Reviews by Christian Loebenstein

Reviews by Christian Loebenstein

Review of Live On The Test submitted on 20th December 1999

This BBC recording features the English Rock Ensemble in all their glory. They all must have had some drinks before the show. Off course they're promoting "No earthly connection" with the inclusion of 3 songs from the Album. The mix is typical "radio", but not bad. If you like Rick's legendary announcements, this is definetly the right CD for you. And don't miss John Dunsterville's Johnny Cash parody! All in all: a great mixture of good live music (some nice mellotron playing) and a lot of fun!

Review of African Bach submitted on 10th January 2000

Generally I don't like Albums without personnel-credits, but this one is an exception, because Wakeman Fans can guess them anyway, or at least try to. 'African Bach' features 10 tracks, shorter than usual, and is kept in a song-based form. Vocals are handled by Ashley Holt, bass and guitars (I hope, I'm right) by the outstanding Dave Paton. The overall theme of the Album is the 'suffering of mankind and his inhumanity toward his fellow man' (sleeve notes), which is a new theme in Wakeman's recording career. 'African Bach' also marks the beginning of Mr.Wakeman using drum-computers for his recordings, although I'm not sure if the one or the other track features Tony Fernandez on drums.

Review of Classic Tracks submitted on 10th January 2000

This Album is a collaboration between Mr. Wakeman and four American musicians and features re-arranged and re-recorded classic Wakeman Tracks, hence the title. Yet, more than six years after buying it, I still think a better title would have been "Classic Tracks Revisited", just to avoid any thought of being 'another compilation'. 'Journey', complete without narration is definitely the highlight. Instrumentation and playing on this piece (and on the whole Album) are both highly professional. Of course critics were moaning about the album's musical style when it came out, but nevertheless (and in my opinion) it stands out as a prime example how Classic- or Progressive Rock, however you might call it, should be handled nowadays.

Review of Rhapsodies submitted on 23rd August 2000

Some people say, the cover-art of this record is probably described best as: how low can you get (and they mean the inside of the Gatefold sleeve). Others have asked me, if Wakeman has ever been in Abba. That's "Rhapsodies" judged by the cover. From the inside, the view is quite different: 1979, Mountain Studios Montreux, Tony Visconti producing - what a mixture. The set: 17 tracks, all instrumental; a fantastic rhythm section and a lot of synths; nice melodies and some typically funny solo-ing. Somebody has mentioned an attempt at "easy-listening". Piano-indulgers check out "Summertime". All others I heavily recommend "Bombay Duck" - so am I really the only one to vote this song No.1??? Overall this Album must have been great fun in the making (credits-section)and it is listening to. Track down a vinyl copy, I don't think it will ever be released on CD.

Review of The Six Wives of Henry VIII submitted on 13th November 2000

This is RW's first major album as a solo artist. The themes reflect character, personality and fate of King Henry VIII's wives as Wakeman tries to describe them musically. The album stands out as one of the prime examples of classic progressive Rock in the seventies and is a must-have for every collector. For further listening check out the excerpts on "Yessongs" and especially the "Jane Seymour" segment, which includes the best mellotron playing I have ever heard.

Review of Wakeman with Wakeman - The Official Bootleg submitted on 22nd November 2000

This double CD includes performances from the 1993 Wakeman with Wakeman Tour and features 75% of the set. I saw one of the shows that year - sadly enough the excellent "Suicide Shuffle" and "Sea Horses" are not included here. The band (Rick, Adam, Tony Fernandez and Alan Thomson) are in great shape, and the sound (board-recorded: the bootleg factor) really reflects the atmosphere of the show. Since they didn't have a singer on that tour, "Journey" is 38 minutes all instrumental. "Lure Of The Wild", probably the most powerful track on the album, is probably also one of the most underrated Wakeman compositions. Since 1994, this set has been released in different forms with different titles and artwork, so if you're not one of those "I must have them all" collectors, check the releases before buying them.

Review of Fields of Green submitted on 23rd November 2000

This album, the original "Fields Of Green", was released in 1996. It opens with a good rendition of the classic "Starship Trooper", only the percussion programming sounds poor and way too straight, if you have either Bill Bruford's or Alan White's drumming in mind. "The Promise Of Love" is a nice ballad, which could have been on "1984", beautifully sung by Crissie Hammond. Fraser Thorneycroft-Smith shows his skills on "The Spanish Wizard". Generally the album keeps that level - good compositions / production and excellent playing, and even the drum programming improves throughout. It was re-released in 1997 on the Music Fusion label, plus one bonus track. My favourite track: "The Never Ending Road"

Review of The Private Collection submitted on 22nd September 2001

The Private Collection is rather a treasure box for the purists than an ordinary commercial release. It opens with a studio version of "The Battle" (repeat, studio!) done with the original Journey line-up plus the usual extra bits (choir, brass, etc). Most of the other tracks, classical pieces for piano/orchestra, were recorded live during the original Journey concerts - the quality of those recordings is stunning. "Steamhole Dance" and "Warmongers" sound very much like they were left off "Cost Of Living", interesting that these typical Wakeman instrumentals weren't used on the Album. Onn second thought they could have been on "The Burning" too, the backwards piano effect reminds me more of "Cost Of Living" though. The set concludes with "And Now A Word From Our Sponsor", a track that collectors might remember from a vinyl-single B-Side…

Review of Treasure Chest Volume 1 - The Real Lisztomania submitted on 24th May 2002

The Treasure Chest is here, and it's one fantastic box! Volume 1 consists of the "real" Lisztomania Soundtrack, as it was intended by Rick, but refused by A&M. From the opening scene narration by Paul Nicholas, through the Country Rag of "Country Sword Dance" and excellent versions of well-known Rick pieces as "Free Song", "Dante Period" a.o., this Soundtrack is hilarious, innovative, funny and provocative. I don't have to tell you, that it beats the one that came out in '75 a thousand times (or more than two thousand, to quote the master himself). Music: A+ Sound Quality: A+ And this is only Part 1 of the Box-Set…

Review of Treasure Chest Volume 2 - The Oscar Concert submitted on 24th May 2002

...on to Volume 2: The Oscar Concert It is there due to the fact, that only 86 people turned up at a show during the 2000 UK Solo-Tour, and a small dog, Oscar, stole the show. You can witness the moment when Rick spots the dog in the audience and starts to turn the whole show (including his famous inbetween songs stories) into the Concert for Oscar. This is as sentimental as funny, and the performances are excellent throughout. What'd you expect? Watch out for "Classical Doggy In The Window" Performance (+stories): A+ Sound Quality: A+

Review of Treasure Chest Volume 2 - The Oscar Concert submitted on 24th May 2002

...on to Volume 2: The Oscar Concert It is there due to the fact, that only 86 people turned up at a show during the 2000 UK Solo-Tour, and a small dog, Oscar, stole the show. You can witness the moment when Rick spots the dog in the audience and starts to turn the whole show (including his famous inbetween songs stories) into the Concert for Oscar. This is as sentimental as funny, and the performances are excellent throughout. What'd you expect? Watch out for "Classical Doggy In The Window" Performance (+stories): A+ Sound Quality: A+

Review of Treasure Chest Volume 3 - The Missing Half submitted on 24th May 2002

The Missing Half contains the first, band performed, half of the original Journey Live debut. Besides the three wives, there's "A Road To Ruin" in which Rick plays around a couple of well known melodies, much to the delight of the audience and probably the rest of the band aswell, who seem to enjoy the Honky Tonk Piano too (and add bits of percussion here and there...). I'd like to see that on film!!! "Twelfth Street Rag" has a stunning mellotron + moog -intro before turning into the traditional rag tune it is. This is probably when the Orchestra came onstage. Some might remember the wonderful "Pearl and Dean Piano Concerto" from Private Collection. "The David Hemmings Voice Collection" is a standout! English not being my native language, I had to ask around what 'camp' was, and my younger brother told me, that it was kind of sloppy language, typical for stupid one-liners as used in the Evil Dead films starring Bruce Campbell. Anyway, we laughed our *** off, listening to this all over again!!! The rough mixes of Arthur and Guinevere at the end, made me wonder why A&M has stopped remastering their seventies back-catalogue. Music: A+ Fun factor: 1,000,000 Sound Quality: A+ On to Volume 4 then!

Review of Treasure Chest Volume 4 - Almost Classical submitted on 24th May 2002

“Sophie for Joy”, a wonderful 11 minute improvised Piano piece opens Almost Classical. The demo for “Merlin” dates back almost 30 years and is of stunning sound quality! What I love about the Swiss Suite, is that listening to it, I can well imagine leaning back on a clear summer day, watching the mountains around the lake where I usually spend the summer. This brings back a lot of memories from my childhood. Being half-Swiss myself, it’s about time I get back there this summer, “The Swiss Suite” in my MD-Player! “The Barber of Wigan” is very special. Rick surprises Ramon Remedios with an operetta written especially for him (while Ramon actually thought he should do the Barber of Seville). While the conversation before the actual piece is already funny (and you can hear the audience reaction there), the operetta itself is pure fun, including a lot of Monty Pythonesque non-sense and hilarious rhymes. You can even hear Ramon Remedios laugh. Before switching to Volume 5, I have to check my water supply and, of course, the shampoo bottle... Music: A++ Sound Quality: A+

Review of Treasure Chest Volume 5 - The Mixture submitted on 24th May 2002

The Mixture opens with a “No Earthly Connection” Medley done as a duo by Rick and Ashley Holt Very powerful. When it comes to “Make Me A Woman”, I prefer the version with Dave Paton on fretless Bass. “Fool On The Hill” has always been one of my favourite Beatles tunes, and this version, again a duo – Rick on Piano, Holt on vocal – is a fine one! Eleanor Rigby is, as we know it from Rick, all instrumental (speedy ending!) The rest of the CD is Rick and Adam with Fraser Thorneycroft-Smith, Fraser giving a fine vocal performance on “Space Oddity” – (this is Fraser, not Bowie, right??!!) and “Life on Mars”. Hearing “The Jig” live ( featuring the three of them again) is a big surprise, as is “The Breathalyser” (Adam on vocal) with the inevitable story by Rick, and a musical quote of Jimmy Webb’s “Up, up and away”. This must have been a very good show! More, please! Judging from the pictures on the inner sleeve, I hope Korg are still paying Rick... Music: A+ (again) Sound Quality: A+ (again)

Review of Treasure Chest Volume 6 - Medium Rare submitted on 25th May 2002

Volume 6 already. Time flies. The original Jane Seymour on church organ is really a sensation. “Beyond” is a little too short to make an impact, but I haven’t come across a copy of the “Beyond the Planets” Album yet, so maybe I shouldn't judge it then. I have heard of the “Microcosm Suite” before, but of course never heard it – again I have to give credit to my younger brother, who told me about the game and that it was intended to have music by Rick more than ten years ago and even had the opporunity to chat with Rick about the game at a Wakeman and Wakeman show here. The music is very much like Rick’s early 90ies work, Wakeman with Wakeman e.g. and has some fine moments. “Flyin’” quotes “The Forest”. Musically it lies between “The Burning” and “1984”. Isn’t that the time, when the mysterious “Spider”/”Danielle” Single must have come out? Then there’s the Bootleg factor with tracks 5-9 (12-16 on my display), but the performances are that good, that I personally really don’t mind the slightly limited sound quality. Finally, there’s the “Suicide Shuffle” Live on CD, one of my favourites when I saw it in concert in 1993. Music: A+ Sound Quality: A+ / B+ (tracks 5-9)

Review of Treasure Chest Volume 7 - Journey to the Centre of the Earth + submitted on 25th May 2002

Volume 7 features 65 minutes Live in Concert from North America, ca. 1974/75. Originally a bootleg (see “Unleashing The Tethered One”), the sound has been cleaned up pretty well, but it varies, so I can easily give it an A-minus on one hand, while others only deserve a B-rating. Excellent performances throughout though! See if you can guess, which choir parts in “Catherine Parr” are actually sung, and which are obviously played on the mellotron. At least that’s what I think! The Piano Concerto at the end rounds it up nicely. This is almost it. Just one more treasure waiting in the chest... Music: A++ Sound Quality: varies from A- to B

Review of Treasure Chest Volume 8 - Stories submitted on 25th May 2002

Rick Wakeman – Stories: No need to say more. What I’d like to say at this point though is, that for the last couple of hours I have been listening to the Treasure Chest, step by step. I have only made a one hour break for dinner and the 7:30 news on TV and that’s it. I’d like to thank Rick especially, the team and the people at Voiceprint for letting us share these rarities, and I’m crying out for more.... THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!

Review of The Wizard And The Forest Of All Dreams submitted on 9th July 2003

"The Wizard And The Forest Of All Dreams" is a beautiful set of modern classical pieces for piano & choir (with a little keyboard added here and there). The lengthy tracks are prime examples of Rick's unique compositorial and arranging gift & ability - still you can hear influences from Bach or Haydn to Gershwin and Philip Glass, if you like. In times of "Crossover", Bocellis, Brightmans, ERA and Bonds or even Kennedys, this album could easily reach (want it or not) a large audience - then again it's of course by no means "pop". So if you like modern classical music or you're simply looking for a new way to relax(it works!) you should definitely give this album a try. Completists need it anyway. Oh, and before I forget: order it through the RWCC-website, couldn't find it anywhere else on the internet - pity.

Review of Piano Vibrations submitted on 26th October 2004

Since a CD-Reissue has become available through Voiceprint in the UK using a different artwork though, this album has lost a little of its value being a sought after collectors piece. Nevertheless it is still extremely hard to find. I managed to pick up an original copy for £ 18.50, which is a very reasonable price, on eBay recently. Note that UK Polydor copies have a laminated sleeve! Honestly there is nothing special about this Album, except that Rick's playing the piano, of course. Yet, enough has been said about the music - except maybe for the surprising inclusion of Randy Newman's Yellow Man (I would have expected this from Van Dyke Parks, but not from John Schroeder!) or James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" (it's Piano Vibrations, isn't it?!). So - what about Dylan Vibrations? Is Rick on that one too?

Review of Retro submitted on 17th June 2006

This is the album I have been waiting for a long time. I can well remember asking for the possibility of an album like this in the website Q&A back in 200? - yeah, long time! I can also imagine very well that it must have taken many hours to make those keyboards work properly (well, more or less), but they sound fantastic! And you can actually hear that those songs have been written especially with those keyboards' sounds in mind - only the production, crystal clear - contrary to the overproduced and heavily compressed "Out There" - is far from Retro, but that doesn't bother at all. Going further in detail (spoilers alert) I really liked Rick's musical quotes from his past: the Mellotron line from "Heart of the Sunrise" in "One in the Eye" (great title!) or the Mini Moog line at the end of the solo of "Men in Suits" originally from "Merlin The Magician". "Leave The Blindfold" is a superb lo-fi synthi-pop song with great vocals from Jemma Wakeman. Generally Rick once and for all proves that he is the Master of the Mellotron!!! But we knew that, didn’t we? Okay, enough said. To cut things short: Go out and buy this album!