What does it sound like?:
One of the unexpected successes of last year was Rick Wakeman’s Piano Portraits album, buoyed by his interpretation of Life On Mars no doubt. Thus we have the inevitable sequel, in similar vein, a mixture of new and old, originals and covers, classical and pop/rock. Let me say right at the outset that I’m a big fan of Rick’s playing and his live shows – until you see him at close quarters it’s easy to forget what a great pianist he really is, something that’s easily overlooked amongst all the jokes and anecdotes. Of course, he’s best known for his seventies work, and here you get And You And I, the almost inevitable Roundabout and Jane Seymour, all impeccably played, but none as good as the originals for me – but then again, the folk who this is aimed at may not even know the originals from over forty years ago! The cover versions are a bit hit and miss – While My Guitar Gently Weeps works well, likewise (a left field inclusion) Bowie’s Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud, a real blast from the past. Others don’t fare so well, The Boxer for example, and even Brian May’s contribution can’t rescue Bohemian Rhapsody. The handful of classical pieces again are all well executed, but to me are a little too ‘Richard Clayderman plays the classics’ (a reference for the kids there!), and don’t really add that much to proceedings. I do wonder though if more life might be injected in to some of these pieces in a live setting during his upcoming shows. Overall then, this is perfectly listenable, but sometimes you just yearn for some of the innovative playing from his creative heyday.
What does it all *mean*?
Judging by the sales of its predecessor (and for the subsequent tour), there’s obviously a market out there for this type of release, maybe people who just prefer inoffensive music as a bit of easy listening in the background. It’s pleasant enough – certainly well played, but just a little bit bland. I’m sure it’ll be in a lot of Christmas stockings though!
Goes well with…
Might suit people who like…
Instrumental reinterpretations of old favourites, Rick’s solo albums.