Piano Odyssey (2018)
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Juan Zaratoga on 24th January 2019 [Other reviews]
Rick Wakeman’s performance and arrangement on the opening track “While my guitar gently weeps” is an absolute masterpiece. Must hear those piano harmonics blending with the string orchestra’s harmonies and choral voices. Incredible beauty!
A man who spent his life on getting orchestral feeling out of the synthesizers, mello-/birotrons and other electric keyboards is back on the "acoustic planet". With stunning results all over this CD for piano, string orchestra and choir. Plus a flamenco-style acoustic guitar - by courtesy of a friend, the great Brian May - within a terrific rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody", to finish this adventurous "Odyssey"!
Mr. Wakeman never did music like someone else. And sometimes succeeded to impose his own rules of how music is to be done. His orchestral rock epics in mid-70-ties took the scene by storm and created a new event in the British music history. Since then he tried numerous come-backs including some as a piano-solo performer. Initiated by "Country Airs" (1986) and "The Piano Album" (1995), those attempts made a spectacular breakthrough in 2017 with "Piano Portraits" making charts sustainably and gaining him a "Silver Album" in UK sales. More importantly, Mr. Wakeman, now in his late 60-ties, was imposing once again his mark on the music business. And breaking once again the limits of what is conventionally considered as modern, classic or pop!
The 2018 "Piano Odyssey" (released on Sony Classical) is a brave step further in that direction. Essentially, its chamber music. Some of which is very personal and deeply emotional (his new compositions: "Rocky"; "Cyril Wolverine"). Some others are post-romantic ("After the Ball" connected to its source of inspiration, the "Liebesträume" by Liszt), or quite baroque in style ("Jane Seymour", sounding here more Vivaldi-an than Bach-ish as in its original on Six Wives). The pop-orientated arrangements are less numerous here compared to "Piano Portraits". Somehow of a less immediate access than the former, "Piano Odyssey" also made UK charts, albeit this time briefly!
More importantly, this album may well initiate a kind of a new brand in Wakeman's production. As one report summarized (amazon.com): "if Rick Wakeman means to reinvent himself in the autumn of his career, then he's succeeded in the first step, and may he take more such steps, if that's what he wants. I'm in!"
What's next? A Concerto for Piano with a full Symphony Orchestra? It would be a nice follow-up to the "The Pearl and Dean Piano Concerto” (1974). Would Sony Classical sign Wakeman for that? They do not know what they miss if they wouldn't...!