Review: Rick Wakeman Offers Another Example of His Sonic Sensibilities

Rick Wakeman/A Gallery of the Imagination/Madfish Music
3.5 out of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Sweeping and majestic, keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman’s new album, A Gallery of the Imagination, is every bit as auspicious as one might expect from this musical maestro. Like his early solo forays, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and Lisztomania, it marries a decided concept—in this case, the influence of his first music teacher and the lessons she taught him about painting pictures through the making of music—with an elegiac pastiche. It spawned from the idea of presenting individual tracks like pictures at an exhibition, with each song offering a specific showcase for Wakeman’s flights of fancy on Moog, piano, and other prog provisos.

As always, Wakeman’s music is heavily infused with classical influences, a style that’s tempered by a desire for added accessibility through the accompaniment of his so-called English Rock Ensemble— consisting of bassist Lee Pomeroy, guitarist Dave Colquhoun, drummer Ash Soan, and singer Hayley Sanderson. That said, the arched arrangements remain intact, courtesy of a cerebral sound that captures the listener’s imagination and therefore ensures immediate engagement. Sanderson’s vocals bring to mind those of Annie Hallam, the longtime lead singer of Renaissance—hardly a surprise considering that Wakeman fancies the same symphonic sound.

As a result, A Gallery of the Imagination resembles a suite of sorts, with each track part of a movement that affirms that overall impression. Nevertheless, certain songs stand out—the soothing and serene “Only When I Cry,” the Latin-tinged “Cuban Carnival” and the drama and dynamic infused in such selections as “Hidden Depths,” “A Mirage in the Clouds” and “The Visitation.” 

So too, the album’s final entry, “The Eyes of a Child,” provides a touching coda, one that’s somewhat lullaby-like given the fact that it was written with Wakeman’s grandkids in mind. 

In the end, the album provides yet another example of Wakeman’s verve and virtuosity. Postured without pretense, it ranks among Wakeman’s best.

Photo courtesy Glass Onyon PR

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