Music Fusion 1999 / Esoteric 2017
Caped Crusader admires the creations of human spirit and crafty hand.
One of the five studio albums Rick Wakeman released in 1999, “Art In Music Trilogy” isn’t the most prominent of those – and even not the most prominent of his triplets, as this mantle would belong to the “Airs” albums – but it’s remarkable for the maestro’s attempt to break the traditionally feeble new age form and mold something that would last beyond the moments of listening. Spread across loosely thematic discs, the 35 compositions offer rather earthly, if often ethereal, connection and, unobtrusively, can serve either as background music or focus of fleeting pleasure.
That’s how, transparently vibrant, “The Sculptor” is weaving a fantasy tapestry on the first disc by setting electric piano-outlined melodies against electronic shimmer, basically embossing them, and bringing pastel-hued paintings to multi-dimensional life. As a result, pieces such as “White Castles” or “A Castle Of Dreams” – where baroque meet ambient atmosphere – give a new meaning to the “ivory towers” idiom because, for all its enchantment, the suite seems to depict places that exist in real world. Tunes get thin on epics – there’s one each disc – yet “Glacier Valleys” could be a soundtrack to a documentary film in the way “White Rock” did, as organ adds spiritual depth to sonic landscapes the keys evoke, “A Hint Of Autumn” is a key to the album’s nostalgia, and “Lucky Curve” may be the epitome of new age fleshed out in emotionally broad strokes.
This is all about shape and shadow: which is why the lack of substance in “A Fountain Of Tears” is deceptive, as its trickling flow doesn’t let the focus slip. Majestically unhurried and garlanded with harmonies that are wrapped around the main motif, these numbers turn in panoramic manner to display a variety of moods without resorting to kaleidoscope-like shuffling of their elements, from fragrant fragility of “The Porcelain Doll” to tentative agility of “The Dancing Pierrot” and from the chilly panorama of “Stories Of Bygone Days” to the unexpectedly dramatic “Mountain Mist” to “The Fireside” with its homely triumph and beyond.
Second disc, “The Writer,” is simultaneously more introspective and more expressive -“The Quill” projecting a quasi-orchestral chill after the suite’s theme of words committed to paper has been set in motion with the slowly scintillating “Seeds Of Thought” – so when aural drawings come alive, as “The Mottled Blackbird” does springing off a bass throb, hints of pointilism in Rick’s delivery lead to the confluence of initially sparse lines. Calm yet vigorous “Birth Of Nature” won’t go against the pictorial grain here, but it will enhance the sharpness of perception like only the great literary works are able to.
“Sketches” which comprise the third disc are shorter than parts of the previous packages, but they’re linked to both via spectral rhythmic ripples running through “Portrait Of A Dream” and a few other cuts, although some of these break away from overall relaxing mode once “The Dancing Hedgerow” imitates woodwinds and takes court pirouettes outside, to the folk-inspired garden. There, the piano dynamics unfold in full on “Sunbeams” and surround sound possibilities get tentatively explored on the gleaming “Waterlillies”; still, this reissue has no 5.1 upgrade – nor bonuses for that matter – and, perhaps, it doesn’t need extra material, being as self-contained as it gets for an illusory, if so palpable, trip.