Journey To The Centre Of The Earth

Rick Wakeman

A & M Records, 1974

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Some people had to be scratching their heads when it came to Rick Wakeman's second solo release, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. Here, he had just left Yes after the album Tales From Topographic Oceans, which featured songs based on a book - and now he was writing a 40-minute composition featuring songs based on a book?

Ah, but therein already lie several differences. First, you're more apt to have read the Jules Verne novel this is based on than the Shastras (at least I believe that was the scriptural writings) that Jon Anderson based Tales on - at least lyrically, anyway. (Confession time: To the best of my knowledge, I've never read a single work of Verne's.) Second, Wakeman has always been a composer at heart - something he proved with his previous effort, The Six Wives Of Henry VIII. Pop culture be damned, he was going to write music true to his own vision and drive.

Third - and most important - my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Journey is listenable right out of the box. Admittedly, you have to spend some time getting comfortable with this work, but it all proves to be well worth the effort.

First, the sole complaints I have with this release - both of which stand out after I watched the DVD of Journey (see separate review). First, unless you have the liner notes in front of you as this modern-day symphony starts, you may find yourself lost in the story for a while. The introductory piece which is printed on the gatefold jacket (at least on my battered vinyl copy) is crucial to the storyline.

Second, while the interplay between Wakeman and the London Symphony Orchestra is pretty fluid, it sometimes seems that there is some tentativeness on both sides - almost as if Wakeman didn't want to step on the orchestra's toes, and vice versa. A little more rehearsal time, perhaps, could have cured this.

Yet these are minor points. Wakeman does an outstanding job of working the classic tale into his synthesizer-laden musical creations. To Wakeman's credit, he knows when to step out of the spotlight and let something else come to the forefront - the orchestra, Mike Egan's guitar work, the storyline, you get the idea. One could dare call this work an expansive ego trip for Wakeman... and they would be wrong. If anything, it's a showcase of his talents - as well as those of all who participated in the project.

The first half, "The Journey / Recollection," takes our adventurers from the surface of the earth to the lost world inside - encountering various difficulties along the way. The way the music is structured around the tale serves both purposes well. The second half, "The Battle / The Forest," feels a litle rushed, and leaves a few questions regarding the tale - for example, was there reason to flee the battling monsters other than fear? The sudden return to the Earth's surface also feels a bit rushed, almost as if Wakeman was compelled to tie loose ends up quickly.

What strikes me about Journey To The Centre Of The Earth is not just the powerful interplay between music and spoken word, but that Wakeman created a piece of music that was approachable on many levels. There is plenty in this work which would appeal to the classical music lover, as much as it would appeal to the fan of progressive rock. With one simple piece, Wakeman brought down several musical barriers and opened up a world of discovery to those willing to undertake this journey.

Rating: B+

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.