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Monday, 16 July 2012

RICK WAKEMAN: New CD reviewed

Rick Wakeman: In the Nick of Time

Reviewed By: Lisa Torem
Label: Gonzo Multimedia
Format: CD

Even those who don’t know him by name have heard his contributions. Rick Wakeman played Mellotron on Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ and acoustic piano on Cat Stevens’ ‘Morning Has Broken’, helmed a Planet Rock radio show and created for himself a new persona for the ‘Grumpy Old Men’ series.

After performing with the Strawbs in the late 1960s, Wakeman replaced pianist Tony Kay in prog rock group Yes in the early 1970s. While with Yes he contributed to ‘Fragile’, ‘Close to the Edge’ and ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’. When he joined Yes, he also started his solo career, which has yielded 100 albums.

Wakeman is known for his sophisticated keyboard technique and creative concepts. His 1973 ‘The Six Wives of Henry the VIII’ project incorporated both. He gave each “wife” a different musical texture, rhythm and story line, pulling from jazz, classical and new age inspirations.

After leaving Yes (the first of several times), he worked with Jon Anderson in the recording studio and on tours, and since then has kept busy writing and performing, but his studio output is so vast and unique that it’s no surprise that his archival works would attract new audiences many times over.

This reissue, ‘In the Nick of Time’, which was recorded live in 2003, found him performing with Ashley Holt, Tony Fernandez, Ant Glynne and Lee Pomeroy, the “New English Rock Ensemble.” The album was intended to promote their studio album ‘Out There’.

The first track ‘Catherine Parr/Beware Your Enemies’ is a series of intricate melodies, many which sound Asiatic, iced with trills that often resemble the songs of exotic birds, set against a dark, throbbing wall of bass. Wakeman’s keen ear guides the complicated patterns along methodically so that they never run amok.

In the second, ‘Out There’, a brilliant sense of space-aged isolation is firmly established before Wakeman pulls out a myriad of escalating rhythms. Guitarist Ant Glynne’s technically and emotionally balanced leads really make the transitions seamless.

‘No Earthly Connections’ is an epic composition complete with narration. “It’s way too late to save these souls…” is the premise and it is substantiated by the throaty command: “Wait, wait, look at the sun.”

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