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Various Artists

Steinway To Heaven

Review by Gary Hill

It seems like a rather novel, but still somewhat obvious concept. Take various keyboardists, mostly from the world of progressive rock and have them record various classical piano pieces. The end result, however, is not quite so obvious. Certainly in the world of rock music creativity and expression are the norm. It is best to make things your own if you cover a song. However, in the world of classical music the restrictions are much tighter. You have to follow the rules. This means that to a certain degree musicians of equal ability will do quite similar renditions. For that reason the concept seems a bit flawed. However, the album is an entertaining one filled with some great music performed by some of the best out there.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Keith Emerson-Ginastera's Dance
The first musician on the disc is one who needs no introduction, but I will give a brief one anyone. Keith Emerson is best known for his work with Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Emerson, Lake and Powell and Three. He also has had a solo career, was a member of The Nice. With this piece he puts in a fast paced and evocative showing. It seems as if he manages to put a good deal of his style and personality into the piece. Listening to the amount of things going on in this one it is hard to believe that it is only three minutes and change in length.
Rick Wakeman-Beethoven's Pathetique
Another keyboard legend, Rick Wakeman is best known for his work in Yes, but has also been a member of The Strawbs and played on albums by musicians as diverse as Black Sabbath, Elton John, David Bowie and Cat Stevens. He has also had quite an illustrious solo career. The piece that he performs is a pretty and evocative one, and he seems to play it quite "by the book".
Jordan Rudess-Chopin's Revolutionary Etude
Rudess is best know for his work in The Dregs and Dream Theater, but has also released several solo albums and worked on numerous other projects. He seems to do a fine job of bringing this frantic and powerful piano composition to life.
Chuck Leavell-Chopin's Prelude In E
This gentleman is not quite the prog household name of the last three. He has however, played with some of the biggies including The Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones and Sea Level. His particular performance is especially strong, as he seems to know just how to coax the passion from his instrument.
Chris Ingles: Brahms' Variations On Paganini
Chris Ingles' main claim to fame is his work in the band Shadow Gallery. He takes the opportunity to do a piece that shows that classical music can indeed be fun. It is a light-hearted yet invigorating piece performed with precision and style.
David Bryan-Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata
 David Bryan is best known for his work as the keyboardist for Bon Jovi: Here he takes on my all time favorite classical piano piece. Bryan certainly does the composition justice capturing every bit of the emotion and power.

Patrick Moraz-Chopin's Military Polonaise
Having replaced Rick Wakeman in Yes, (then later being replace by him in that same band) Moraz has also been in Refugee, Mainhorse and the Moody Blues in addition to having a successful solo career. Here he gives us a strong performance of this piece that simply screams out its composer's name, so obvious are his fingerprints on it.
Brian Auger-Faure's Pave Op. 50
Auger is a jazz keyboardist best know for his work in Steampacket, Trinity and Oblivion Express. His performance is a bit of a change from the rest, feeling as if he has somehow added his own jazzy texture to the number. It is quite nice.
Mark Robertson-Liszt's Sonnetto 104 del Petrarca
Mark Robertson is the keyboardist and main man behind the awesome prog outfit Cairo. Robertson manages to score the longest performance on the disc with this piece, a constantly changing dynamic composition. This one really feels as if it might have been a big influence on a lot of prog players.

Tony Hymas-Prokofiev's Suggestion Diabolique
Hymas' biggest claim to fame has been as the keyboardist for Jeff Beck, but he is also well known for his work in the band The Lonely Bears. Translating to "diabolical suggestion", this one has an air of evil about it that Hymas seems to do a good job of eking from the keys. Getting a bit chaotic at times, this cut also has a bit of a playful nature.

Dizzy Reed-Chopin's Raindrop
Admittedly, the keyboardist for Guns and Roses would not be the first person you would expect to be playing a classical piece. He puts in a delicate and beautiful showing nonetheless.

Steve Porcaro-Ravel's Pavane For A Dead Princess
Ravel is certainly best known for Bolero and Porcaro is best known for his work in Toto, but the two of them intersect with this piece. It is a delicate and restful number.

 
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