Ben Jordan on 28/03/2011 [Other
reviews by Ben Jordan ]
Phantom Power essentially presents the musical highlights to the new score Rick provided Universal in 1989 when they decided to update the 1925 adaptation of Phantom Of The Opera starting Lon Chaney for a modern audience. If the purists weren’t already offended by the colour tinting added to the ensuing drama, the wholly un-traditional score would have had them in fits of apoplexy. Not only do we get Rick’s contemporary keyboard motifs, but actual songs in both the rock genre and more operatic entries in between. These in turn are brought to life by long-time stalwarts of the Wakeman sound Ashley Holt, Chrissie Hammond and opera tenor Ramon Ramedios, with their respective talent really broadening the scope of the production.
Holt, for example, lends his powerful lungs to the production’s excellent opening number, The Visit, as well as wonderful moody pieces like Evil Love. Romance is of course what Phantom is all about and much of its musical commentary is expressed through Hammond’s contrasting tones, from the poppy Fear Of Love to the slow and reflective You Can’t Buy Me Love. There is indeed a lot of love in this soundtrack! Ramon Ramedios unsurprisingly fits into the endeavour extremely well, being the one vocalist Andrew Lloyd Webber might have used in his melodramatic musical, and often appearing to great effect on many a Wakeman album of the period. His incredible range and commanding voice brilliantly illustrate many moods throughout the film, from professions of undying affection in The Love Trilogy to a mob with burning torches pursuing the fleeing Erik through the streets of Paris in the fittingly-titled Rock Pursuit.
And of course there’s the keyboardist himself, ably shifting not only through the musical genres but of course interpreting the action on screen. Since there are actual songs in the score, only some of the music is interpretive and entirely in-sync with the action, The Sand Dance being the stand-out example on the album. With Phantom Power being only part of the score, it doesn’t contain much of the incidental music one can hear while watching the real thing. This makes for a much tighter album in its own right and therefore a great listen on its own terms. Credit must also go to D’zal Martin, whose guitar work can also be heard on another of my favourite Wakeman albums, African Bach, and of course Tony Fernandez who needs no introduction.
Indeed to borrow from African Bach for a moment, my two main criticisms of Rick’s Phantom score are that it is sometimes a) “born out of time”, which is to say that over two decades on, thanks to the rapid progress of electronic music, what was once an attempt to be a bang up-to-date contemporary reinterpretation of the film is to modern ears an anachronism; and b) “out of place”, in that much as I love the songs, by their nature, they don’t sync up with the action causing a feeling of disconnect – they are thematic and could appear anywhere. Nonetheless, the first is certainly no-one’s fault and the second entirely a matter of taste. Overall, I enjoy the music immensely and it is now as much a part of Phantom Of The Opera as a certain 1974 concept album is synonymous with a certain Jules Verne novel. Alternative soundtracks are a lot of fun and who else would you want to put a new creative spin on an old classic than Rick Wakeman?
To get a proper sense of what he achieved back in 1990, I do strongly recommend you track down the Universal film. That, after all, is what it was all about and only then do you really get the context of the project. At the same time however, the album stands as a classic in its own right and certainly simply having a familiarity with the story will bring it all to life.
Bjorn Olaf Syvertsen on 08/04/2003 [Other
reviews by Bjorn Olaf Syvertsen ]
This album sounds like Rick summing up the 80s - as well as taking a quick look back at "No earthly connection" from the 70s. The album features typical 80s instrumentals from Rick and songs sung by Ashley Holt, Chrissie Hammond and Ramos Remedios. The fact that these three singers all appear, makes this album sound a bit like a "greatest hits without the hits"-album. (Quotation: Bob Dylan). The album summs up the Ramos Remedios era, as well as the Chrissie Hammond era. The Ashley Holt tracks reminds me very much about the "Cost of living" / "1984" period. This album contains some very good tracks, like for instance the last two, but it can also be a bit too much to listen to the entire album. Programming can be a good idea to avoid losing interest along the way. The 90s was a period when Rick Wakeman sometimes seemed to prefer quantity to quality... (Who else would release ten to fifteen albums a year?) This has improved from "Return to the centre of the earth" and onwards.