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Rick Wakeman

1984

Review by Gary Hill

This concept album is Rick Wakeman’s interpretation of George Orwell’s classic book. I’ve always been a big fan of that book – and a big fan of Wakeman, so it should seem a natural marriage. Truth be told, I like the CD, but I don’t really hear a lot of the connections to the book here. That said, this is a good collection of Rick Wakeman music and we get a couple of cool guest vocalists, too – one being Jon Anderson and the other (less obvious) Chaka Khan. It should be mentioned that a couple of the tracks here also appear on the Sixty Minutes With Rick Wakeman album, which I’ve reviewed previously. The track by track reviews for those songs have been modified or copied to use here for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
1984 Overture /Wargames
As Wakeman's keys start this, it's gentle and rather pretty. It works out toward symphonic territory as it grows. It drops way down for a time after the big symphonic flourish that opened it. It shifts to a full on rock jam as it continues. This works through a number of themes and movements as it evolves. Around the four and a half minute mark it drops way down for a sedate melodic section. From there it powers up to the most powerhouse rock sounding stuff so far. Chaka Khan's vocals are rocking and soulful. This works through a number of shifts and changes. It really just plain drives with hard edged prog magic. I love the triumphant instrumental resolution late in the piece. It drops back to mellower stuff to take it to the close.
Julie's Song
This ballad also features vocals by Chaka Khan. This review was included on the Sixty Minutes With… review as “Julia.” The music on this is predominately based on piano. Khan’s vocals are wispy. This is very much in an AOR, classically inspired motif. I really can’t say that I’m a big fan of this one, though. It does improve quite a bit when it turns more rock oriented mid-song. Unfortunately that section is short-lived. It does make a return visit near the end, though.
Hymn
Yes fans should really love this one for a number of reasons. First, of course, is Rick Wakeman himself. Secondly, Jon Anderson handles the vocals on the track. Third, there’s a section here that is very much like Close to the Edge era Yes. Parts of the track are quite mellow, but it rocks out quite nicely, too. There is a symphonic element to some portions of this. 
Brainwash
This instrumental encompasses a few musical moods and motifs. Much of it is a keyboard workout, but there are some gentler bits – and a few that are more scifi-like and befitting a brainwash.
Robot Man
Chaka Khan is back here. There’s almost a Latin or reggae groove to the rhythm section here. We get a bit of funk mid-track, too and some gospel in the vocal arrangement. All in all, this is an energized rocking number with a real groove.
No Name
This instrumental is diverse, but essentially keyboard dominated. There are some non-lyrical vocals and a lot of this is quite delicate. It’s pretty, but not really a standout. 
Sorry
More of a mainstream rock song; this isn’t one that really does that much for me. It’s OK – that’s about it.
Forgotten Memories
Here’s a bouncy and rather playful little keyboard dominated instrumental. While I am not totally enamored with this it’s a step beyond the last one.
Proles
A bit like “Sorry,” the formula is improved upon here with the addition of a horn section sound and a more fun texture to it. I wouldn’t consider this a highlight of the set, but I like it nonetheless.
1984

A fairly slow, swaying sort of rhythmic structure makes up the core of the first movement here. In fact, while the melody surges and intensifies later, if you listen carefully you’ll hear that this base remains unchanged. The track works out after a time (and some chorale vocals) into s a dramatic drop back. Then a couple changes ensue and Wakeman throws in some awesome soloing. We get more of those chorale vocals, but the keyboard maestro continues rearranging and soloing through this. After a time this shifts out into a funky approach that has some similarities in terms of the overall motif with Jeff Wayne’s The Music Version of the War of the Worlds. It moves into an almost honky-tonk little bit after that. This doesn’t remain long, though and Wakeman and the group launch out into a killer rocking segment that is amongst the best (and most trademark here). The changes just keep on coming as this modulates into a more melodic and powerful sound and then shifts into some kind of Sousa type sounds. Then we’re off to a more pure rock and roll sound. These changes are so rapid-fire that it’s pretty hard to keep up. A balladic section takes it and they work it into a powerfully emotional motif to end.

 
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