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Rick Wakeman

The Phantom of the Opera

Review by Gary Hill
I'm a big fan of progressive rock, and especially Yes (and by extension Rick Wakeman). I'm also a fan of horror movies, including the old classic ones. So, a Rick Wakeman soundtrack for the original silent film of "Phantom of the Opera" is my kind of thing. This new set includes both the two CD audio of the soundtrack and the movie with Wakeman's music. I will say that the music tends to overshadow the film a bit, but the movie is an old chestnut. This is well worth having for fans of soundtrack music and fans of Rick Wakeman. It has some great music.
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 2 at
Track by Track Review
Disc 1

The Phantom of the Opera Part One
The first disc is a 41 minute and eight second slice of the soundtrack. This comes in with powerful synthesizer based music. The opening fanfare is powerful stuff. Then we're taken to a playful, lighthearted romp from there. A rousing kind of old school sound is heard next. It is trademark Wakeman, but also befitting the music of the period in which the film was released. Some of the dramatic elements that emerge bring more of the pure Wakeman to bear. Then the soundtrack shifts again moving forward with some intriguing synthesis. As it works to a more "song based" element, Chrissie Hammond's vocals join, and we're into a real mellow rock mode. This is very much in line with the kind of thing Wakeman did in the 70s. After the song section there is audience reaction. Then the music turns dark. Wakeman works through some variants before powering out to a driving, rocking synthesizer movement. Operatic vocals come over the top of that. The powerful rock of this serves as a great backdrop for the more rock song oriented chorus vocals. The operatic stuff returns for the verse, though. It works to a more melodic chorus with even more rock driven singing. Eventually it drifts down toward more trippy kinds of music after the vocal section ends. There is a dark, uneasy texture to it. The music keeps driving forward building into more dramatic territory. Some trademark Wakeman stuff emerges from there. Then we're taken into a more playful thing for a bit. Classical Wakeman comes in after that part of the piece. Ashley Holt delivers some vocals that are part rock music and part opera. When Hammond joins for the female part of the duet, it's more purely rock oriented. This is definitely a song like part of the piece. It's also a section that feels very much like the 70s era of Wakeman's music. After that some mysterious keyboard tones take control. From there a more rock based segment serves as the backdrop for the next vocal movement. There are some cool rock and roll guitar fills on this segment. There is a killer rocking jam that ensues at one point with the keys and a guitar solo really driving it. Then a different rock arrangement emerges. Wakeman gets some great soloing in that movement. Then it shifts again and we get some operatic vocals in the next part. Cool keyboards drive the movement that comes in next. The singing included there is more of the prog rock variety. This really is classic prog rock at times. It works to a mellower, more operatic movement from there. The Wakmen soloing that emerges after that is really trademark. That works to a classically based section for the next vocals. Then it drops back down for more operatic type singing. The music turns dramatic and a bit creepy for a short time, but then resolves to something pretty and rather gentle. It works to a cool classically based section from there. This turns dark and noisy. It's downright unsettling. More operatic vocals emerge in the section that comes next. It's quite classical and traditional. That section ends the first CD.
Disc 2
The Phantom of the Opera Part Two
This second half of the soundtrack is roughly half a minute longer than the first half was. Wakeman's synthesizers start it in fine fashion. The piece works forward with a playful classically styled treatment. There is a build out to a classical turned electronic fanfare that's powerful. Then the rock band concept kicks into gear. Holt's vocals come over the top making this again feel like 70s Wakeman. This works through and drops back to a mellower movement over which the female vocals rise in evocative style. This section really has a great contemporary ballad feeling to it. It's an extended movement, too. It's one of my favorite vocal performances here. I love the keyboard work that takes it in the next classical meets playful rock section. It works to mellower, stuff for a time. Then the keyboards burst forward moving the piece onward. I love the piano that leisurely flavors the arrangement here. We're taken out to some more 70s style Wakeman rock for the next vocal movement. I like the alternation between the male and female vocals. Keyboards take control in a dramatic, but more atmospheric segment after that. I love the melodic lines that emerge as the keyboards take it from there. We're taken to another cool rocking movement for the next vocal section. That movement is hard rocking prog that's again very much like Wakeman's 70s output. The powerhouse fanfare at the end of that movement is great. It gets rather exploratory as keyboards move it out from that point. Eventually another prog rocking movement emerges from there. It has some powerhouse vocals and feels like we're back in the rocking 70s. Some trademark Wakeman jamming ensues as the instrumental part of the piece works toward the end. There is actually an ending to that particular movement, but keyboards bring the next one in almost immediately. The piece eventually works out to a more rock based arrangement. The vocals that join, though, are more operatic. This really gets pretty intense as it continues driving foward. There is a connecting piece, and then it explodes to the hardest rocking movement of the whole thing. It feels a bit like Deep Purple to me. The female vocal based chorus, though, brings some different. There is some rocking guitar soloing. Then, it explodes ro more 70s Wakeman styled stuff with the same hard rocking sound as its backdrop. It resolves to a titular chorus that is part hard rock, part opera and all dramatic. There is an ending, and then we're brought into a full on hard rocking reprise of the chorus. This one is a bit more raw and almost heavy metal. That takes it to some cool keyboard jamming for a short closing section. It's a powerhouse way to bring it all to a close.
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