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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Rick Wakeman

Starship Trooper

Review by Gary Hill

This new Rick Wakeman album is actually a compilation. That said, it features a couple tracks that have never before been released. Several others are alternate versions from the ones previously released. All of that would make it worth having for Wakeman fans and collectors. The thing is, the album is very good beyond that information. Although the majority of this is instrumental, there are a handful of pieces with vocals. I have reviewed several of these on their original albums. In those cases, I’ve modified the track reviews from those for the sake of consistency. However, there are several where I’m not sure what the original disc was. Perhaps I’ve previously reviewed them and don’t remember, or maybe I haven’t. The disc doesn’t say from what albums the tracks come. In the case of the alternate versions, I’ve written new reviews for this edition, whether I reviewed the original one or not.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Sober (with Billy Sherwood & Jorgen Engler)

This is a brand new recording of a song by Tool. Trademark Wakeman soloing opens this cut. Then it works out to a killer jam that’s moody and quite hard rocking. This instrumental doesn’t cover a lot of ground in terms of progression, but has some incredibly jamming built into it. Wakeman really gets to shine.

Are We To Believe (with Steve Hillage, Billy Sherwood & Jorgen Engler)
I love the talk box guitar on this high energy prog tune. Of course, Wakeman puts in some exceptional soloing, too. This, in many ways, really does feel like a cross between the work of Wakeman and Billy Sherwood’s sound. That’s a great combination, really. The saxophone solo is a great touch. This is another instrumental. It has some cool shifts and changes and occupies a space somewhere between Yes-like prog and fusion.
Random Acts (Revisited) (with Jerry Goodman, Nik Turner, Jimmy Haslip, Billy Shrewood & Jorgen Engler)
This one has a much more jazz oriented vibe. It also has a bit of space rock in the mix. Wakeman puts in some particularly inspired piano playing on this number. This instrumental seems a little more exploratory. It’s a real powerhouse, though.
Dynamics of Delirium (with Jorgen Engler)
With some exceptional piano work, this is another dramatic prog rock excursion. Fusion is a valid reference point on this instrumental, too. That said, there is a drop back to an almost classical section, too.
Love Reign O'er Me (with Huw Lloyd Langton & Carmine Appice)
This is a smoking hot instrumental version of the Who classic. The balance between exception guitar soloing, keyboard work and drums is just so great. This thing is purely on fire.
Crime of the Century (with Tony Levin & Billy Sherwood)
There are some cool shifts and changes here. This is another great prog rock instrumental. Perhaps it could be argued that it has some of the most trademark Wakeman soloing of the whole set. I really love the keyboard workout mid-track.
The Great Gig In The Sky (with Steve Howe)
As Rick Wakeman’s piano works alongside Steve Howe’s sliding guitar, this thing is both trademark Pink Floyd and Yes at the same time. I’m not overly crazy about the singing that comes in beyond that movement, but I don’t really like it on the original either. Howe gets a chance to shine beyond that as Wakeman is back on the piano. Other than the spoken bits early and those non-lyrical vocals, this is an instrumental.
I'm Not in Love (with Nektar)
I’ve always loved this tune and they put in a great rendition. This is another instrumental.
Starship Trooper (with Tony Kaye, Mickey Thomas & Billy Sherwood)
The first track here to feature vocals, this rendition of the Yes classic is quite strong. It’s a fairly faithful rendition in a lot of ways. In fact, while the vocals are different, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine this as a long lost live Yes take on the track. And, I say that as someone who has seen Yes live many times and heard a lot of live recordings of the band. It is a truncated version, though, cutting off mid-jam.
Check Point Karma (with Colin Moulding & Billy Sherwood)
This has a real Billy Sherwood sound in the song construction and production. Rick Wakeman’s keyboard soloing, though, is unmistakable. I love the guitar sounds on this thing, too.
Change (with William Shatner & Billy Sherwood)
This starts off rather tentatively. It gets more developed as the vocals emerge. Then it powers out into a cool jam that has a lot of symphonic elements, some world music and plenty of pure prog built into it. It’s a mystical kind of mix of sounds that wanders towards Beatles-like territory at times. I really love the keyboard soloing on this. Of course, it’s trademark Rick Wakeman, so that makes sense.
Nobody Home (with Billy Sherwood)
From the tribute album to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Rick Wakeman's piano weaves waves of melody to bring a new texture to this sad, but oh so powerful ballad. Billy Sherwood's vocal and orchestral keys are Wakeman's only accompaniment here, giving him a major opportunity to shine. This one is even more powerful than the original, if that's possible.
Light My Fire – (with Steve Howe & Jorgen Engler)
There is a symphonic bombast to this. The cut works out there In classy fashion. This instrumental is part classical music, part jazz and part prog. It’s also cool with both Wakeman and Howe putting in solid performances.
 
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