Review Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of the Earth Album (1974)

Doctor Omega

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Journey to the Centre of the Earth is the second solo album from the English keyboardist Rick Wakeman, released on 3 May 1974 by A&M Records. The album is a live recording of his second of two concerts on 18 January 1974 at the Royal Festival Hall in London. With its concept based on Jules Verne's science fiction novel of the same name, the album tells the story of Professor Lidenbrok, his nephew Axel, and their guide Hans, who follow a passage to the Earth's centre originally discovered by Arne Saknussemm, an Icelandic alchemist. Wakeman performs with the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Choir, and a group of hand-picked musicians for his rock band, which later became the English Rock Ensemble. Actor David Hemmings narrates the story.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth was overall well received by music critics. It reached number one on the UK Albums Chart, the first album from A&M to do so, and peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200 in the United States. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in October 1974 for 500,000 copies sold in the United States. The album earned Wakeman a nomination for an Ivor Novello Award and a Grammy Award. In 1999, Wakeman released a sequel, Return to the Centre of the Earth. He re-recorded the album with additional parts previously removed from the original score due to time constraints, in 2012.


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Reception

The album received some negative reaction upon its release, with music critics having described the record as a "classical pastiche...genuinely appalling" and "brutal synthesiser overkill".[23] Journey however, was well received by others. A journalist for The Sunday Times missed the Royal Festival Hall concert, but thought on record the music "comes over magnificently ... a striking work which only occasionally lapses into pretentiousness".[24] Music journalist Chris Welch of Melody Maker thought the album was "entertaining, fresh and disalarmingly unpretentious ... This could be a score for a Hollywood musical – tuneful, but with epic overtones". Welch noted Wakeman's "familiarity of the story" and his "close observance to detail engenders a warmth to the work, which made it a resounding success as a concert performance".[24] In a retrospective review, Mike DeGange of Allmusic called the album "one of progressive rock's crowning achievements" and noted "interesting conglomerations of orchestral and synthesized music".[25]

2012 re-recording

Wakeman presumed that the original conductor's score was lost when his record company A&M collapsed in the early 1980s. However, a "huge cardboard packing case" arrived at his house in 2008 which stayed in his garage for "about five months" before he found the score at the bottom which was damaged by water. A year was spent digitising and forming the complete score with conductor Guy Protheroe. Wakeman re-recorded the album with an orchestra, choir, and members of his English Rock Ensemble band as a studio album, incorporating 20 minutes that was previously cut. As Hemmings died in 2003, the narration is voiced by actor Peter Egan.[1] Released on 20 November 2012, the new album is packaged with a one-off magazine published by Classic Rock and a copy of the 1974 Royal Festival Hall concert program.

Track listing

All tracks written by Wakeman. "The Forest" includes an excerpt of In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg, who is credited in the album's liner notes.

Side one
  1. "The Journey"/"Recollection" – 21:20
Side two
  1. "The Battle"/"The Forest" – 18:57


 

Doctor Omega

Moderator
2012 re-recording

Wakeman presumed that the original conductor's score was lost when his record company A&M collapsed in the early 1980s. However, a "huge cardboard packing case" arrived at his house in 2008 which stayed in his garage for "about five months" before he found the score at the bottom which was damaged by water. A year was spent digitising and forming the complete score with conductor Guy Protheroe. Wakeman re-recorded the album with an orchestra, choir, and members of his English Rock Ensemble band as a studio album, incorporating 20 minutes that was previously cut. As Hemmings died in 2003, the narration is voiced by actor Peter Egan.[1] Released on 20 November 2012, the new album is packaged with a one-off magazine published by Classic Rock and a copy of the 1974 Royal Festival Hall concert program.


 
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Doctor Omega

Moderator
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Return to the Centre of the Earth is a studio album by the English keyboardist Rick Wakeman, released on 15 March 1999 on EMI Classics. The album is a sequel to his 1974 concept album Journey to the Centre of the Earth, itself based on the same-titled science fiction novel by Jules Verne. Wakeman wrote a new story of three unnamed travellers who attempt to follow the original journey two hundred years later, including the music which features guest performances from Ozzy Osbourne, Bonnie Tyler, Tony Mitchell, Trevor Rabin, Justin Hayward, and Katrina Leskanich. The story is narrated by Patrick Stewart. Recording was delayed after Wakeman was hospitalised with a life threatening case of double pneumonia and pleurisy, and needed time to recover.

Upon release, the album reached number 34 on the UK Albums Chart.


Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source
Rating
About.com (mixed)[7]
Birmingham Evening Mail (mixed)[8]
The Boston Herald
[9]
Allmusic
[10]
On 9 February 1999, the album received a 300-guest launch party arranged by EMI at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London.[4] The album's release followed on 15 March.[11][12] A promotional "radio edit" of the album was made with the songs edited to around four minutes, and distributed to radio stations to allow the album to gain airplay.[4] It reached a peak of number 34 on the UK Albums Chart during its three-week stay on the chart. EMI set a goal of selling 300,000 copies of the album worldwide, but sales had only reached 195,000 copies two years after its release. Targets were met in each territory except the United States, where just 25,000 copies were sold which Wakeman felt disappointed about.[13]

The album received mixed reviews from music critics. The Birmingham Evening Mail wrote the album is "twice as long and equally as ambitious" as the original and rates Stewart's "precise narration". The orchestra and choir "enter into the spirit of things with gusto", but the review concluded with "expect a punk rock backlash in the year 2001".[8] A review in The Boston Herald by Kevin R. Convey gave the album 1-and-a-half stars out of five, saying Wakeman "hasn't lost his touch" and that the sequel "is every bit as pompous and bombastic as the original", which contained a "thoroughly silly script" for its narration and "risible" lyrics. Convey concluded: "Those who love Journey probably will enjoy this as well. Others may want to find more creative ways to give themselves a headache".[9] In October 1999, a review from Shawn Perry for About.com praised Stewart's performance for his "infectious precision" in his narration and the album's opening of "lush orchestrations, slyly garnishing Stewert's poignant articulations throughout". Perry thought Wakeman's keyboards sound "seemingly shrouded ... certainly not as distinctive as Wakeman's sound can be", but welcomed "Buried Alive" as the point when the album "sonically surges forward" and for Osbourne's vocals and Wakeman's solo. From then on, Perry thought the album takes an "ethereal tone ... with no real central theme to convey" but considered Tyler's and Hayward's songs as highlights. Perry concluded that the album acts as a "self-fulfilling aspiration" for Wakeman, and thought the audience lack the patience to sit through the album.



 
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