[Review] Rick Wakeman – The Red Planet

After a few years of producing piano works, Progressive Rock legend Rick Wakeman returns to the sounds that characterized his first solo albums. Supported by the English Rock Ensemble with a renewed lineup, he releases the album “The Red Planet” for the R&D MultiMedia on June 28, 2020. Containing 8 medium-long length tracks available in 2xLP, CD + DVD, CD, Digital, always offering a high level, refined and pure Progressive sound. The classic instrumentation of the English genius made of Moog, Synth and all sorts of keyboards mixes modern instruments and vintage sounds that do not seem at all affected by the passing of the years, on the contrary they are always fresh and mature. The journey to the red planet begins with “Ascraeus Mons” which immediately plunges us into the sound of the album with pompous organ chords and a rhythmic session, in a marching style. The Wakeman-style melodies immediately take the stage in a succession of layers of keyboards that take us back in time. The choir of female voices and also the short inserts of electric guitar in the finale are also pleasant. “Tharsis Tholus” is again characterized by the classic melodic lines that Rick got used to on his first albums, with a softer touch. Some rapid and sudden changes in tempo between sudden accelerations and harder openings and others more symphonic, with a precision and a master technique and an old-fashioned synth solo. The compositional vein and the air are the same as always, a pleasure to listen to songs of this caliber. “Arsia Mons” is more rhythmic and pushed than the previous one, with Rick showing off his technique again, before everything calms down and enters the acoustic guitar for a sweet and dreamy section. In the middle of the song the turning point and we return to the initial theme and then with another change leave space for a fine acoustic guitar solo. A piece different from those he has accustomed us to previously, performed with class by all the performers involved. “Olympus Mons” is full of positive melodies and a solid rhythm session in which bass and drum dialogue perfectly, leaving Rick the space to design fun keyboard excursions. With tempo changes that alternate symphonic openings with pompous stretches, more intricate moments and others more linear with the truly exquisite keyboard solo inserts. We are in the middle of the album and the artist delights us with a prolonged mini-moog solo as only he can do. “The North Plain” begins with a sombre intro of effected and ambient piano and synths, and then comes alive with a solid rhythm session and organ-led melodies. Another change takes us to a dark and atmospheric interlude that re-emerges in another section dominated by the organ and a massive rhythmic session. Stronger than the previous ones with Rick and his companions who delight us with a solo intertwining of guitar and keyboards. “Pavonis Mons” features an 80’s style rhythmic opening with the melodic part driven by synths. The keyboards interchange continuously, showing off the large amount of sounds available, all modulated to perfection and which accompany us for the entire duration of the piece, very valid and pleasant. “South Pole” begins with a soft texture that almost flows into the New Age, with more linear and simple melodies and a less tight rhythm. The bass creates deep and bearing lines, while a sweet piano gradually takes over the scene, offering us sweet melodies very close to classical. The other instruments come back into play and Rick moves from the piano to his countless keyboards, reviewing a large amount of sounds. A softer track but still of fine workmanship, which dampens the tones after a few more taut tracks, smooth and very pleasant. Closes the album “Valles Marineris” which is also the longest song, exceeding 10 minutes in duration. It begins with a drum march and a carpet of intricate keyboards and bass lines, to which intertwined guitar and keyboard textures are added as the minutes go by. At times more intricate, with valuable and articulated drum structures, it flows without particular jolts or particular incisiveness, however always performed to perfection. 8 Progressive Rock songs with that old-fashioned symphonic touch, as only Rick Wakeman can do, with a wealth of detail on the keyboards. The quantity and quality of sounds he uses is always impressive, as is the technique he has in modulating them and making them his own, adapting them to his compositions. More than 3 decades after his first solo album, the English keyboardist always has quality ideas and composes and performs them like a teacher. An album that will be pleasing to all lovers of 70’s Progressive sounds, especially Wakeman’s, but that will surely hit all Prog lovers. Another class chapter in the long discography of one of the main exponents of modern music and of the Progressive in particular.

Tracklist

1. Ascraeus Mons (5:52)
2. Tharsis Tholus (6:16)
3. Arsia Mons (6:10)
4. Olympus Mons (5:20)
5. The North Plain (6:53)
6. Pavonis Mons (7:13)
7. South Pole (7:35)
8. Valles Marineris (10:02)

Lineup

Rick Wakeman / Keyboards
Dave Colquhoun / Guitars
Lee Pomeroy / Bass
Ash Soan / Drums

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R&D MultiMedia |Official Website|

Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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