Reviews by Andy Long

Reviews by Andy Long

Review of Morning Has Broken submitted on 21st February 2003

In the tradition of his more classical works Wakeman has recorded this collection of traditional hymns in inspiring instrumental arrangements. It has taken him eight years from the initial concept to the finished album and the time and effort that Rick has put into the pieces gives this collection a feeling of commitment from the heart. Rick says this is 'one of the most satisfying recordings I have ever made' and as you listen to his variations on the traditional melodies you will begin to see the joy that this work gave him. Obvious inclusions had to be the version of 'Morning Has Broken' that Rick originally recorded with Cat Stevens and the current concert favourite 'The Day Thou gavest Lord Has Ended'. The album also brings together tunes that all will be familiar with, whether from a religious background or not. 'All Things Bright And Beautiful', 'Jerusalem' and 'Abide With Me' are amongst the well-known titles. Rick has recorded the melodies mainly on piano with a keyboard accompaniment. Fans of Rick's rock output might be surprised at the volume of classical, spiritual and ambient material he has released, as a visit to his website will reveal. 'Morning Has Broken' is a great introduction to another side of the rock legend. 9/10

Review of The Piano Tour Live Video submitted on 21st February 2003

The latest release from Rick Wakeman's Hope Vision is the 100-minute concert video The Piano Tour Live . This release features Rick's concert at the King's Church in Newport on the recent tour in it's entirety. Of course there is already a concert video available, Simply Acoustic (HRV 002), filmed in America. I met Rick at a recent gig in Swansea and asked him why he thought people might want to buy both releases. 'The British tour was very different from The American one,' he explained. 'We've tried to make sure that's reflected in the videos, so there are a lot of different pieces of music on them and different stories too. When I toured in America all the Churches had great P.A. systems and beautiful grand pianos so I played all the pieces on their pianos. Of course it's not like that in Britain, we had to take all our equipment with us so I had the chance to use other keyboards as well.' It is apparent from watching the videos that the presentation is vastly different and that, where there is repetition of material. For instance the two David Bowie pieces, Space Oddity and Life On Mars are arranged for electronic keyboards for the British video, giving them a more atmospheric feel, whereas the piano arrangement is more natural. Both videos contain a selection of Yes material but Simply Acoustic includes some of Rick's better known solo material, Catherine Howard and Merlin The Magician, whilst The Piano Tour Live includes the humorous Nursery Rhyme Concerto, and arrangements of The Lord's Prayer and The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended. The film crew at King's Church have done a very impressive job so each of the videos has it's own merits. 9/10

Review of Return To The Centre Of The Earth submitted on 21st February 2003

Back in 1974 Rick released the massively successful Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, an album which boosted his solo career several hundred steps up the ladder of success. Ever since that time Rick has wanted to do a sequel album but time, money and technology have never been favourable to the idea - until now. The new album, Return To The Centre Of The Earth was released in March on the EMI Classics label with a huge press campaign and entered the national album charts at number 34 in it's first week. Three years of writing, planning and recording together with a £2 million budget have resulted in Rick calling this 'without question the most important and exciting musical journey that I have been involved with since the original Journey.' The contributions of the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Choir bring the album it's underlying classical feel whilst the contributions from many top contemporary vocalists add a rock edge, all of which is perfectly blended together by Wakeman's astoundingly diverse talent. Incidentally those vocalists include Justin Hayward, Bonnie Tyler, Katrina Leskanich and Rick's long-time friend Ozzy Osbourne, who takes the lead for Buried Alive, it's difficult to imagine any other vocalist handling this particular song so well, despite it's unusual time signature. With narration from Star Trek's Patrick Stewart carrying the story along Return...is a compelling listen. 10/10

Review of Fields of Green '97 submitted on 30th March 2003

In my opinion this is one of Rick's best 'rock band' albums and it is certainly near the top of my playlist. The extra track (that I assume was not on the orignal release) smoothly blends the new themes of 'Election 97' with the familiar theme of 'Arthur' and is a perfect opener. But track two is one of my all-time Rick favourites, 'Starship Trooper/Wurm'. I guess this really qualifies, in every sense, as a Yes cover, taking into consideration that Rick was not the keyboard player on the original, despite having played it thousands of times since then. Chrissie Hammond's vocals are perfect for this track. I would have liked to hear a live drummer on the album, but Stuart Sawney's programmed percussion is as good as you're going to get out of a box. Other highlights are 'The Spanish Wizard' which has some great guitar work from Fraser Thorneycroft-Smith and the pacey rocker 'The Rope Trick'.

Review of Orisons submitted on 2nd April 2003

To paraphrase the infamous office poster : you don't have to be a Christian to enjoy this - but it helps! Orisons draws heavily on the previous album 'Prayers' and opens with the beautiful 'A Wish' from 'The New Gospels'. The title itself is actually an old English term meaning 'Prayers' and, like the aforementioned release, 'Orisons' brings together a collection of prayers, some from The Bible, others from great theologians like Martin Luther and Francis of Assissi and even one by Rick's Great Grandfather. All are set to appropriately ambient music and are narrated by Nina, Mary Hobdell and the Bishop of Sodor and Man. Like it's partner album 'The Word And Music' this is going to appeal mainly to Rick's Christian fanbase but I think that it's meditative quality would be enjoyed by fans of some of his new age stuff too.

Review of The Word and Music submitted on 17th April 2003

If 'Orisons' draws heavily on 'Prayers' then this album draws similarly on 'In The Beginning'. Like it's sister album 'The Word And Music' has a meditative quality that will immediately appeal to those with a leaning towards the spiritual side of life. In this instance the narrations are all Bible Readings, read by Nina. For the Bible Scholar out there, they are taken from the Cambridge Daily Reading Bible, which means that they are well suited to reading aloud The subject matter deals with well-known character, Moses, Noah, Daniel etc and the setting of these tales against the backdrop of Rick's subtle yet effective keyboard work makes this a compelling listen, As I believe both 'Prayers' and 'In The Beginning' are now deleted these two albums are excellent value for just a fiver each.