Rick Wakeman Reviews

Also see: Strawbs ~ Yes

Bookmarks: Return to the Centre of the Earth ~ Voyage ~ White Rock 2 ~ G'ol 

From: Mark Fonda
Another CD you might want to check out is Rick Wakeman's '2000 A.D. Into the Future' (1991). Most of Rick's solo output (except the classic 'Six Wives of Henry VIII') has been mediocre at best (IMHO), however this recording is very strong. It's consistently good throughout, displaying the keyboard virtuosity we all know Rick is capable of. It's very upbeat, clean and modern sounding... it's a little 'new agey', but more powerful.  Highly recommended.

From: Jeff Marx
Rick Wakeman is an enigma, no question about it. From "Six Wives" to the present day, he has released some 50 albums, the newest(1998) titled "Themes."  He has more pure keyboard ability than anyone I've ever heard (outside classical), but he is also very very hit or miss as a composer. With Wakeman, it's good to know what you're getting in advance or you can get burned--as I have several times! For the sake of argument, let's say that releases such as Six Wives, 2000 A.D., Journey-ttCot-Earth, and White Rock rate as his best and give them all *10.* Now for Wakeman with Wakeman & Classic Tracks. I must mention Rick's keyboard-playing philosophy on both CDs; he uses digital keyboards exclusively. He uses several patches that emulate a mix of sawtooth moog lines with a crunchy guitar sound that has feedback, as well as a couple that simulate square-tooth lead sounds (not quite a moog!), When he plays solo, he features these type of sounds quite a bit. Of course there's lots of brass, string, special f/x and hammond sounds as well. Wakeman with Wakeman: The Official Bootleg, is a 2-CD collaboration by Rick and son Adam (Adam is quite talented on keys, but not quite as good as Dad), culled from live shows from 1993. The band features dual keys, percussion and bass--all instrumental. The tracks; "Lure of the Wild" from the studio album Wakeman with Wakeman(1992); nice mixture of hammond and lead lines. "Catherine Howard" and Catherine Parr" from Six Wives; Rick captures the essence of the pieces but the digital keyboards don't quite capture the true emotions of the originals. Lush sound, fantastic solos, and lots of different textures save the day. "Past and Present" features Adam wailing on hammond patch and lead lines mixing his style with his father's-an excellent cut. "Eleanor Rigby" and "Paint it Black" are both wild covers of the originals. Superb solo duels from father and son, featuring highly original arrangements. They do a 12-minute medley from "Arthur" (no "Merlin") which opens and closes very strong, but gets a little slow in the middle-the weakest cut on the album. "Journey is a marvelous 38-minute joyride of instrumental bliss. Sounding very rich and symphonic, with Rick and Adam using both hands alot to get lots of background/foreground wall of keyboard sound. All the highpoints of the piece are covered-lead lines substituting for the vocals. A truly new, fresh-sounding version, one I'm glad to have. Overall the quality of the playing is superb, better soloing for extended periods is hard to find anywhere. An analog keyboard or two would rate it a 9. I give it a...7.5, it's a worthy live document. Classic Tracks(also 1993-busy year!) features dual keyboardists, a good prog-metal guitarist, a background guitarist and percussion. Like the above, this is a soloing tour-de-force. Unlike the above it's between keyboards and guitar. They do Journey to the Centre of the Earth (31:55). Good vocals, and a digital keyboard(Korgs and Kurzweil K-2000's) wall of sound really shred this version.  It's a symphonic blend of classic Wakeman pyrotechnics with prog-metal...cooking along with nary a misstep. I rate this version slightly better than the one above. Then they go and do the same wonderful things to Catherine Howard (9:15) and Merlin the Magician(6:45). In 1990 or '91, Rick added vocals to Merlin. I don't know why really...strange. But the keyboard work is so stunning that it doesn't matter. Ricks hand-speed has gotten faster over the years, it's an amazing thing. One would think the opposite would occur, but that is not the case on either of these albums. If you like fast, complex keyboard and guitar work set to re-worked versions of Wakeman classics, buy it. Classic Tracks gets a 9 from me. 

From: "Jeff Marx" <>
Andrew, have you checked out any of the following 90's Wakeman releases? "Country Airs'" IMHO the best of his three 'new age-ier' "Airs" releases. 14 beautiful piano tracks with great virtuosity. Recorded in the 80's it was re-recorded in 92 with 4 additional tracks. "Classical Connection" and Classical Connection 2" which are a mix of piano/bass, piano, and some synth versions of Wakeman works spanning the 70's, 80's and 90's. Both are superb and contain some little-known, but well-scripted compositions. "The Piano Album from 1995 is his live "piano tour" from 1994 and features solo piano tracks such as "Wondrous Stories'", "Space Oddity", "Merlin," "And You and I," among others. And from 1995, "Almost Live in Europe," which is a live album from 1991 with Rick on 9 or 10 synths with bass/drums/vocals/some guitar parts, with lots of classic stuff reworked in a nice tight way.

From: "Jeff Marx" <>
> Any feedback on 'Cirque Surreal'? I hear it's quite good.
Cirque Surreal is indeed pretty good, though I would stop B-4 calling it great. It features tracks devoted to accompanying circus acts of Cirque Surreal (naturally Jeff!!), with vocals (from talented vocalist Chrissie Hammond) on several. Rick plays many and varied synth leads on just about all tracks and there are a good variety of musical styles addressed here.
> I picked up '1984' and 'Cost of Living' for very cheap the other day. The former has some really good stuff on it, excepting some of the lame vocal cuts, but 'Cost' is awful, dreadful.
"Cost" has to be the absolute worst album Rick has ever done IMHO, even worse than "In the Beginning" which is a pathetic affair, with Rick's wife Nina reading from the bible (Genesis) while Rick plays boring new-agey string synth behind it!
> Too bad 'Criminal Record' is OP, I hear that's some of Rick's best work, whether solo or with Yes.
"Criminal Record" was printed as a Japanese import CD (A&M Records D32Y3127) a few years back and is without question one of Rick's best...all instrumental with a dizzying array of analog synths and highly imaginative voicings, as well as hammond organ. Originally recorded in 1977, it's almost impossible to find now, but snap it up in a nanosecond if you ever see it :)

From: "upnsm0ke" <>
> "Cost" has to be the absolute worst album Rick has ever done IMHO..., even worse than "In the Beginning" which is a pathetic affair, with Rick's wife Nina reading from the bible (Genesis) while Rick plays boring new-agey string synth behind it!
I remember that one. It was actually reviewed in Keyboard and the exact same thing was said about it, to a tee. I even liked "War Games" (on '1984') with vocals by <> Chaka Khan. "Overture Pts. 1-2," & "The Room (Brainwash) Pts. 1-2" are pretty damn good. I have yet to find a Wakey release (excepting the elusive 'Criminal Record,' of course) that I'll like as much as '2000 A.D." Weren't the 'African Bach' and 'Sun' trilogy albums supposed to be revved-up prog-rock fare?

From: "Andrew J. Rozsa" <>
I am not sure why...perhaps out of expectation...but I was really bored with 'Airs.' I guess I was expecting the kind of virtuoso play and rich sound I heard on 'The Wives of Henry the VIII" and much of the stuff just before and just after that era.... You know how one's ears are 'set' for a sound and when it doesn't happen quite the way you expected it, you are disappointed. Unfortunately, I never gave it a second listen and traded it away soon after I got it. I haven't dared get anything else for fear of being disappointed... guess I like to keep my 'gods' on a pedestal. :-)
'African Bach' is the one that set my teeth on edge. I disliked it intensely. I think that I let my son use it as a Frisbee with the dog...but if I do see it in some pile, I'll make sure to mail it to you, post-paid. :-). You just gonna hafta rub off the teeth marks.... should play just as awfully to you as it did to me...

From: "Jeff Marx" <>
> And I found a copy of Wakeman & Wakeman: Live Official Bootleg...Hallelujah!
Good score--haven't seen many copies of that floating around these days!  A helluva keyboard shred-fest by Rick & Adam...has enough instrumental bliss for even the most discriminating taste.  I like the way Rick has arranged Eleanor Rigby, and the instrumental JttCotE is mighty as well.  Have a nice ride...

From: Nick Zales <>
I've has this live "official bootleg" for a while. It is good, but not nearly as good as the actual tour the album comes from. Gone are the really cool solos, duels and jams between Rick & Adam. While worth buying, W & W is nothing special. If you like Rick get Six Wives or his new Return to the Centre of the Earth.

From: "upnsm0ke"
> From: "Jeff Marx"
> np: Wakeman w/ Wakeman -- TOB...Rick at about the absolute pinnacle of his technical skills...amazing when you think of his age when it was recorded.
The only downside to getting The Official Bootleg is...now that I have it, I probably won't be reaching for Classic Tracks :)

From: "Jeff Marx" <>
> I just picked up Wakeman's "Classical Connection 2" cd - it's actually quite nice, although varied, with no real cohesive "scope". Features Squire, Howe and Bruford also! Anyone heard this disc? Or CC 1? How does it compare?
Well, if you enjoy CC2, and like Wakeman's 'classic' tracks, then you should pick up CC1 as well.  CC1's tracks are made up almost entirely of piano, synth strings, and bass guitar. The tracklist for CC1 includes Merlin, Catherine of Aragon, Catherine Howard, a medley from 1984, After the Ball, Gone But Not Forgotten and a few others.  Overall CC1 has a quieter, more restrained sound than CC2.

From: "Jeff Marx" <>                        (back to top)
This might be an interesting place to visit if you're into Rick Wakeman and the new album Return to the Centre of the Earth; which should play in RealAudio by Sunday sometime if I understand it correctly at this site; http://www.angelfire.com/mb/TheMusicalBox/

From: "Andrew J. Rozsa" <>
....and those of you who are unbelievers, listen to RTTCOTE at: http://www.rwcc.com/return/index.htm
If you have IE5.0 with RealAudio G2 Plus enhanced with that Q thing, it will come on without you having to do anything and in CD quality surround-sound. :-)) oh...how I missed this sucker's GOOD music.... listening to it right now and I have goose-pimples..... it's THAT good....made my month!! :-))

From: "Jeff Marx" <>
RTTCOTE arrived in my greedy little hands on Saturday so I spent the whole weekend spinning it and thought I'd share this review I just posted onto my humble little website.   It's long...you are warned. Rick Wakeman revisits hallowed ground for himself and his legions of fans world-wide in his mammoth, 77-minute work  for orchestra, choir, and rock ensemble; "Return to the Centre of the Earth".   So should fans expect a simple rehashing of the story and musical structures of his original "Journey to the Centre of the Earth," from 1974?  In a word, no.  Gone are the flourishes of warm mini-moog and analog white noise sweeps; in their place is a mind-blowing symphonic sound featuring the best that today's digital world has to offer.
In this big-budget 'sequel,' Wakeman has outdone himself in terms of weaving together a musical and narrative story; composing all the music, lyrics and narratives himself;   inspired by the original Jules Verne novel.  Wakeman's story jumps foward two centuries from the original, as three "geologian explorers" attempt to emulate the original 'journey' of Professor Lindenbrook and his two companions.  It is told through 11 sections of narration by the formidable Patrick Stewart and his "voice to die for."  I can't think of a better choice to tell this story!   The narratives, with enormous and varied symphonic backing from the London Symphony Orchestra and English Chamber Choir convey a much deeper storyline than the original, and serve as bridges to the 11 major musical tracks.  It is the fusing of these narratives and their own strong musical themes, with the progrock vocal and instrumental pieces that they bridge together, that defines this album as a true Wakeman masterwork.
So what to expect besides stirring narratives from Patrick Stewart?  The most striking aspect of the music throughout is the tremendous role given to the LSO and the Choir, they consistently create a huge wall-of-sound that fully complements the playing of the progrock musicians.  The orchestral and choral elements are taken further than Rick has ever taken them before in a concept album.  One could almost call this the "Return Symphony!"  
What else do we have here...how about Ozzy Osbourne backed by orchestra in metal-riff mode along with the choir in "Buried Alive?"  Rick really lets the orchestral strings and brass shine in a tremendous wall-of-sound, as well as letting them rip some inspired section-soloing to join his own flying-fingered Korg solo near the end of the piece.  This is tremendous stuff, Ozzy fits in perfectly here, I only wish Rick had let him sing another piece or two.
Rick's finest playing of the album thus far comes on the magical instrumental, "Dance of a Thousand Lights."  This is a sensational piece for piano and orchestra, with Rick providing some nimble and spirited piano work that evokes memories of his best playing on "1984" and his "Classical Connection" albums.  Again, the string's group together and do a fast run of their own over rick's main theme...outstanding!
Patrick Stewart reintroduces us to the 12-foot-tall "Shepherd," still watching over his flock of prehistoric creatures amidst the dense foliage of the Forest.   Punctuated by some fine minimoog bass notes, "Mr. Slow" features Tony Mitchell's vocals as the lumbering giant in this 'haunting' orchestral/choral ballad.
Soon Trevor Rabin takes over the vocal and guitar duties in "Never is a Long, Long Time," featuring nifty guitar work and lot's of up-tempo interplay between orchestra and choir. "The Kill" features a good amount of Wakeman soloing throughout the first half. The Choir then gets to handle some vocals, followed by more flashy Wakeman speed on the analog keys.  It doesn't get much better than this!
Well...we also have guest vocal appearences from Justin Heyward, Bonnie Tyler, and Katrina Leskanich, as the pace quickens toward the "End of the Return".  Suffice to say that there are loads of high points in the playing from Rick and the gang as the story comes to it's volatile conclusion.
This album takes many playings to completely realize it's full depth; there's just so much here to listen to.  It took two or three spinnings for me to begin to truly appreciate it...don't judge it on your first listen! The production is absolutely top-notch and lovely to behold through both speakers and headphones.
So do I have any gripes with this colossus?  Yup.  First off, Rick's playing is often mixed too far back for my enjoyment.   I realize he wanted to be a part of the integrated whole, but his playing is excellent, so get it a bit further out in front!   And I wish there had been a little more of it as well!   I would have suggested using more of the minimoog for his soloing, as he often blends in a little too closely with the orchestra's own voices (although the clarity of the digital synth patches can't be denied).  I also would have preferred seeing his long-time vocalist Chrissie Hammond in on this, perhaps in place of Bonnie Tyler and Katrina Leskanich, as I think she has the best voice of the three.
I'll pass on comparing it overly much to his analog epics of the seventies, that was a far different time with it's own pluses and minuses.  I certainly think it belongs in the same league with "Journey," "Arthur," "Six Wives," etc.   I don't know of many composer/musicians that could have pulled off such a monumental feat, especially 25 years after his first 'Journey.'  Just run out and buy it when it hits retail in your part of the world, and play it loud!

From: "Andrew J. Rozsa"                (back to top)
Sure as hell I did not expect the world from this album...but went with the hype... after years of disappointments with Rick Wakeman's music, I was hoping.... all this is IMO...natch.... remember that bit of razzle-dazzle we could all heard on the RTTCOTE Web promo page?...well THAT'S IT!..for tthe WHOLE album... that's the only track (OK, there may be a couple of others) that met my expectations.... the rest... lemme put it this way: if I want to hear the bloody London Symphony or the English Chamber Choir.... I go to the symphony, OK? Although, I must admit, Friday night's Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 and his Symphony No. 5 at the Alabama Symphony Orchestra sounded awfully light... I must have been listening to some heavy stuff lately, I guess...but I digress...I am just as disappointed as I was when I heard African Bach and some other utterly forgettable albums... this one is mushy, big (but not even bombastic, just pompous), replete with cliches... oh, yeah...and another thing...if I want to listen to Picard ...ahmean, Patrick Stewart (who has a wonderful voice) I just watch StarTrek, or whatever it's called nowadays. Skip the odd-numbered tracks, unless you are heavily into narration. :-( I am trying to bring back to my memory some memorable parts...but I can't remember any... I'll be listening to it again when my wife wants to hear it...but I am already cringing at the thought.... Luckily, afterwards I could wash our my ears with some delicious Rudess Morgenstein Project... now we are talking soul and technique....wow! If I could only get hold of a copy of Criminal Record on a CD-R, I might forgive Rick Wakeman.

From: "Mark Fonda" <>                                    
Anyone seen this one yet? (available at http://www.groove.nl/ )
WAKEMAN, RICK & FASCIANO, MARIO - STELLA BIANCA ALLA CORTE DI RE FERDINANDO
An incredible album, typically italian, or rather neapolitan, for two big artists:
Rick Wakeman and Mario Fasciano meet in order to create a series of solar and delicate songs, characterized by the vague eighteenth-century savoir, and by the wise mixture of the neapolitan taste and the english technique of the Strawbs' and YES' former member. All the pieces have been written and performed (for the musical part) by Rick Wakeman and Mario Fasciano, while the highly valuable texts, are signed by Mario Castelnuovo, M. Mazzola, Francesco di Giacomo (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso's singer). In addition, Rodolfo Maltese of the Banco del Mutuo Soccorso plays the guitar. A coloured 16 page booklet is also contained with full lyrics of the songs in neapolitan, italian and english, together with some wonderful drawings that illustrate the 8 songs. This album is absolutely peculiar regarding the songs and the artistic accomplishment: unfailing for those who love Rick Wakeman of the "Six Wives of Henry VIII" and the wonderful neapolitan atmosphere created by the voice of Mario Fasciano. (1999 Press info)

From: all4rains@webtv.net (Brett Rains)
Gotta' go with Wakey's "Criminal Record" here....great stuff. Recently had the pleasure of getting a cassette copy of this out-of-print gem (thanks again, Jeff), & I play it constantly. Rick needs to do another one of these....it's criminal that it hasn't been rereleased on cd!

From: Denis Torres <>
So far,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,White rock = Never released on CD.. only 2 tracks from it on VOYAGE which is a double cd compilation From Rick Wakeman......

From: Jeff Marx <>
Sorry to contradict Denis, but Voyage has 4 tracks from White Rock; Theme from WR, Searching for Gold, After the Ball, and Ice Run...about half the WR album.

From: Denis Torres <>
YES Voyage is THe Best compilation of Rick Wakeman.....

From: "Casey Van Tieghem" <>
> White Rock 2 (?!!) : I saw this one at CDuniverse website. What is it? Anyone knows?
That is a mostly instrumental Wakeman album. It was the soundtrack for some Winter games. The title track, and some other tracks in my opinion are some of his best moments. What I like about White Rock is that it's not bogged down by an army of musicians. It's just Rick and Tony Fernandez on drums IIRC. Even the bass is synthesizer. And there is no singer to get used to. Some really great moog solos too. It's very good. For some reason I don't hear much praise for it from Yes and Wakeman fans, but I loved it. I originally bought a single of just White Rock for 1.00, and I liked that song so much I immediately bought the album. It's also pretty imaginative with much experimentation with the moog. Actually it sounds like ground breaking work for Rick. I would say it's essential if you are really into the Mini Moog sound. White Rock is Rick's equivalent to Emerson's Hoedown, but much more light hearted if you can imagine that. I have always been exhilarated by watching the long ski jump, and part of White Rock really brings back that exhilaration.

From: Jeff Marx <>
> Voyage : Is this compilation a good one?
Yes, it's very good, since several of the albums from which this material is drawn (White Rock, Criminal Record, Rhapsodies, No Earthly Connection) are currently (and probably forever) out of print. So you get some great Wakey stuff remastered and on CD that is difficult to find except for lots of money on eBay. Also on this compilation is all of "Journey," remastered, and much of "Six Wives" and "Arthur."
> White Rock 2 (?!!) : I saw this one at CDuniverse website. What is it? Anyone knows?
Written two years ago, but only just recently released, this is a decent "sequel" of sorts to WR, there is a mix of digital and analog synths (minimoog). Can't compare to the original though. If you're a Wakeman fan you should pick it up.

From: "Mark Fonda" <>                                (back to top)
This was in the recent issue of the Yes Newsletter 'Notes From The Edge' #218. Anyone know of, or ever hear Wakeman's "G'OL" (Gole) album??
WAKEMAN'S GOLE from NFTE #216
From: "craducan@home.com" "Constantin Raducan"
I am a fan of Yes and Rick Wakeman and I am Looking to find this tile on CD format or tape or L.P. (vinyl): Rick Wakeman-World Cup Argentina.(1986?) I would appreciate if you can help me to find to order or buy it.
Dear Constantin and NFTE enthusiasts: The LP your are searching for is... GOLE (G'OL!) [1983] Charisma Records The Official Film of the 1982 World Cup, in Spain. Side 1: International Flag [2'12"] The Dove (Opening Ceremony) [2'36"] Wayward Spirit [3'20"] Latin Reel (Theme from G'ol) [2'44"] Red Island [5'04"] Spanish Holiday [2'43"] Side 2: No Possibla [2'54"] Shadows [3'38"] Black Pearls [2'52"] Frustration [3'10"] Spanish Montage [2'46"] G'ol [2'54"] Rick: keyboards (obviously), Jackie McAuley: acc. guitars, Mitch Dalton: acc. guitars also, Tony Fernandez: drums. An *excellent* album.

From: Martin Kornick <>
Yuppers, I always liked that one. One of his better soundtracks, many tracks tend to be quite humorous and melodic, more in the vein of White Rock. I think Rick stopped drinking shortly after this record and slipped into quite new age. Gole has never been on CD. Probably never will.

From: "Lanzarini" <> Subject: RE: Wakeman in Canada Hi Pete He was with a GREAT band: Tony Fernandez (Drums), Adam Wakeman (Keys), Lee Pomeroy (Bass) - pay attention in this guy - Damian Wilson (Vocals) - He wins Classic Rock Society Prize 4 times - and the guitarist I could not remember the name, but he is fantastic also. Songs from Six Wives (2) one it was sure Catherine of Aragon, King Arthur... (3), 1984 (2, one of them was Hymn), Ride of Your Lives, Never Was a Long, Long Time, Buried Alive (from Return), Pedra da Gavea (from Rhapsodies), Journey to the Centre... (short version with parts of all songs), similar with the CD Greatest Hits and a new one called The Phantom. Probably a new CD with this line up will record a CD. Don't loose this show! :) Hope this helps!

From: "Surjorimba Suroto" <> Subject: Phantom Power & Cost of Living
When Rick Wakeman visited us, he mentioned about his solo albums called Phantom Power & Cost of Living. I searched everywhere looking for reviews but none to be found. The only review I found was in RWCC and I'm not ssatisfied with the reviews. Can anybody comment on those albums? Is it in the 70's RW or RW's new age or other?

From: "Jeff Marx" <> Subject: Re: Phantom Power & Cost of Living
Suryo, The RWCC reviews pretty much tell the tale... "Cost of Living" is a truly retched album from the early 80's...ghastly vocals, with infrequent instrumental highlights, ending with a long poem put to a background of flat, new age music. For Wakeman completists only. "Phantom Power" is from the early 90's if memory serves, with vocals from Ashley Holt, Chrissie Hammond, and Ramon Remedios. Quite ordinary & mediocre, the album's done in Wakeman's new age/easy rock w/vocals format. I haven't listened to it since the first week I bought it.

From: "Surjorimba Suroto" <> Subject: Re: Phantom Power & Cost of Living
Jeff Marx wrote: >The RWCC reviews pretty much tell the tale...
Actually I'm looking for opinions about those albums. Something like the music is soft or rock, vocals are good or disturbing, the music is similar with what album, and everyhting that give general overview about the albums. Most reviews I read only told backgrounds like who plays what and the theme of album. I've heard that some people said Cost of Living is quite good. But most reviews I found on internet were against it. This really confuses me since I've reduced my gamblings on buying CDs these days. I'm getting Cost of Living anyway, since it has Gone But not Forgotten. But I'm unsure about Phantom Power.

From: "upnsm0ke" <> Subject: Re: Phantom Power & Cost of Living
> I've heard that some people said Cost of Living is quite good.
Survey says....it isn't!!!
>But most reviews I found on internet were against it.
It's one of Wakeman's low points.
>This really confuses me since I've reduced my gamblings on buying CDs these days. I'm getting Cost of Living anyway
You'll regret it. Get _1984_, instead. That's a great album. And don't even think about getting RW's _Time Machine_!

[www.e-prog.net]