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Wakeman, Rick

Entry updated 25 October 2021. Tagged: Music, People.

(1949-    ) UK musician. A classically trained pianist of remarkable technical facility, Wakeman played electronic keyboards in Yes, as well as latterly making a career for himself as a television personality. The relationship with the other members of Yes has proved on-off, his meat-eating, blokeish, Conservative personality jarring with the hippy transcendental vegetarianism of the other members; as a result he has alternated periods as a member of the group with periods as a solo artist. In the latter capacity he released a worthy musical version of Jules Verne Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974), some of which is scored for full orchestra (rather raggedly played by the LSO), although Wakeman's Moog analog synthesizer playing is some of his best. Many fans consider this work a high point of his career. Wakeman's follow-up project, an Arthurian concept album unlaconically titled The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (1975) is full-on melodrama and enjoyably preposterous. A stage-show version of the album performed on ice was a flop, and supposedly bankrupted Wakeman.

Perhaps his best solo album is the spacey No Earthly Connection (1976), a surprisingly effective mix of medieval plainsong and futuristic electronica that, despite moments of sentimentality, creates a cohesive and effective whole. Continuously prolific, Wakeman has released nearly a hundred solo albums, many of them adaptations of famous books, and latterly he has recorded a good deal of Christian and devotional music. Of genre interest is his punchy version of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four (1949: the album is called 1984) from 1981, as well as the lesser album Time Machine (1988), which, despite its title, is not a version of H G Wells's novella. 2000 AD Into the Future (1991) spins satisfying instrumental webs out of a number of genre-standard situations ("The Time Tunnel", "Robot Dance", "Into the Seventh Dimension" and so on). A rather corny sequel to Journey to the Centre of the Earth called Return to the Centre of the Earth (1999) falls far short of the earlier achievement. [AR]

Richard Christopher Wakeman

born Perivale, Middlesex: 18 May 1949


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