From the Vault...


Rick Wakeman
"The Family Album"

© President Records

Year of Release: 1987

track listing
  • Black Beauty
  • Adam
  • Jemma
  • Benjamin
  • Oscar
  • Oliver
  • Nina
  • Wiggles
  • Chloe
  • Kookie
  • Tilly
  • Mum
  • Dad
  • The Day After The Fair
  • Mackintosh

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    Previous Review: #1128
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    Various Artists--Super Hits Of The '70s: Have A Nice Day, Volume 5
    Rick Wakeman
    "The Family Album"

    Upon reading reviews on the Internet, regarding Rick Wakeman's The Family Album, I was upset to learn that his 1980s releases were considered "a bland, New Age washout." As a true solo-Wakeman fan, each of his albums in the style of "beautiful music" -- that be either Classical or New Age, his albums of this nature have been extremely exceptional. Yes, there may have been albums such as this better than others, but overall, his solo work in one word is just incredible.

    This week's review marks the return of the solo Wakeman to WSVNRadio, as his 1987 release, The Family Album captures New Age music, as in the styles of other popular New Age artists, such as Yanni and John Tesh. The songs on this release are dedicated to his family members, and even his pets.

    "Black Beauty" (dedicated to his black rabbit) and "Adam" (dedicated to his second eldest son). The next track is dedicated to his daughter Jemma, of which Wakeman and his wife Nina were parents. This song combines an almost ragtime style, then merges into the easy listening New Age. An interesting piece, the easy listening style is the standout.

    "Benjamin" (dedicated to his third son) has an exciting, fast-past New Age sound. The fast keyboard style is also the standout. "Oscar" (dedicated to Rick & Nina's son) is another beautifully, peaceful easy listening piece. "Nina" is an upbeat piece, and has more of a Classical feel. "Wiggles" (dedicated to his black and white rabbit), is another very upbeat, classical-driven piece, and once again, Wakeman's lightning speed keyboard antics keeps your attention. "Chloe" (dedicated to his German Shepherd), is a bit moody, having a sad and emotional feeling. "Kookie" (dedicated to his cat), is also another moody and emotional piece starting out, yet gets a little upbeat in the Classical sense. "Tilly" (dedicated to his Golden Retriever) returns to the heavenly strings of New Age music -- peaceful, beautiful.

    "Mum" is another string-inspired easy listening piece, yet it has an another string instrument that sounds a little distracted than the standard true harpsichord string arrangements. "Dad" also has that same instrument, but has a more inspired upbeat sound.

    The last two songs ("The Day After The Fair" and "Mackintosh") were written as film themes, unrelated to the rest of this album, yet the musical style for both are simply beautiful.

    New Age music to me, is the style of beautifully arranged string accompaniments, piano/synthesizer pieces. There are some songs in this style and sound on The Family Album, and the others I consider as the style of Classical, as heard from Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue," which Wakeman himself recorded and other songs like this style on Rhapsodies. The New Age string arrangements (such as popular songs by Yanni) are the standouts. Another album in comparison would be a 1988 release, Zodiaque, another beautifully arranged, and relaxing album, showcasing 12 songs, each for the Zodiac signs.

    What's interesting to read is how Rick Wakeman felt about The Family Album, years after it's release:
    "An album that I can't play now as it is full of so much sadness for me. When it was first recorded it was all about everybody in my family and life that meant everything to me. Now, many have passed on or have proven not to be the great loves I believed them to be at the time. Knowing what I know now I would never have made this album."
    In reading more of Wakeman's personal life, he and Nina had six children, many of which were dedicated to, on this album. His sons Adam and Oliver recorded albums of their own. Adam and Rick recorded a few albums together. In learning of Wakeman's sadness towards The Family Album, it is assumed it maybe the fact that Rick and Nina divorced. (The only child not mentioned on this album is their youngest daughter, Manda.)

    Since getting closer to the 2008 Christmas season, it is appropriate for The Family Album to get the attention for the album pick of the week. It is an honor to see how Wakeman dedicated his family of his wife, kids and pets. It is sad to learn of how Wakeman wished he never recorded this album. But in all, this album has some beautifully arranged New Age string compositions. These are the standouts, and this New Age sound makes Wakeman a true genius in his solo body of work. Adding beautiful sounding New Age pieces added to his peaceful Classical arrangements, it is an amazement for those who enjoy this relaxing music, and learning that it was from Rick Wakeman -- we can only want to listen more of his solo accomplishments. And glad to say, Wakeman still continues to release music today, whether they be in whatever musical mood he may be in. Wakeman is a genius, and we look ahead to more albums of his to review.

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    Previous Review: #1128
    Next Review: #1130
    Various Artists--Super Hits Of The '70s: Have A Nice Day, Volume 5