The Red Planet

Rick Wakeman & The New English Rock Ensemble

R&D Media, 2020

REVIEW BY: Mark Kadzielawa

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/25/2020

I am having a blast listening to this record! It’s been a while since a Rick Wakeman record sounded so fresh. The Red Planet is absolutely beaming with life. Wakeman has an extensive solo discography, and his albums are all over the spectrum. There are a few that one can call essential, and this one needs to be added to this distinguished group. 

Joining Wakeman are Lee Pomery on bass, Dave Colquihoun on guitar, and Ash Sloan on drums. What a great combination of players; they really bring Wakeman’s compositions into the spotlight. The record is executed to perfection, and every note belongs.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The compositions range from five to 10 minutes. They come across as miniature suites, but they get to the point almost right away and do not build up. The music is flowing in variety of directions, but it’s very well arranged and produced. There is clear focus to this record, and that is what makes it so enjoyable.

The whole concept comes from Wakeman’s personal fascination with the exploration of Mars. Tracks like “Ascraeus Mons,” “Tharsis Tholus,” and “Velles Marineris” refer to Mars’s features. In fact, all of them do. At times, the music has a very dangerous tone, and I wonder if it has anything to do with the perception the public has of planet Mars, especially in the fictional sense. Wakeman has no problem capturing your imagination with the sounds he hears in regards to this mysterious planet.

The record is beautifully packaged. The booklet is very informative with factual information of all missions to Mars. There was certainly a solid research done to be able to put this all together. Not only do you find out the information about the music itself, but a good dose of academia as well. In the end, you walk away hearing a great record, but also with the greater understanding of the exploration of Mars.

Rick Wakeman certainly caught a new wind with The Red Planet. It’s a breakthrough record from a man who could be retired and enjoying his former glories. Wakeman, however, stays creative and makes a strong statement here. He is definitely not done yet, and may still have few surprises up his sleeve.  Simply brilliant!

Rating: A

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