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Rick Wakeman

Return To The Centre of The Earth

Review by Gary Hill

By going back to his past, Rick Wakeman has created an album that is nearly a masterpiece. A sequel to his Journey to the Centre of the Earth disc, Return to the Centre of the Earth is a very potent progressive rock concept album. The album is arranged in an interesting manner. By playing only the odd numbered tracks, one can get just the narration, and by playing the even numbered tracks, the result is the music and sung cuts. Although a bit pretentious at times, this release is really very good theater set to music.


Wakeman is joined on this release by a number of well known guests who put in very respectable performances. Among them are Patrick Stewart (Star Trek the Next Generation's Captain Picard), Ozzy Osbourne and Trevor Rabin. Patrick Stewart's stellar Shakespearean voice really is perfect as the narrator to this epic tale.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
A Vision
The first narrated segment of the album, this starts in a neo-classical, Moody Bluesish mode. This leads to chorale vocals, and that aforementioned narration.
The Return Overture
Highly dramatic, and bordering on pompous, this instrumental section with choral vocals gets the disc going in a musical direction. Some of the keyboard work on this one is wonderful.
Mother Earth
The music to this narrative captures well the story being conveyed, while continuing the musical themes of the album. This cut is gentle at times, and tumultuous at others.
Buried Alive
Rocking hard, and with Ozzy Osbourne doing the vocal chores, this song really feels like (with a slightly different arrangement) it would be at home on either an Ozzy Osbourne disc or Black Sabbath. That said, it does feature strong orchestration and chorale elements.
The Enigma
This is the next narrative segment, and, as such, comes across quite dramatic.
Is Anybody There
This is quirky and solid rock featuring the rough edged vocals of Bonnie Tyler. It features some considerably powerful keyboard work, and a very dramatic symphonic ending.
The Ravine
This is the next narrative track.
The Dance of A Thousand Lights
This instrumental has a very classically oriented texture to it, and calls to mind the major progressive rock stylings of old Rick Wakeman solo works like Six Wives.
The Shepherd
This narrative features backing music that is in more of a rock mode.
Mr. Slow
Featuring Tony Mitchell on vocals, this is a pop oriented rocker in a slow tempo.
Bridge of Time
This is the next section of narration.
Never Is A Long, Long Time
With guest vocals and lead guitar work by Trevor Rabin, this is another hard rocker with orchestration. It features a catchy Rabinesque hook and very progish arrangement, particularly in the ending segment.
Tales From The Lidenbrook Sea
More narrative with movie type music, this one builds in intensity and drama.
The Kill
This instrumental is dramatic orchestral prog that rocks hard.
Timeless History
Timeless History is another narrative track.
Still Waters Run Deep
Thanks to guest vocals and influence of Justin Hayward, this one feels a lot like a Moody Blues ballad.
Time Within Time
Almost Vangelisish backing music accompanies this narrative section. As the electric storm overtakes the story, more energetic and classically oriented music is the accompaniment.
Ride of Your LIfe
Featuring guest vocals by Katrina Leskanich, this feels quite cheery, and a bit like She's a Beauty by the Tubes. This is a strong rock number with vocals that call to mind Debbie Harry just a bit. The cut takes on a "cowboy film" texture for a short time.
Floating
Angelic voices make the background music of this narrative segment, before it moves on in more dramatic directions.
Floodflames
Starting in the modes of the Ozzy cut, this one becomes a fast paced instrumental that simulates a long chase. It features some classic sounding Wakeman keyboard work.
The Volcano
This final narration ends in a dramatic fashion.
The End of the Return
Musically, this one calls in themes from the first musical segment of the album, while wrapping things up nicely.
 
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