Rick Wakeman – The Red Planet: Album Review

Rick Wakeman joins Yes alumni, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe in releasing a new solo album in 2020. The Red Planet features 8 newly composed pieces from Rick Wakeman alongside The English Rock Ensemble for your enjoyment.

Release Date: 28th August 2020

Label: Madfish

Format: DL / CD / LP

The English Rock Ensemble  comprises of Rick Wakeman on keyboards, Dave Colquhoun on guitars, Lee Pomeroy on bass and Ash Soan on drums.

A Mars theme is not unfamiliar in the music world as previous attempts by David Bowie, Gustav Holst and  Jeff Wayne have achieved global renown. Whether Rick Wakeman’s trip to The Red Planet reaches such notoriety remains to be seen but he deserves to.

This is a masterpiece and with the collaboration of his fellow Ensemble members is a lavish piece of rich, instrumental treasures. His trust in Dave Colquhoun and Lee Pomeroy to compose lead and bass guitar pieces when approached with his basic keyboard creations has been well rewarded. Rick’s own church organ sound on many of the pieces is majestic and the guitar solos rival any major guitar aficionado you can name.

Aseraeus Mons, the second-highest mountain on the planet at a stunning (approximately) 60,000 feet, is assaulted first with dominant keyboards, using the aforementioned church organ and then a choral accompaniment leads us to the final ascent to the summit with a climaxing guitar solo.

A flute effect keyboard on the calm opening and ending on Tharsis Tholus is punctuated with short jazzy guitar fills and accompanied with complex drum rhythms before a synthesized organ effect takes over with twirling and mesmerising melodies. 

Rockier moods are prevalent at the beginning of  Arsia Mons before calm waves of keyboard and warm acoustic guitar strumming emerges. There’s a brief reprise of the opening, then tranquility is restored with a delightful acoustic solo.

Regal church organ keyboard work highlights the track Olympus Mons amongst many other keyboard sounds deserving of the tribute to Mars’ highest peak, as is the multi- guitar effects running through this track with fabulous bass runs.

Slightly discordant and eerie piano begins  the next track giving an atmosphere of emptiness  on the North Plain, which it surely is before wailing keyboards and thumping  bass liven things up. We return to the calmly eerie opening to repeat the pattern  a  supreme guitar solo  takes us to a crescendo ending.

We revisit to the mountains again in Pavonis  Mons, completing Rick’s focus on the belt  of three volcanoes  situated on the Martian Tharsis plain. A lively melody bounces along pleasantly as Rick  creates beautiful waves of  various  sonic styles. 

Before another successful musical Martian mission  is completed with the longest track at ten minutes, we visit the Martian South Pole’ Another example of  Wakeman virtuosity, a classical cascading piano solo the highlight.

Finally, Valies Marineris’ begins with a slight resemblance to  Holst’s composition with a splendid bass solo, but the warlike theme soon progresses into a lighter,  triumphant mood with trumpeting keyboards announcing  victory. And victorious the English Rock Ensemble surely are as well as the production skills of Rick Wakeman supported expertly by engineer Erik Jordan. 

We are enjoying a new wave of glorious and original contemporary prog-rockers these days but Rick shows that the old masters can keep pace with them. It’s no surprise Rick has called The Red Planet “far and away the best thing I’ve done for as far back as I can remember.

There’s a great series of ‘Recording The Red Planet vides. Here’s Part 5 with an extract from Aria Mons :

Rick Wakeman online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube

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1 reply »

  1. In the main happy with album but”Valies Marineris’ starts well but ends in garbled inaudible shambles. This track appears to been recorded through a rice pudding, it’s a distorted fuzzy mess. .
    Very disappointed with the quality of recording even at 45rpm. Cannot believe Rick could have OK’ed release of such poor recording quality
    Listened to this track on Utube with the same result..

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