i did something this weekend, look you see, that is quite rare for me to do. no, not that, although now that i think on that would have been jolly splendid, enjoyable and predictable. no, dear reader, i happened to read a newspaper. one of the several petrol stations i use, for i do believe in spreading my wealth across all the petrochemical companies, gives you a free paper when you use them. if they are kind enough to do that then it is not unreasonable to expect me to at the least glance at it.
during the course of reading the newspaper i happened to look upon the most recently published of music charts. i of course merrily skipped over the "singles" one, for that is now all a load of rubbish based on "streams" and "you tube hits" rather than what we in the 70s, 80s and 90s called "purchases". the album chart is, however, mostly full of recordings which people have actually bought.
in considering this chart, one album that had been in the charts for at least a couple of weeks caught my eye and commanded my attention.
yes. well, yes it is him off of the band Yes, but no that's not why i am saying yes. no, i am saying yes as this is indeed, in the classical format of Commodore 64 mode with scan lines on, Piano Portraits as recorded, or if you like portraited, by Rick Wakeman. yes, the Rick Wakeman who was out of Yes, the celebrated prog rock band. as was Jon Anderson, whose stuff with Vangelis i like quite a lot. so yes, paybe i should pick up some Yes albums.
this charted recording caught my eye because the name suggested something interesting. an investigation of the track selection, done on something called Google on one of them internet things, confirmed this.
i had not heard any previews of the record, but the pedigree of the artist (he did, after all, do piano for Bowie on a number of tracks on the Hunky Dory album, with Life On Mars? in particular being quite celebrated) was enough to see me head to HMV to pick it up. apt, i suppose, really - the first copyrighted 2016 release i got was Blackstar, so why not have Rick Wakeman as the first of 2017?
what is this record, then? 15 cover versions, or if you like interpretations, or if you prefer to go as even more how Rick Wakeman would like portraits, of select songs. at least i think they all are, one or two of them i had not heard of so forgive me if they are indeed original compositions. the deal with these covers / interpretations / portraits is, but of course, that they are all done off of a piano.
if i am not what you would call a big Rick Wakeman fan (nothing against him, i just don't have any Yes records and, if i read right, this is 100th release in his own name yet the 1st i have bought), what's the draw? not sure. am i a big piano fan? not really. maybe. yes. Piano Man off of Billy Joel is one of my all time favourite songs of all time. and, through Spiros, i've listened to quite a few Liberace and Elton John recordings, quite often in some rather exotic clubs.
i don't know, it just appealed enough on the sound of it to go and buy it. and, as it turns out, this was a most splendid appeal, as i am rather enjoying it.
any particular highlights? that's quite a tough one, to be sure, as there's a lovely flow to the album as it is. it would feel somewhat mean to select or pick and choose certain titles, but on the off chance you have read this far and want to seek out some samples, so be it.
to start with the most obvious, there's nothing new to the recording of Life On Mars? here, and nor should there be. just what would it be that Rick Wakeman, or anyone, would be able to add to existing perfection? the other Bowie inclusion, Space Oddity, is marvellous. it is, to me, how you'd imagine how Bowie himself might have arranged it if he ever had elected to do one of them Vegas residencies.
the starting track, a rendition of Help!, seems to add considerably more layered depth to the song than one found in the original, enabled in part by "borrowing" elements off of other Beatles tracks.
if i were forced to select but one portrait to take as why you or anyone should give Piano Portraits a go it would be Stairway To Heaven. here, stripped of Plant's wails, removed from Page's guitar, free of Bonham's drums and yet arguably missing Jones' bass, you get to rediscover what at core is one of the most astonishing pieces of music ever to be created.
and so there we go, the first album released proper in 2017 that i went and bought turns out to be a most splendid one. true, granted, it is (so far as i am aware) free of any original compositions as such, but it is loaded with fabulous interpretations of some truly amazing songs.
maybe this is all we really do have left, you know. possibly all great songs that were ever to exist have been done, and now all we can do is revisit and reimagine. that said, the year assures us of a brand new Depeche Mode record. who knows, maybe Kasabian and The Stone Roses shall indulge us too.
the very healthy chart performance of this record says i need not go out of my way to encourage people to purchase it. if you've not heard of it but like me find yourself intrigued, however, then may no harm befall you if you also go and purchase it for your listening pleasure.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!