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Rick Wakeman

Christmas Variations

Review by Gary Hill

This is a reissue of an older Rick Wakeman album (from 2000). This edition, released in 2020, has two bonus tracks and a different cover. I should mention that I got it last year, but too late to make our December issue, so I've been holding onto it for this issue. This is strictly Wakeman solo. It's an entertaining set, but probably would work better as backing music for your holiday celebrations. There is quite a bit of pretty music here, all of the instrumental variety.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Silent Night
This solo keyboard arrangement of the classic is very pretty and captivating. I really like this a lot.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
I love the piano work on this. The whole keyboard arrangement is classy, but it's Wakeman. What do you expect?
Christians Awake Salute the Happy Morn
Largely a piano solo, this is particularly beautiful. The arrangement beyond the piano is lush and more like icing on the cake.
Away in a Manger
The piano driving this is so powerful and intricate. The piece really seems to convey a lot of emotion.
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night
This has some dramatic symphonic vibes to it, but the piano is again the driving point of the melody.
O Little Town of Bethlehem

More of a synthesizer based tune, I like the variety this brings. Then again, it's a strong piece even without taking that into account.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Dramatic and powerful piano is at the heart of this piece.
Once in Royal David's City
More of a synthesized sound is on the menu here. The piano still handles a lot of the drama of the number. This is a good tune, but not a standout.
O Come All Ye Faithful
I love the intricate piano interplay on this song. More synthesizer textures are added to the mix further down the road. This is another classy rendition.
Angels from the Realms of Glory
This is another that is solid, but doesn't really stand out. Still, it has some pretty passages.
Bonus Tracks:
                     
Silent Prayer

Although it's a bonus track, this dramatic piece might be the best thing here. It really calls to mind some of Wakeman's best (albeit mellower) solo work of the 1970s.  It has some really evocative synthesizer sounds.

Amazing Grace

I have to admit that this is one song I don't just dislike, I despise. I've only ever heard one version of it that I've liked. That said, I don't really dislike this version. It's a piano arrangement, it is rather pretty.

 
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