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Rick Wakeman

The Burning

Review by Gary Hill

Long out of print, this soundtrack album is now available on CD. With all the music written and performed by Rick Wakeman, it’s a foregone conclusion that Wakeman fanatics will be all over this. The truth is, it’s probably just for them, though. Don’t get me wrong, Wakeman is great, and as soundtracks go, this is fine. It’s just that most of this is probably not the type of music you’ll be spinning over and over again. The first four songs are the ones that have the most return draw. They are not actually from the film but instead are variations on the music included in the movie. This means that they are the most “rock song” oriented cuts on this set. Therefore they are also the most accessible. Wakeman completists, rejoice, The Burning has returned. For the rest of you, you probably won’t be in a hurry to get this. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad, it’s just that there is a lot of other Wakeman to pick up first.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Wakeman Variations
Theme From The Burning
The CD starts with this pretty and intricate track. The opening modes are based on a piano solo that gets augmented after a time by other instrumentation. About a minute or so in it modulates out into fast paced full band production that is quite cool. A noisy keyboard (a bit like a balloon with air being let out of it) weaves across this at time, but other of Wakeman’s instruments take over during other portions. It drops back to just the piano to finish.
The Chase Continues (Po's Plane)
This frantic jam is just plain vintage Wakeman. It’s fast paced and powerful and rocks out really well. As always, Wakeman is simply awesome as he makes his way over the backdrop with the various voicings of his keyboards. This has a cool groove to it.
Variations on the Fire
This is a playful, rather bluesy number that features some retro sounding keyboards at time. It’s a lot mellower than the previous composition. It also has some tasty guitar work. This shifts out to a more dramatic jam as it continues for a short period. Then it moves to a reprise of the earlier themes before transitioning out to another dramatic rock section. Then Wakeman throws out a very inspired solo. This is actually one of my favorite tracks on the disc. It’s quite powerful.
Shear Terror and More
This comes in with a dramatic, rather dark texture. It moves out to more triumphant sounding music and then Wakeman puts down some lines of melody. It wanders out into a rather jazz like movement and feels rather funky. This gets quite inspired and moves through a number of changes before dropping back to a bluesy, club jazz type sound. With a number of varying changes, Mr. Wakeman and company provide a series of intriguing musical textures and pathways, eventually taking it to a satisfying conclusion. This is one of the more dynamic songs on show here, covering a number of different modes and motifs. It turns more dark and heavy before the final movement’s upbeat, bouncy approach.
The Music From the Film
The Burning (End Title Theme)
Wakeman’s keys introduce this and create a powerful and rather enigmatic tapestry of sound.
Campfire Story
This is weird narrative followed by some equally strange music. Then we get something closer to modern baroque chamber music. Mind you, the instrumentation is not like chamber music at all, but the sound reminds me of it.
The Fire
A cool climbing sound rises and this becomes just weird effects driven textures. It peaks with a scream type sound and then a droning rock texture begins to rise amidst space rock keys. This doesn’t come up into full fruition, though. Instead a burst of keyboards threatens to take over. Once again, this doesn’t happen. Next keys that sound like a spacecraft enter and soar. We get backwards tracked sounds as the cut shifts towards more dark and oppressive melody.
Doin' It
This one is bouncy and more light hearted. It’s feels like a fun little pop dittie. We get a cool, extended rock and roll guitar solo that takes the track through its fade-out.
Devil's Creek Breakdown
Welcome to “Deliverance.” This is a frantic little bluegrass jam that has that down-home feel. While this is fun, it’s also not something that’s probably going to appeal to a lot of Wakeman fans.
The Chase
Now this is more like it. Wakeman’s chirping keyboards rise up here and do a little dance. Then a foreboding texture joins and bursts upward. The whole piece starts to become dark and rather frightening at this point. Then we’re off on a new ride as the nervous textures seem to surround and startle coming from varying directions.
Shear Terror
“Shear Terror” starts very quietly, but gradually a thick, growling keyboard sound begins swirling around in beastly patterns. Eventually other elements enter and begin to take center stage. Then a disquieting sort of swirling high-pitched noise takes it to the next phase. Now the keys begin to resemble Tibetan throat singers, or even toads. A chirping sound comes over the top of this. A new fast paced movement becomes the closing phase.
 
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