Noted keyboardist, songwriter, and broadcaster Rick Wakeman will release his new solo album, Piano Portraits (UMe), on CD and digitally on January 13, 2017, with double-LP vinyl to follow on February 3.
Prompted by the enthusiastic reaction to his performance of the late David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” on BBC Radio 2 earlier this year, Wakeman has recorded a full solo piano album featuring a varied selection of music, including classic songs on which he originally performed.
Bucking the trend of other orchestral projects, Piano Portraits captures both the technical virtuosity and lightness of touch that have become trademarks of Wakeman’s playing since he first made a name for himself in the 1970s. Recorded at The Old Granary in South Norfolk, England, the 15-track collection ranges from landmark David Bowie hits “Life on Mars” — which Wakeman recorded the original piano parts for — and “Space Oddity,” on which he contributed mellotron; through The Beatles, Yes, and Led Zeppelin; to classical pieces composed by Debussy and Tchaikovsky.
“I’ve been wanting to do a piano album for years, and I spent quite a bit of time looking at everything from straight classical pieces to stuff that I’d played on in the past, like ‘Morning Has Broken’ and ‘Life On Mars’,” Wakeman explains. “Plus pieces of music that I thought would work really well, like ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and classics like ‘Clair de Lune.’ Nearly all of the tracks have a memory for me somewhere down the line, and it just seemed to work.”
Some of you may recall I interviewed Wakeman earlier this year here on HRAC about quad mixes and surround sound, and I will be speaking with him again in early January (while I’m at CES in Las Vegas, no less!) about the making of and the sound design for Piano Portraits for an early 2017 post, so stay tuned.
For those who don’t know, Wakeman has carved out a fascinating, idiosyncratic career that has comfortably traversed multiple musical worlds. A classically trained pianist, he studied at the Royal College Of Music in London before going on to become a much-in-demand session musician playing on a string of hit songs by the likes of Black Sabbath, Elton John, Cat Stevens, and David Bowie. He was also a member of Yes, became a hugely successful solo artist, and is currently touring with two of his former Yes bandmates, vocalist Jon Anderson and guitarist/vocalist Trevor Rabin, in ARW. (Read my review of ARW live here.)
Preorder Piano Portraits here: https://UMe.lnk.to/PianoPortraitsPR
To get a further, firsthand taste of what’s to come, watch the music video for Wakeman’s interpretation of The Beatles’ “Help!” right here on HRAC:
The full album track listing is as follows:
Rick Wakeman: Piano Portraits
- Stairway to Heaven
- Life on Mars
- I’m Not In Love
- Wonderous Stories
- Amazing Grace
- Swan Lake
- Morning Has Broken
- Space Oddity
- Dance of the Damselflies
- Clair de Lune
- I Vow To Thee My Country
- Eleanor Rigby