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Return to the Centre of the Earth
Rick Wakeman
EMI Classics, 76 minutes and 39 seconds

Art: Roger Dean
Return to the Centre of the Earth
Rick Wakeman
Rick Wakeman's other recordings include:
1971 -- Piano Vibrations
1973 -- The Six Wives Of Henry VIII
1974 -- Journey To The Centre Of The Earth
1975 -- The Myths & Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table, Lisztomania
1976 -- No Earthly Connection
1977 -- White Rock, Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record
1979 -- Rhapsodies
1981 -- 1984, The Burning
1982 -- Rock'n'Roll Prophet
1983 -- G'Ole!, The Cost Of Living
1985 -- Silent Nights, Live At Hammersmith
1986 -- Country Airs, Crimes Of Passion
1987 -- The Gospels, The Family Album
1988 -- A Suite Of Gods, Zodiaque, Time Machine
1989 -- Rick Wakeman: 20th Anniversary, Sea Airs
1990 -- Night Airs, Aspirant Sunrise, Aspirant Sunset, Aspirant Sunshadows
1991 -- Black Nights In The Court Of Ferdinand IV, Phantom Power, The Classical Connection, Softsword (King John And The Magna Charter), The Private Collection, A World Of Wisdom, 2000 A.D. - Into The Future, The Classical Connection II, In The Beginning
1992 -- Wakeman With Wakeman, Country Airs, Best Works
1993 -- Rock'N'Roll Prophet Plus, Heritage Suite, Prayers African Bach, The Very Best Of Rick Wakeman - Chronicles, No Expense Spared, Unleashing The Tethered One
1994 -- Greatest Hits, Classic Tracks, The Official Bootleg, Romance Of The Victorian Age, Live On The Test
1995 -- The Seven Wonders Of The World, Cirque Surreal - State Circus Of Imagination, Rock And Pop Legends, The New Gospels, Visions, The Piano Album
1996 -- Tapestries, In Concert, Orisons, Can You Hear Me?, Voyage, Vignettes
1997 -- Tribute, Fields Of Green, Simply Acoustic - The Music
1998 -- Themes, Master Series
1999 -- The Masters

Rick Wakeman Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by A.L. Sirois

In the 70s, a sub-genre of rock and roll began to make itself obvious. It was an outgrowth of earlier work done by bands like the Moody Blues, Procol Harum, Pink Floyd and, to a lesser extent, the Beatles. In place of the often ponderous music and sometimes pretentious lyrics of Procol Harum and the Moodies, bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Styx, King Crimson, Journey and Yes pioneered a new approach that emphasized faster tempos, advanced musicianship and intricate song arrangements. ELP and Yes were in the vanguard of this new art rock movement, and both bands were dominated by their keyboard players -- ELP's classically trained Keith Emerson (formerly of the much underrated band The Nice) and Rick Wakeman of Yes. Emerson and Wakeman both exploited the then-new Moog synthesizer and its rapidly developed offshoots from Korg, Yamaha et al, and the bands' trademark sound was that whiny, glissando-rich synthesizer wail.

At the same time, the idea of the concept album, pioneered by the Electric Prunes with their release Mass in F Minor, the Beatles with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Moody Blues with Days of Future Passed, gained precedence among these bands. It seemed to be the natural means of expression for them as they sought new ways of dealing with extended melodic lines and increasingly intellectual lyrical content.

Rick Wakeman first achieved success with Yes, joining the band for their fourth album, Fragile. It was an instant hit. Capitalizing on this, he released a solo work, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, in 1973. It was a critical and popular success. Purely an instrumental album, it covered a lot of ground and certainly showcased Wakeman's expertise on the keys. Following Six Wives, Wakeman released Journey to the Centre of the Earth in 1975 after leaving Yes. Journey was narrated by David Hemmings (whatever happened to him?). Its orchestral and choral arrangements put the album on top of the charts in Britain. It did well in America, too.

Wakeman released other well-received solo albums and eventually returned to Yes. Now, a good many years later, he has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most accomplished progressive rock musicians still working in the genre. This sequel to Journey to the Centre of the Earth, released exactly 25 years after the original, will do little to harm that reputation, though his edge may have become a little blunted. Rock is, after all, a young man's game.

Be that as it may, this album has a lot to offer. Wakeman, 50, is more than willing to share the spotlight. He's chosen some outstanding talent to help him, foremost among them Patrick "Jean-Luc Picard" Stewart as narrator. It's impossible to hear Stewart's distinctive mellifluous voice without paying attention, which must have been Wakeman's intent from the get-go. As always, Wakeman's music is fluid and melodically sophisticated without being as demanding as, say, bebop jazz. In other words, it's an unapologetically commercial effort. To underscore this, he's recruited solo vocalists both veteran and new, as well as the English Chamber Choir.

The album apparently took three years to plan and tells the story of three explorers seeking to retrace the steps of Verne's intrepid voyager, Professor Lidenbrock, from the 1864 novel. Lidenbrock got into trouble trying to follow after Arne Saknussemm, and these guys do too, but as is common in musical "retellings," the lyrics don't really seem to have a hell of a lot to do with any of the ostensible narrative. It's fun listening to Ozzy Osbourne wailing about being buried alive, though, in a tune clearly tailored for him. Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues has a song, as does Trevor Rabin of Yes, Bonnie Tyler, and Katrina Leskanich.

The one jarring note (pun mandatory) about this production is that Wakeman, who must have written the narration, screws up the English language a couple of times. He uses "emulates" for "emanates" at one point, and "pastiche" when I think he means "series." (I promise you, he doesn't mean pastiche.) Oh well -- Patrick Stewart sounds so magnificent that I forgave the gaffes. I kept waiting for "Engage!" or "make it so," in vain..

All in all, an enjoyable way to spend time, and a worthwhile addition to your progressive rock collection. Certainly better than Tales from Topographic Oceans.

Copyright © 1998 by A.L. Sirois

A.L. Sirois walks the walk, too. He's a longtime member of SFWA and currently serves the organization as webmaster for the SFWA BULLETIN. His personal site is at

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