Journey To The Centre Of The Earth
Released: June 1974
Chart Peak: #3
Weeks Charted: 27
Certified Gold: 9/4/74
If keyboardist/composer Rick Wakeman had not decided to make such a lavish and expensive production of his latest venture, he might have come up with something that could make me forgive even his most clumsy and pretentious attempts with Yes. Unfortunately, Journey is not nearly so interesting an adaptation of Jules Verne's Scandinavian-volcano novel as the 1959 cinematic throwaway which featured Pat Boone and James Mason. The directors of the film had enough sense, as I remember, to discourage Boone from singing; Wakeman should have had as much here. The principal flaws in his album -- the music of which often sounds engaging, like a Viking saga's B-movie soundtrack -- are the voices of David Hemmings, the narrator, and the English Chamber Choir, who serve as a semi-Wagnerian chorus. One of the best things about Yes has always been its excellent pop vocals, but the Chamber Choir sounds like an unrehearsed high school choral group. This reduces whatever interesting music might be present to a nerve-wracking series of interludes between the Choir's appearances and Hemmings's vain attmept to match Laurence Olivier's diction.
- Dave Marsh, Rolling Stone, 9/12/74.
I vaguely remember Rick Wakeman as being famous, but where, why, and when escapes me. Oh yeah, he used to play keyboards with -- what's their name --? Yes. Anyway, after reading Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Wakeman apparently decided it had cosmic significance. He wrote a bunch of ditties based on the book which, when strung together and performed with symphonic backing, were supposed to constitute a musical Event.
The performance, I must say, is one great big nothing. It may be thrilling to hear all those symphony fellows scrubbing away on their cellos, and it may be uplifting to hear the choir trilling, but I am sure that if Cat Stevens had written a bag of tunes based on Black Beauty and gussied them up with symphonic accompaniment the result would have been the same. Wakeman's effort is an Ersatz Event. Leaving aside his tunes -- which are not much -- the whole affair comes off as an overblown amateur night. Symphony orchestras and choirs can play and sing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" for twenty-four hours straight if somebody wants them to and pays them enough. But the idea among some rock artists that propping up weak tunes with large orchestras makes for musical progress or gives rock dignity is demonstrably false. Wakeman demonstrates it.
- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 10/74.
From a solid "Yes," Rick Wakeman has wavered to a qualified "Maybe" in his new solo album, Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Even by bringing in such heavy sidemen as Jules Verne, the London Symphony Orchestra and David Hemmings -- as narrator -- Rick has managed to produce only a naïve attempt at a "classical-rock" cantata that would be great as the sound track of a Disney musical. It makes you wonder what sort of insecurity tempts a talented electronic musician to "legitimize" his sound by smothering it in pseudo-symphonic strings. The result is a mixed-métier mess of good crisp rock and sizzling synthesizer, splattered with silly orchestral caricatures of the 19th Century romanticism. Wakeman recently split Yes to pursue more of the same. A sad mistake, indeed, if this record is any indication of what's to follow.
- Playboy, 10/74.
Wakeman's chart-topping album (in England) paints a broader musical canvas than its predecessor, with orchestra, chorus, narrator, and rock band surrounding his dozen or so swirling keyboards instruments. The mass of sounds is nowhere near as neat or concise as Wakeman's first album, but it evidently satisfied people looking for a post-psychedelic thrill as well as the more majestic side of progressive rock, and in its own pretentious way, is very effective. * * * *
- Bruce Eder, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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