From music performed on a Steinway & Sons Model D Concert Grand Piano, comes forth the newest studio release from a long time favorite musician of mine; Rick Wakeman. His newest title is at the time of this writing, charting. Out about a month now. Fifteen tracks, with Rick’s piano playing being the only thing you’ll hear on the record. Cover songs all but one, Wakeman’s Dance of the Damselflies, and a song that I can’t count as an original Wakeman composition, for the sole reason of it being credited to a dear friend of his, Jon Anderson. That song, a Yes hit called ‘Wonderous Stories’. My take has always been that ‘Wonderous Stories’ became the hit largely in part due to Rick’s uplifting keyboard work. So those two songs and another thirteen tracks make up ‘Piano Portrait.’ In a way, it’s a testament. A showcase. One that demonstrates the skill and talent of a musician who’s been writing/arranging, playing the piano/keyboards long enough, to be now, one of the world’s best.
I began listening to Rick Wakeman back to the first half of the 1970s. He was Yes’ keyboard player. That is until he quit in 1974 (the first time). Had not one, but three of the coolest solo records ever, all released back to back, as popular today, as they were back then; The Six Wives of Henry The VIII (1973), Journey To The Centre of the Earth (1974), and The Myths Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (1975). And because of all the repeated plays I gave them over the decades, I now have 50 to 100 Rick Wakeman CDs in my music collection; studio, live, and greatest hits. Included also is everything he did with Yes, and various other musicians; David Bowie and Elton John. Just to name a couple. Throw in Black Sabbath, and Cat Stevens. And the list goes on and on. A wonderful career … so far.
“Uncle G” reviews … Rick Wakeman – Piano Portraits (2017)
Opens with the most beautiful version of The Beatles – Help (1965). Two Beatles songs are included on the album with the second one being, Eleanor Rigby (1966). Both extraordinary pop pieces, and both given a new life by Mr. Wakeman. My guess is that Sir Paul McCartney would be very flattered hearing either piece.
The next three tracks are Rick’s spin on some of classic rock’s finest …
Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven: No there isn’t that hard rock ending. The rest is unmistakable. Their bass/piano player/keyboardist John Paul Jones is one of hard rock’s best. In part, the cement that jelled the mighty Zeppelin together. And here’s one of rock n’ roll’s biggest sellers.
David Bowie – Life On Mars: Rick is credited with playing piano on the original. The melody is beautiful. The mark of a solid song is that it could be played naked like this, on either an acoustic guitar, or a piano, and it plays like it was meant to be heard that way. Such is so is with this number.
10cc – I’m Not In Love: Once heard, this song just stays in your head. Was a cool band. Here’s one of their greatest hits. A favorite track of mine from this album.
Ten more tracks to go, including another David Bowie song. In all a total of 15 tracks, and not a stinker (filler) to be found. To help prove that, a suggestion for an enjoyable evening. Invite some friends over. Eat good food and engage in some stimulating conversation, with Rick’s ‘Piano Portraits’ in the background playing on the home stereo. Vinyl is nice if you can do that. Digital or CD is just as well. Let the good times roll! Should the last track play out while there is any risque’ behavior taking place, one should simply re-start the ‘Piano Portraits’ recording again, from the beginning.
Regarding the review here, I feel I’m done, yet there seems like I forgot something. I can go on about the last ten songs I just touched on a bit. Yes’ ‘Wonderous Stories’ sounds better than I remember it. A good fantasy would be having the talent to play the song as Mr. Wakeman does. Note for note. A bad fantasy would be doing it naked on stage at Madison Square Garden.
Besides the session work, the music he admires, or have played on himself as being part of a group, Rick covers the classics. Versions of true masterpieces played with a deep reverence that sounds through loud and clear. And regarding the word ‘sound’ … what comes out of the speakers is clear, and crisp. Akin to being in the same room and being able to witness each performance.
Put this all together, and it’s no wonder why this year’s ‘Piano Portraits’ by Rick Wakeman will go down as one of his most popular records. I got the title for the sequel; Keyboard Portraits.
“Uncle G” rates … Rick Wakeman – Piano Portraits (2017)
Using a one to a five-star rating system, whereas one star means it sucks through a long straw, to five stars in which means it’s cool for you to spend your hard earned money on it, Uncle G rates Rick Wakeman – Piano Portraits … 5 STARS! For reasons I already listed, and more reasons that I’ll think of at a later time. Anyone song is worth the price of whatever your favorite format is. Example … and I heard him do this before. Plus beforehand Rick told a very funny story about the whole thing; Cat Stevens – Morning Has Broken. It’s a total piano song. One of Cat’s best songs. Thanks, Rick!
OK .. one more. The show tune, ‘Summertime.’ A melody instantly recognizable, for those into various types of music. Another of my favorite tracks here. I must have given it a dozen repeat plays, so far. And a dozen more I’m sure will follow, probably before the week is up.
Rick Wakeman Official Website
Bonus – Video Documentary on Rick Wakeman – Piano Portraits
Promotion: Glass Onyon PR (William James) – www.glassonyonpr.com