|Rick Wakeman is best-known to most people as one the many "He in!/He's
out!/Wait, he's in again!" members of Yes. But he's been involved in far more
than just Yes.
Wakeman was born in the UK in 1949. He has been involved in music his entire life, including classical organ training and singing in the Boys Brigade choir. He played in several local groups as a teenager, and eventually attended the Royal College of Music, which he quit in 1969.
During 1969-70, Wakeman was an increasingly well-known and in-demand keyboard session musician, recording with everyone from Black Sabbath to Mary Hopkin to Harry Nilsson to Biddu.
In 1970, Wakeman joined The Strawbs. He recorded several successful albums before he joined Yes in 1971 to record the Fragile album, and toured the U.S. for the first time. He stayed with Yes until parting ways in 1974, rejoining in 1976, only to leave again in 1979.
1973 saw his first solo release, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which was followed by Journey to the Centre of the Earth in 1974. A live recording with the London Symphony Orchestra and a full choir, Journey is considered by Wakeman to be a career high point.
While in the hospital in 1975 recovering from a minor heart attack, Wakeman wrote his next album, The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, which was (I'm sure hilariously) staged as an ice show for a three-night run at the Wembley Empire Pool. Although the shows were sell-outs, they were financially disastrous due to the cost of Wakeman's extravagant production.
In the past 20 years Wakeman has been in and out of the personality-conflict quagmire that has been Yes, recorded more solo albums, participated in many short-lived group projects - and he still tours all the time. While not in the public spotlight as much, his musical output has seemed to explode in the last ten years. And get this: always on top of the latest trends, he's appearing on the QVC home shopping channel in November 1996 to promote even more music.
Late-breaking news: Wakeman is involved with the current lineup of Yes, which is releasing a new live album, plus two new studio-recorded songs, in late October 1996. The title of the package is Keys to Ascension.
Our selection for Prog Rock Corner on 10/20/96 was "Recollection", the second of Journey to the Centre of the Earth's four sections, featuring narration by David Hemmings.
Prog Rock Corner Index
Our impression of "Recollection":
Holy bombast and high-concept! The narration holds it all together, while also eliciting a giggle or two from both of us. The LSO sounds wonderful, but we did find Wakeman's big in-your-face synth-stylings at the beginning of the piece a bit abrasive and as out-of-place as his pencilled-in cape-sporting image on the album's cover. If anything, the whole album suffers from taking itself sooooo seriously!
To find out more about Rick Wakeman:
More biographical information than you can shake a stick at can be found at the Rick Wakeman Communications Centre
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