No Earthly Connection

Rick Wakeman

A & M Records, 1976

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


After three epic releases focusing on specific themes, what could Rick Wakeman do for an encore in 1976?

The answer was: more of the same, yet something different. No Earthly Connection, Wakeman's fourth solo album (and first featuring the "English Rock Ensemble"), grabs on to the theme of music being life blood... and promptly falls flat with the concept.

What exactly went wrong? First and foremost, one has to look at the lyrical development - or, in some cases, lack thereof. The nearly 28-minute opus "Music Reincarnate" has its moments, especially in the first theme or two, but Wakeman doesn't really establish a solid thread with his lyrics on how and why music is so essential to the preservation of one's soul, nor does he fully explain how the main character squanders this gift. It also would have been interesting to have kept certain lyrical themes alive throughout the course of this one particular track; the phrase "Wait, wait, look at the sun" sticks in my mind as something which could have drawn all five movements of this piece together.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The weak lyrical development is present on the other two tracks as well, the most notable being "The Prisoner" with its gross overuse of the "you shall hang" line. Repetition is sometimes a bad thing. Repetition is sometimes a bad thing. Repetition is sometimes a bad thing. Repetition is... oh, forget it.

Okay, so Wakeman's forte isn't necessarily lyrics. Musically, No Earthly Connection has some interesting moments, but it's often a bit difficult to get through. If anything, sometimes it feels like Wakeman underutilizes his keyboards at times - noble in the sense it allows other members of the band time to shine, but flawed, since one buys Wakeman's albums to hear Wakeman.

As stated before, the first two movements of "Music Reincarnate" - "The Warning" and "The Maker" - do sparkle with well-written melody lines. But the rest of the disc sounds both forced and rushed, almost as if Wakeman wasn't given enough time to really flesh this work out. "The Prisoner" could have been a powerful track had more time been spent with the lyrics and had the instrumental work been tightened up. And something tells me that, had Wakeman been given the freedom to make both "Music Reincarnate" and "The Prisoner" shine, a track like "The Lost Cycle" would have stood out. As it stands now, this track is almost an afterthought - a shame, since it had the most promise.

Every artist, at least in my book, is allowed one artistic misstep. No Earthly Connection is a major letdown after three rock-solid albums from Wakeman, though his die-hard supporters will undoubtedly find flaws with this line of thought. While this disc might have marked the end of Wakeman's commercial gravy train, he would still have many more surprises up his caped sleeve.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of A & M Records, and is used for informational purposes only.