listening to is 'Judas Iscariot'. Its totally over-the-top and overblown,but it still makes the hair stand on end in places. 'Birdman of Alcatraz' is excellent also. This album is also SO much better than his next effort that I bought 2 years later-'Rhapsodies'.That is one to leave well alone.
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars

It's a Crossroad for Mr. Wakeman

If you were there in the 70s, you might feel what I felt by the time this album was released. I got practically no information on when the album was planned to be released as at that time I got no connection to the world. Hello! This is 70s - there is no internet connection, of course. If there is, my English (I am sure) did not measure up to the development of rock music in the world. So when this album came out in the market I was not actually ready to accept it because by the time I was still quite "busy" with the bulk of great rock albums with Yes "Fragile", "Relayer", "Close To The Edge" and even "Tales From Topographic Ocean". And I was also still in love with Pink Floyd albums like "Dark Side of The Moon", "Wish You Were Here" or Genesis "Foxtrot", "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway", "Selling England By The Pound". Oh yeas, I was also in love with Rick's previous works "No earthly Connection", "The Myths and Legends of King Arthur", "The Six Wives of Henry VIII", "Journey To The Center of The Earth" and many more classic rock albums of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple etc.

So, what I did feel really was .. why another new album of Rick Wakeman? Why not giving me more time to digest great albums of rock that most of them were really great? My cassette player (Panasonic, mono) was so busy with great rock albums at that time. I already changed the motor of the cassette player twice and the head unit thrice. You can imagine how intensive I was listening to music at that time. Oh yeah, rock music has been in my blood since I was fourteen. But, what can I do? If I didn't buy it, I sould not sit down together with my colleague rock lovers to discuss recent development of rock music. So I purchased the cassette anyway. Man . this album astonished me at first spin!

1977 saw Rick Wakeman's decision to come back with Yes after his departure in 1974 due to his disagreement with the direction of "Tales From Topographic Ocean". With new album of Yes "Going For The One" Rick proved that he was still great to be part of Yes. During his comeback with the band he released this "Criminal Record" - an almost instrumental concept album.

The first track that blew me away at first listen was "Chamber of Horrors" (6:40). The opening part with melodic keyboard notes is so touchy and it continues with great flow of music composition blending dynamic keyboard as well as its accompanying music. I almost scream to death listening to the great music harmony with the helps of Wakeman's Yes colleagues Chris Squire (bass) and Alan White (drums). Oh man .. this is the kind of music that races my adrenalin. In terms of musical style, this song is in the similar vein with the groundbreaking "Six Wives" but Rick had indicated a sense of different music direction of his music. Talking abot this album, I practically only played this track repeatedly and only occasionally I played other tracks.

It does not seem that "Statue of justice" (6:20) or "Crime of passion" (5:46) are not a good composition. They seem to me like these are not representing Wakeman. But they are not bad at all. In fact, these tracks indicate a shifting point on how Rick intended to change his musical direction. He was in his crossroad asking which direction he would make with his music under-taking? "Birdman of Alcatraz (4:12), "The breathalyzer" (3:51) or even "Judas Iscariot" (12:15) are not bad track at all. I could only enjoy these tracks later.

Overall, this is an excellent addition to any prog music collection. There are songs with touchy music segments like "Chamber of Horrors", however, the rest of them do not truly send a "memorable" melody to many ears. But don't get me wrong, if you are really into prog music, you must have this legendary album. Keep on proggin' ..!

"If one does not know which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable."

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars While on the verge of officially reuniting his Yes partners for the second half of their 70s phase, the ever hard-working Rick Wakeman continued his solo venture. "Criminal Record" is one of his most typical albums, after the "White Rock" soundtrack and the cosmic rocker "No Earthl yConnnection". By typical I mean that you can notice from the very first second and all through the entire repertoire all the usual standards and mannerisms of Wakeman on grand piano, synthesizers and other keryboards. This is the time in which Wakeman was beginning to experiment with the massive textures of the Polymoog and the robust ambiences of the Birotron, and yo ucan tell that Wakeman is trigger happy with these new items: he enjoys the new found strength delievered by the new inhabitants in his keyboard arsenal. The album's first half finds this wizard exploring his most obviously bombastic facet, with 'Statue of Justice' and 'Chamber of Horrors' displaying a large amount of ornaments, splendid solos and demanding tempo shifts - the latter of these two is the one in which Wakeman's love for Baroque is more patent, leading to the impression of a major development of complexity, although one could reasonably argue that the former is more consistent as a piece of music. Anyway, both tracks are great examples of Wakeman's peculiar progressive vision. In the middle of the two, 'Crime of Passion' starts with a calmer mood on a featured piano, until the flashes of the synth solos arrives to fill the sonic landscape with a stylish-oriented scary atmosphere, in this way bringing a moderate contrast to the massive colorfulness of the previous and successive tracks. The album's second half finds Wakeman retreating to a more relaxed place. 'Birdman of Alcatraz' is a beautiful piano piece in which Wakeman prefers to explore his more reflective side: the motifs and chord progressions are performed with old-fashioned Waekmanesque elegance. 'The Breathalyser' is a funny number whose main merits lie on the combination of almost-Latin playfulness and bluesy farse: meant to serve as a funny interlude between the seriousness of tracks 4 and 6, the listener should just enjoy it in a simple disposition as Bill Oddie's sung narration at the end fades away. 'Judas Iscariot', perhaps the most famous criminal in The Bible, is the subject for the solemn 12-minute piece in which the pipe organ and the choir assume a main role. This track is quite majestic, although the listener has to be in the right mood in order to let themselves be captivated and not label it as an overlong piece of self-indulgent music. It is not such thing, since the main motifs are not abundant nor pyrotechnical: Wakeman really shows a very good taste at exploring the peculiarities of the pipe organ and develop musical themes from it in a most natural way. A great closer for a very good album - this "Criminal Record" stands as one of the most brilliant virtues in Wakeman's history.
Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Six more Wives

For me, this is when Wakeman's quality control started to go haywire. The success he had enjoyed taking various concepts and interpreting them musically, appears to have convinced him that all he had to do was knock out half a dozen or so tunes on his keyboards, and come up with a nominal concept to link them. With six tracks on the album, three on each side of the LP, Rick faced the challenge of finding another "Six" theme, the wives of Henry the eighth having been already spoken for. He therefore turned his attention to a loose theme of criminality and famous criminals. The inner sleeve contains lengthy narratives about what lies behind each of the pieces, plus details of 5 others who might have been used had the album been extended to two LPs. As with "Six wives", the music is simply instrumental performances by Wakeman, with no obvious links to the person or inanimate object nominated as the theme.

Perhaps expectations were too high for this album. Each preceding release had been innovative and different from the last. Here though, Rick takes a major step backwards, creating a facsimile of the "Six Wives" album. Unfortunately though, the actual compositions are not nearly as strong this time. Even with the Yes rhythm section (White and Squire) helping out on side one, the music is cold and often uninspired. The opening "Statue of justice" begins with rambling piano, then romps through various disconnected melodies played on various instruments. "Chamber of horrors" has a little more substance, but the theme changes are jarring and unsatisfactory. One minute we have a sedate church organ, the next we have a jaunty off key synth.

"The birdman of Alcatraz" which opens side two sounds like an outtake from the "Six wives" album, if only Henry had married one more time! "The breathalyser" is the oddity in more ways than one. It is of course a device used as part of the traffic law enforcement process. It is interesting reading the sleeve notes to reflect on how attitudes have changed towards drinking and driving since the notes were written. The track includes some ill advised vocals by Bill Oddie of the comedy trio The Goodies. Oddie by the way is in fact an accomplished singer and songwriter, try his song "Taking you back".

The album closes with the lengthy "Judas Iscariot", which in retrospect was an early indication of Wakeman's forthcoming religious awakening. The doomy church organ which opens the track is more reminiscent of the theme music from a horror movie. The parallels with "Six wives" relate not only to the dominant church organ, but also to the inclusion of an hymn theme.

The detailed sleeve notes, which strangely omit "Crime of passion" make for an interesting distraction from the music, but they can only gloss over the relative weaknesses temporarily. I say "relative weaknesses" since Rick is of course a highly talented musician and composer. By any standard, the musicianship here is unquestionably of a very high quality. It seems to me though that Rick was struggling for inspiration when he recorded this album, resulting in a Wakeman by the numbers release, devoid of emotion or passion.

At the time of its release my expectations were high; even now some 30 years later, the disappointment with what he came up with remains.

Review by Tom Ozric
4 stars Keyboardist extraordinaire Rick Wakeman has put out *lots* of solo albums, been involved in several bands and has done countless sessions for many artists - you could call him the world's busiest musician. His solo albums fluctuate between bombastic prog, pop, classical, easy-listening etc. - and that's from the dozen or so efforts I've heard from him. 'Criminal Record' from 1977, is one of his most exciting releases, and should be high on the list for lovers of progressive keyboard wizardry and fans of YES - the 3 tracks on side 1 feature that band's tight rhythm section of Chris Squire (Bass) and Alan White (drums), with Wakeman himself tackling mega- complex arrangements with boundless enthusiasm.

The quality of the pieces is fairly consistent, discounting 'The Breathalyser' - a quirky number with amusing vocals from none-other- than Bill Oddie (part of the classic comedy trio 'The Goodies - and what a bunch of whacky funsters they were). The song still demonstrates considerable chops from Rick, but not in a serious fashion. Serious comes in the form of the Pipe-Organ/Chorale dominated 'Judas Iscariot' (recalling Yes' 'Awaken'). 'Crime of Passion' is another Yes-like track. The album lacks certain qualities, such as 'warmth' and 'soul', but the flashy arrangements and pomp showmanship really are quite priceless. A highly recommended album, 4.5 stars.

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
5 stars Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record. Get it? Ha ha ha ha.

For the most part, this album is no laughing matter. While not as well known as what I consider the big three of Wakeman's '70's albums (The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, The Myths and Legends of King Arthur), I certainly rank this up there with them. Some might actually find this one better. Well there is that joke song on here, The Breathalyser. Joke songs seem to be the bane of many a progressive music fan, but I like the comic relief. "They took me down to the station. But I refused to give a blood test, so they went and took the urine out of me."

Squire and White are on board for the first three tracks, Statue Of Justice, Crime Of Passion, and Chamber Of Horrors. Keyboard dominated tracks for sure but not too far removed from the Yes album that came out that year, Going For The One. Rick does some nice solo piano for Birdman Of Alcatraz, which opens the second side of the LP, followed by the silly song. Capping the album off is Judas Iscarot. Just Rick with his keyboards, a large choir, and a church organ, which I can only imagine, is one of those monstrous ones. The choir makes a more than adequate substitute for a mellotron, I tell you what. A nice long musically intense piece.

Not an easy album to get a hold of when I started looking for a CD. I had to go for Japanese import. There is currently a limited edition remaster out there.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Criminal Record is another decent Rick Wakeman album and we all know that there aren't enough of those!

Although the album features a concept, I find it much to vague and, besides the ending of Chamber Of Horrors, the music here plays just as well without it. Rick Wakeman's performances on each of these six tracks are really great so I can understand why his fans consider it to be one of his career highlights. Unfortunately the last minute of The Breathalyser ruins my overall appreciation for the album. Sorry Bill Oddie, although I have great respect for you, this vocal contribution feels completely unnecessary and out of place here. Yes, you've probably understood that I'm not a fan of practical jokes especially the one's that have no place on an instrumental recoding of this sort.

Still, this little incident by no means makes Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record a bad album, on contrary I consider it to be his last great release. Judas Iscariot comes close to a great performance but the composition is a bit too long and probably overstays its welcome by about 4 minutes or so. I just can't rate it higher than the good, but non-essential rating it deserves.

**** star songs: Statue Of Justice (6:20) Crime Of Passion (5:46) Chamber Of Horrors (6:40) Birdman Of Alcatraz (4:12) Judas Iscariot (12:15)

*** star songs: The Breathalyser (3:51)

Review by tarkus1980
4 stars I know that I've only heard about a tenth of Rick Wakeman's solo career, and a smaller portion of the total solo careers of all the various Yes members, but if this isn't the best Rick Wakeman solo album (and the best Yes-related solo album) I'll be shocked. I mean, it is still an album of lengthy keyboard wanks, and as such it could never be one of my favorite albums of all time, but it's the only Rick Wakeman album that I can honestly say I enjoy from start to finish. I almost never find myself getting exhausted with the style, and it's the only Wakeman album I know (as of writing) where the music is as interesting throughout as solo Wakeman so often is in small quantities.

There's a loose concept in the album, about criminal justice and law and all that, but it's only reflected in the titles; this kinda makes it a throwback to Six Wives, full of instrumentals that could have been given any title in the world, but I really contend that the music on this album is better than the music on that supposed classic. One thing that doesn't strike me as coincidental is that this album came about during roughly the same period as the recording of Going for the One. I've long felt that Wakeman's work on that album is some of the best keyboard work in prog rock history, both in terms of the actual parts and in terms of the sonic pallette, and I feel like a lot of his inspiration from those sessions leaked into this album. Plus, there's a good chunk of work from Squire and White, and while they're not particularly notable on the album, they're recognizable, and it's nice to have them instead of the usual shlubs from Wakeman's typical backing band.

In the end, though, these are just nice songs. They're each filled with a variety of memorable themes and melodies, and there's an equal amount of variety in the keyboard choices. There are but six tracks, with only two around four minutes in length and the rest significantly longer, but they're all really nice. I actually find it very difficult to pick. A lot of times it's the opening "Statue of Justice," which has a lot of entertaining build into an incredibly lovely theme that I get stuck in my head all of the time. Sometimes it's the closing "Judas Iscariot," which is essentially Rick's own solo version of "Awaken," filled to the brim with moody church organ and a Swiss choir. Sure, it might almost be considered Bach for dummies, taking on the form and majesty of something from JS with only a fraction of the actual "sophistication" of something he'd have written, but it's still really enjoyable nonetheless. I'm also very fond of "Crime of Passion," which careens through all sorts of moods and features a marvelous "stereotypical" Wakeman passage on one of his synths. Good stuff.

Among the others, "The Breathalyzer (Policeman's Holiday)" is a fun relative throwaway, most notable for an amusing vocal part (the only one of the album, unless you count the wordless Swiss choir singing of the next track) about getting forced to pee in a cup after refusing to take a breathalyzer. "Chamber of Horrors" and "Birdman of Alcatraz" aren't as amazing as the highlights of the album, but they each have a small number of nice themes, and they fill out the album nicely.

In short, if you're really feeling the need to get a Rick Wakeman album, this is probably the place to start. It doesn't have a lot of the fame of the earlier albums, but that's largely because it lacks a lot of those albums' flaws. Plus, I'd even dare say that every serious Yes fan should have this album.

Review by kenethlevine
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.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Criminal Record is an album that scrapes by from being a disaster by the virtue of a few excellent moments, and even these are, in my opinion, largely due to the contributions of a couple of Wakeman's fellow Yes men. The other major good aspect of the album is the refined and tasteful piano playing. There are even a few amazing organ bits. But when Wakeman reaches for one of the smaller keyboards in his arsenal, that is usually when things crumble. Sometimes Wakeman's choice of tone is utterly laughable, and one can really hear the downward transition from Going for the One to Tormato in not only his choice of tone, but in numerous silly-sounding passages sprinkled throughout the record. I just cannot imagine that people think that sort of thing sounds good (although I admittedly quite like Tormato, many of the keyboard parts on that album do bug me).

"Statue of Justice" Brisk piano opens the album. Flashy synthesizer introduces the best part of the piece- incredible organ work with the solid rhythm section of Chris Squire and Alan White- one could indeed be fooled into thinking this was a hidden Yes tune.

"Crime of Passion" While the opener was full of energy, the second piece tapers off into gentle simplicity, and is again based on piano. A horrible descending run throws the music into some outlandish dark symphonic funk with quite a few synthesizer tones I can't stand. Frankly, nearly everything after the two-minute mark is a headache.

"Chamber of Horrors" Ethereal piano and synthesizer are met with overpowering chords. The quirky, almost Caribbean middle section is just ludicrous. The ending features classic Squire bass riffs and solid drumming from White.

"Birdman of Alcatraz" This is a quiet piano piece formed on a soft blanket of synthesizers.

"The Breathalyzer" Wakeman returns to the eccentric and preposterous keyboard tones here. The strength of the piece lies only in the piano passages. If only to capitalize on the silliness, the last bit consists of a bluesy narrative.

"Judas Iscariot" Cathedral organ, an instrument Wakeman excels at, largely makes up the final and longest piece of music. The entrance of piano and synthesizer demonstrates maturity and excellence. Ironically, it initially sounds like it could be a dark twin to some of the slower-moving passages from Tales from Topographic Oceans. However, the doom overstays its welcome, and becomes closer to music from a 1970s B-horror film. The choir and piano midway through are beautiful, however. While the piece fortunately lacks the folly of some of the other tracks, the music is overdone, too long, and regrettably doesn't really go anywhere.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars I liked this record back in the day. I like the clear, clean recording of Rick's pianos and I love his organ play--especially that majestic monster from Vevey. The accompaniment of Alan WHITE and Chris SQUIRE doesn't hurt, either. My favorite song--a song that rode with me for many miles of driving on several of my cassette collages--is "Birdman of Alcatraz" (4:17) (8/10)--though now it sounds a bit New Age. "Statue of Justice" (7/10) was a nice opener, displaying Rick's scaled down, clear sound choice for this album. "Chamber of Horrors" (6:41) (8/10) is very nice--tender and melodic when soft and not overly bombastic when loud. The television-like main theme of the "Crime of Passion" (8/10) is nice, engaging and the song gets going quite nicely, but the campy mid-section always turned me off. I know Rick is famous for his sense of humour, but "The Breathalyzer" (3:53) (7/10) was too much silliness for me. My current favorite would be "Judas Iscariot" (12:13) (9/10) because I have come to love the organ so much. (Back in the 70s I was not very open or sympathetic to it.) The Phantom of the Opera-like chord progressions in third minute over which Rick's synth and piano solo are wonderful. Then the use of choir voices in the mid-section is brilliant! The quiet sections before the wonderful climactic end are a bit long and meandering. But, overall, this is such a wonderful piece! An "epic" for the ages!

An album of solid playing and wonderful sound engineering, this is, IMHO, a collection of some of Rick's best compositions. So why is it so overlooked? I think it's because it came out at a time in which the whole progressive rock scene was being eclipsed. So, my recommendation is for you to go back and check this album out--if only to hear the wonderful "Judas Iscariot."

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Recently Iīve decided to take a look at some albums I missed in the 70īs, specially in the latter part of that decade], when I was a teenager and prog was completely out of fashion. Not that I had given up prog entirely, but since it was not that popular I could not rely upon borrowing from my friends like I used (Lps were costly and as a student, I was broke most of the time). And among all the prog acts Rick Wakeman was definitly the most unwanted then (overexposure and excess of pomp made him a specially easy target for critics, most of them utterly in love with the recently arrived punk movement). So I had little patience to hear his new works.

Now I regret that attitude, since both White Rock and Criminal Record were excellent symphonic prog CDs. Granted: they are not his best, but still excellent keyboard driven effords. Better than a lot of what was being made by other prog acts (remember ELPīs Love Beach?). With the lack of his trademark orchestral embelishment and a īrealīrock band to support and enhance those records, itīs easy to see both CDs as selfish, indulgent outlets, but they are clearly. In fact, I found myself listening to Criminal Record over and over again since last week. And I found it to be extremely pleasant. This mostly instrumental album (there is only one tracks that have lyrics on it) has some terrific Wakeman compositions. The fact that Yes rhythm section was around was a great help too (he recorded CR while Yes was cutting the classic Going For The One, hence the disposal of Alan White and Chris Squire to give a hand). Percussionist Frank Ricotti also added his talents os several tracks.

Although this album is far from being perfect, it displays terrific Wakemanīs songs like the frantic Statue Of Liberty, the poignantly simple The Birdman Of Alcatraz and the very insteresting Chamber Of Horrors. Even not so outstanding tracks like the whimsical blues of the Breathalyser have its charm and do not sound as out of place now as they may have done so in the past. Looking back is easy to see that the recordīs main problem is simply wrong timing. Maybe he could have made it a little better, maybe he should have included a little more instrumentation (that means, a guitar here and there), but still the songs are strong, the arrangements are tasteful and the perfomances are spotless. In all, a "too perfect" record in a time punk was the rule in the press and disco was in fashion for the masses. Still it stood well the test of time and Iīm glad I found it in time to fully appreciated.

If you like freat keyboard driven symphonic prog, donīt miss this one.

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars It is an album like this that makes a grizzled progoholic who still loves the old stuff moan with pleasure, grin with surprise and weep of days long past. The background of Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record is well-documented here and elsewhere, and it's no surprise it came out of the second period when members of Rick's "other band" were contributing to his solo work. All the better, as it shows once again how fundamental this genius's music and sound was to that hugely popular group. I also hear what sounds like a composer who knew the time and audience for his material was limited, and who took full advantage of that moment. I dare say this is one of Wakeman's finest hours.

The Steinway Grand delicately intros the first of six reflections on criminality and society's responses in 'Statue of Justice', swept up by Rick's killer Hammond C3 with perfect layers of Biotrons and Polymoogs gloriously ribboned throughout, trading frighteningly hot phrases in a conversation only this man could have with himself. It's all the band can do to keep up, and a fabulous first cut. A similar theme is drafted but slowed for 'Crime of Passion', up-tempo 'Chamber of Horrors', and tinkly 'Birdman of Alcatraz' foreshadows the Genesis '80s sound with some lofty if appropriate Liberace-rock. 'The Breathalyser' is a fine piece featuring plenty of bubbly synths and a funny blues vocal, topped by the spectacular twelve-minute 'Judas Iscariot' with an immense church organ and all its enormous Phantom of the Opera atmosphere and references. Delicious, and deserves to sit proudly in every vintage prog fan's collection.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars The most criminal aspect of this gem of an album by Rick Wakeman is that CD versions have always been so rare. As far as I know, there have been very few digital pressings of this album, and they now go for more than I am willing to pay. Nevertheless, I am happy to own a well worn copy of the LP, purchased the day it was released. In my opinion, as Wakeman albums go, this one is second only to "The Six Wives of Henry VIII".

The album was released in the same year as Yes' "Going For The One", and Wakeman uses a somewhat similar style on the show piece Judas Iscariot, a twelve minute track that closes the album. He takes a very simple line and builds it up into a work of wonder.

The remainder of the album has songs with titles that say they are themed around crime, criminals and punishment. While the music throughout is great, Wakeman belies that theme by throwing is whimsical passages, like a sound reminiscent of a carnival calliope, and an Emersonesque quote of the childrens' song Little Red Wagon.

Whimsy aside, Wakeman is at the top of his game here, where even the lighter romantic piano pieces manage to ascend to greatness.

So ignore the sort of cheesy album cover, and listen.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
3 stars I missed White Rock for some strange reason. I have seen that album in the shops several times but its sleeve design failed to interest me even with the name of this master of keys on it, and I still haven't heard it.

I went directly for this Criminal Records, instead. Also this has a quite bad sleeve design that's also misleading because there's not plenty of grand piano inside, in the sense that there are many other keys, too. Coming from the excellent "No Earthly Connection" I remember to having been a bit disappointed for the absence of lyrics, except for the grotesque blues of Breathalyser, but this album didn't take too long to grow.

Grand piano is the lead instrument in the intro of "Statue Of Justice"., an intro which unexpectedly sounds very close to the Emerson's style, but when the keyboards are in, with more or less the sounds of "Going For The One", it's clear that the "Master of Keys" is back in all his splendour. This first track has some folk background which gives it a feeling similar to that of Six Wives, but it's more solar.

"Crime Of Passion", after the piano intro, is very melodic and sounds similar to Wonderous Stories with sounds which are a Wakeman's trademark. Then it becomes darker for a while. A blues remind and a medieval interlude to return to the initial theme followed by a piano coda.

Last track of side "A" (I have it in vinyl) is "Chamber Of Horrors". Not as dark as the title, is my favorite on this album. It's probably the only Wakeman's track that I've really tried to play on an organ (I'm surely not a keyboardist), that means that's easy enough, even on the fastest parts. Luckily I have never attempted a live performance of it. I remember I was very satisfied of Side A, especially for this track.

The B side is opened by a nice melodic piano piece. I remember a sad movie about the "Birdman of Alcatraz",however this music is sweet, not sad. Probably the first Wakeman's composition which can be considered borderline with newage.

The short "Breathalyser" is mainly a joke. After an initial part which is uptime it falls into a blues sung by some "Bill Oddie", likely a pseudonym (from Odd, I think. An Odd Bill ?). NOTE: I've been informed that Bill Oddie is a comedian, not a pseudonym. Apologies to him. It's a pity because I thought the joke on his name was nice.

At the end of the album the church organ of "Judas Iscariot" is a return to the pretentious and pompous sounds of Journey and of Myths. At about minute 4 the chords remind to Pink Floyd's Echoes for just a while, then a female choir reminds us about Journey, before moving to more relaxing soundscapes of piano and vocals, then it's back to the initial theme enriched by a choir this time. The coda is possibly too long even with the "grand" finale..

It's an album that I love, but I'm personally not comfortable in rating it more than 3 stars.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars It's now 1977, and Rick Wakeman has rejoined Yes and was recording "Going for the One" with them, but he also was working on a new idea for a solo album. Instead of working on them both, he waited for "Going for the One" to be released before diving in to a new album for A&M Records. While visiting a pub together with Chris Squire, Wakeman mentioned he was considering a new loosely-based concept album about criminality and that he wanted to go a different route with this one. He wanted it to be more of a "band" album than a large scale album and that, instead of creating an album where all the parts are recorded and then he fits in all of the keyboard parts around the music that he wanted to record his parts first and let the other instruments fill in later. Bingo! Rick actually hit his biggest issue right on the nose with this one and it is evidenced in the album. This was a return to how he recorded "Six Wives of Henry VIII" and in my opinion, this was the smartest thing he could have done. Six Wives was probably Wakeman's best solo album up to this date, and "Criminal Record" would reflect that focus with what I consider another one of Wakeman's best solo albums.

Both Squire and Alan White would play on this new record on side 1. He told them just to record whatever they wanted on top of his keyboard parts which were already laid down and he stayed away from the studio when they played their parts. The record company hated the record because it was not what they expected. But, fortunately, they released it and it would end up charting in the UK, the US, Norway and Australia. Frank Ricotti was also on board to record percussion on the same three songs as Squire and White and also on "Judas Iscariot". A comedian, Bill Oddie recorded a vocal section for the song "The Breathalyser" and Wakeman played everything else.

This album, to me, is the warmest and most focused album of all of Wakeman's album, and in my opinion, is underrated. It seems to be forgotten as it isn't a major concept with full orchestra's, choirs and over-the-top production. It seems a lot more personal and heartfelt. "Statue of Justice", "Crime of Passion" and "Chamber of Horrors" are excellent tracks each with their own personalities, and they sound like a full band with a lot of keyboard action going on, which is exactly what Wakeman wanted. In fact, it's hard to tell that the parts were recorded separately because the sound is so tight. Even as good as this side is, the two best tracks are on side two. "Birdman of Alcatraz" is mostly a piano solo with some effects and such. This is the most beautiful track Wakeman that I have ever heard from Wakeman as his piano just flows along so seamlessly. I don't know if there are separate layers, I tend to suspect there are a few places that are recorded separately because you would have to have four hands to play it all so smoothly. The arpeggios flow around the main melody so wonderfully that it can take your breath away.

"Judas Iscariot" is the other jewel on the album, and at plus 12 minutes, also the longest. This is Rick's real masterwork. The main instrument throughout this piece is the church organ, which is everything you want an organ-led instrument to sound like. Absolutely stunning, moving and dramatic all at the same time. Wakeman also features the Moog synthesizer which fits in so well with the music. Various other synths are used sparingly, but percussion is used and the Ars Laeta Choir is also utilized. Everything just fits together so well on this, which is more than one can say on a consistent basis with Rick's more popular and bombastic works. It does no justice to try to describe this amazing track, it must be heard to be believed. If you only hear one thing by Wakeman, you should make it this track.

This is one album that I enjoy from beginning to end from Wakeman (except for the short, silly vocal part on "The Breathalyser") and one that I would easily rate with 5 stars. Why this one seems to get passed on in comparison with his more popular works is beyond me. This one is just seems more like what a solo album should sound like, emphasis on the solo artist with great support from guest musicians. In most of his earlier albums, you feel like the star is the orchestra and other performers and that the keyboards are almost there as a support instrument. Not on this album, however. To me, it is his personal masterpiece.

Latest members reviews

4 stars I've already said that anything Rick does is interesting to me, and this is no exception. It's true that my complaints about his compositional skills are more justified than ever here, much of what happens is little more than a tubular bells kind of jamming with himself. But it still has its m ... (read more)

Report this review (#437144) | Posted by giselle | Thursday, April 21, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I bought this album on LP in a shop in 'IJmuiden', for only 1 euro. As a drummer, I think the best song on this album is the song with no drums on it. Judas Iscariot, which is really a masterpiece. I listened the whole dynamic piece on my dad's HiFi stereo installation, which is an extroadinary ... (read more)

Report this review (#174584) | Posted by Foolsdrummer | Friday, June 20, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Difficult to get hold of now, this album was produced shortly after the release of "Going for the One" and Wakeman sounds revitalised here. The church organ used on "Judas Iscariot" is the same as "Awaken"; the style is similar to "Six Wives", all instrumental, except for the joke track, "The ... (read more)

Report this review (#72170) | Posted by Phil | Friday, March 17, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars In any form of music, nothing beats melodies. This album has the highest ammo in terms of melody-- and Rick is non-stop here in that term. This is definetly Rick's best. The opening track Statue of justice kicks with an unpredictable style and Chamber of Horrors, contrary to its title, is the mo ... (read more)

Report this review (#50688) | Posted by Sharier | Saturday, October 8, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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