White Rock

Rick Wakeman

A & M Records, 1977

http://www.rwcc.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/20/2002

Quick - name the city and country where the 1976 Winter Olympics were held. Time's up. The answer is Innsbruck, Austria. Don't worry, I wouldn't have gotten it, either.

Quick, again - name the movie which served as the documentary for these games. Time's up again. The answer is White Rock. Most likely you, like me, would be two for two in the trivia department right now.

Yes, kids, there was a documentary about these Olympic Games - and the soundtrack was provided by one Rick Wakeman. Coming off the disappointments of No Earthly Connection and Criminal Record, it almost sounds like Wakeman just wanted to have some fun with this music. Fortunately for all, he succeeds, and White Rock - criminally out of print right now - is a major return to form for the famed keyboardist. Utilizing only his friend, now long-time drummer Tony Fernandez (as well as a choir two times), Wakeman sculpts a rich sound from sparse instrumentation to create a powerful disc.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I wonder if a little of the power of this music is lost because I don't have the corresponding film to watch, and to see how it all fits together. Normally, such a situation can hurt a film soundtrack. In the case of White Rock, sometimes it feels like Wakeman's music is out there on its own, and the film just happened to flow around the music.I don't claim to have insider knowledge on this; all I know is that the album, as it is, does a great job.

One can't help but like the Gypsy thread of "Montezuma's Revenge," or the glory of the title track, almost making you feel like you're taking part in the Opening Ceremonies, walking in with your fellow athletes.One can feel the pain of losing after giving one's all on tracks like "Ice Run," but also one can take comfort in that you made it to the big dance, when thousands of others only can dream of what you've done.

Okay, enough metaphors. Fact is, Wakeman sounds like he's having some real fun with the music here - something he started to discover on Criminal Record - and his free spirit is what allows these songs to succeed. His layered keyboards, combined with the powerful drumming of Fernandez, make it sound like Wakeman is performing with his beloved English Rock Ensemble. (Come to think of it, I wonder how these tracks would sound with the Ensemble performing them. Memo to Wakeman: Maybe, if you tour again with them, you'd consider reviving one or two of these songs?)

This isn't to say that White Rock is flawless. Granted, there is only one stumbling block here - the track "Lax'x" - but it takes far too long for this song to get its gears moving and to reach the musical heart of the piece. In some ways, it sounds a little too experimental, though both Wakeman and Fernandez could be equally called onto the carpet for this one. Still, it's one flawed track out of eight - and that's a good average.

White Rock is not the easiest album to find; indeed, I had to review it off of - gasp! - MP3 files. But I can say this with confidence: the day this one is re-released on CD, I'll be one of the first in line to snag a copy. Wakeman followed this disc up many years later with White Rock II, and hopefully we'll get to that one soon. For now, White Rock marks a return to form for Wakeman.

Album cover artwork borrowed from Rick Wakeman Communication Centre.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of A & M Records, and is used for informational purposes only.