Rick Wakeman and the English Rock Ensemble
The Red Planet
I was a prog rock geek in high school. I loved Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Genesis and Yes. I fell out of love with prog when I realized that just because something was complicated and technically challenging didn’t mean it was good. In other words, I discovered punk. I’ve followed the soap opera of Yes’s career from a distance. Wakeman is in the band. Wakeman is out of the band. Now there are two versions of Yes on the road. Now it’s back to one. Oh, wait, we have two bands again.
Rick Wakeman is the most revered of the keyboard players to trod the boards with Yes. He’s also a serious solo artist with some of the more interesting concept albums of the 1970s to his credit. Infamously, Rick staged his show for The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights if the Round Table as an ice skating spectacular. With that in mind, it’s not too surprising that Wakeman has emerged late in his career as a TV presenter and stand up comedian. His most recent tour was called, “The Grumpy Old Rock Star Tour,” and featured Rick telling amusing stories about his career and playing solo piano bits.
The Red Planet is Wakeman’s return to concept albums and prog sounds after years of doing almost everything else. The Red Planet is an instrumental album sparked by the prospect of people from Earth actually traveling to Mars in the kind of near future. The album brings the best ideas of prog rock into the 21st century while leaving most of the self-indulgent showing off back in the 20th. Rick is ably backed by the English Rock Ensemble, Lee Pomeroy (bass), Ash Soan (drums) and Dave Colquhoun (guitars). The tunes are focused on creating moods and emotions (like a film score) with just enough of the flashy synthesizer bits to remind you of ice-skating knights and Topographic Oceans.