Caped Crusader’s latest endeavors in outer sonic space – on the others’ orbits and with new discoveries.
Rick may not like it much yet this compilation is a small treasure trove for a Wakeman fan not willing to invest in various tribute albums and multi-artist opera he’s been taking part in recently – via the Web, not in corporeal shape – for Cleopatra Records. Taken out of context to create a new one, focused on the ivories wizard, the success of Wakeman’s contributions to the projects depends on Rick’s own investment in those tracks, though. His playing may be always recognizable but it’s not necessarily inspired when songs on offer range from non-genre-bound covers to purely progressive pieces.
As a result, by elevating its melodic line, Wakeman’s piano renders transcendental the pessimism of “Crime Of The Century” – stripped of lyrics for stronger impact – while him joining NEKTAR’s for a go at “I’m Not In Love” shows how easily Rick can slide down his namesake Clayderman’s path of cheesy interpretation of a well-known tune. Of course, there’s a different approach to “Starship Trooper” which has been in Wakeman’s repertoire for so long many tend to forget that he wasn’t originally on this YES classic, one Rick made his own yet is breezily sharing here, for the first time since 1992, with his predecessor in the band Tony Kaye, whereas his previously unreleased take on TOOL’s “Sober” might reflect his own past drinking issues but is rather vague in its solemn strokes.
Still, if Wakeman’s synthesizers create a nice tangle with Steve Hillage’s equally futuristic guitar and Mel Collins’ romantic sax on “Are We To Believe” from THE PROG COLLECTIVE’s oeuvre, and the keyboards’ leading role on “The Great Gig In The Sky” can’t get behind C.C. White’s powerful vocals, the organ riff on THE DOORS’ “Light My Fire” has been largely negated in favor of superficial church drama. Same can’t be said of a Moog finesse on “Check Point Karma” accompanied by Colin Moulding’s twang and producer Billy Sherwood’s sway, but it’s the throbbing “Dynamics Of Delirium” – a new track written by DIE KRUPPS’ Jürgen Engler – that captures the very gist of the veteran’s performance: panoramic, if personal, with many pseudo-orchestral layers interlocking into an uplifting whole.
That’s basically a common denominator for all these cuts. That’s what makes Rick Wakeman the greatest session musician of all – his ability to remain himself and stand out in any surroundings.