Listening To: Rick Wakeman

A few weeks ago I randomly picked up Rick Wakeman’s “Classic Tracks” at the Daytona Flea Market. I love going there, you never know what you’ll find. I knew the name Rick Wakeman, but couldn’t place that he was the keyboard player for Yes. I’d been listening to a lot of prog lately, and since it was in the $2 bin, it was worth a shot. What a great record! I’ve been listening nonstop for weeks.

Fantastic Cover Art

The Tracks

Journey to the Center of the Earth – a 31 minute epic musical journey through Jules Verne’s fantastic tale. Rick Wakemans’ musical retelling of the story is a masterpiece, but what really surprised me was the killer guitar solo by Jim Gentry. It’s atmospheric, grooving, heavy… the song captures everything.

Catherine Howard – from his album “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” has as much variety as you’d want. It starts with beautiful acoustic guitars and segues into bluegrass-flavored synths. Some of the keyboard tones capture a harpsichord feel as well, perhaps bringing the listener back to the Age of Kings.

Merlin the Magician – now this is prog… a mash-up of styles and genres, starting with a heavy bass groove. Keys drift on top, with their melody adding an air of mystery. The lyrics are supported crunchy heavy guitars and more killer keyboard solos. Halfway through the song shifts dramatically to a whimsical and fast section, followed by a return to the groove and lyrics.

The cool thing about Rick Wakeman’s solo albums – and the songs on “Classic Tracks” – is that it’s 100% prog rock, but also accessible. I find Yes to be more of an acquired taste. I really have to listen, and be in the mood. I can put on and enjoy Rick Wakeman’s stuff a lot more often. Check it out!

The Players

  • MUSICIANS
  • Rick Wakeman – keyboards
  • Michael Franklin – lead vocals, keyboards
  • Jim Gentry – guitars
  • Paul Parker – drums, percussion
  • Tim Franklin – bass, backing vocals
  • Tom Hook, Tess Franklin, The Full Sail Tabernacle Choir – additional vocals
  • PRODUCTION
  • Michael Franklin – producer
  • Don Oriolo – producer (exec.)
  • Stuart Sawney – recording engineer (Banjour Studio)
  • Gary Platt – engineer (Full Sail Platinum Post studio)
  • Ken Latchney, Nasser Sharif – assistants (Full Sail Platinum Post studio)
  • O. B. O’Brian, Phil Nicolo – engineers (Studio 4)
  • Jiff Hinger, Dirk Grobelny – assistants (Studio 4)
  • Jay Goodman – main tech
  • Tibor Kovalik – Artwork

Rick Wakeman’s Catalog

I’ve really enjoyed digging into his catalog, with this “greatest hits” type of album providing an effective gateway. I particularly liked “Best of the Bootleg Box”:

I also recommend 2000 A.D. Into the Future

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