A Gallery of the Imagination by Rick Wakeman & The English Rock EnsembleRelease date: February 24, 2023
Whether you get his music or you don’t, Rick Wakeman is still going strong. The question, how do you follow-up to your previous album The Red Planet? The answer, you go back to your first piano lessons with a teacher that had stayed with you for a very long time. And on A Gallery of the Imagination, it’s both a dedication and reflection by looking at the paintings that tell the story with dazzling, mesmerizing, and strange music, coming to life.
It’s like looking at your old scrapbook and reflecting the best part of your childhood you had when you were very young. With The English Rock Ensemble returning once more, Rick brings his story in full on his latest release. There are moments that’ll fill your heart with pop, classical, jazz, ‘80s AOR, atmospheric beauty, and romantic wonders which will opened the doors to witness an exhibition, you’ve never seen before.
Beginning with this overture-sque intro on ‘Hidden Depths’, the ensemble sends us through the passages of time, thanks to Colquhoun’s heavy riffs and Johnstone-like improve that channels ‘Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding’ section from Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. It also details a bit of sadness over the remembrance Rick had. Not just as a teacher, but a close friendship with Mrs. Symes.
Hayley’s soothing vocals on ‘The Man in the Moon’, tackles the loss of wonder, and going through a house that is frozen in time. Rick goes through the synthesisers like a time machine that is in warp speed before the angelic hymns come out of the blue to witness this sense of understanding.
On ‘My Moonlight Dream’, she becomes this mysterious figure that you would read in those fantasy books as a child before the song becomes a memotron-like walk into the forest with intensive midsections that have a video game-like score from Ash’s drum kit. Then it’s off to the ‘Cuban Carnival’ and ‘A Day Spent on the Pier’.
Crossed over between reggae, ska, and bossa-nova vibrations, the ensemble have a bit of fun with each other in Havana as you hop aboard the train with a bit of fanfares, Italian munchies, and going into Banco’s territory for ‘The Dinner Party’ to begin. ‘The Visitation’ feels like Rick is paying tribute to another Italian progressive rock band, Goblin.
He channels the score to Dario Argento’s 1982 gem Tenebre with a blast of Hackett’s Voyage of the Acolyte while the Floydian slip of mystery in ‘A Mirage in the Clouds’ gives us a chance to look back at the past for a brief moment by spending your last conversations with your parents before moving forwards and never looking back. If this is Rick’s haunting opus, it is a very good album for 2023.
A Gallery of the Imagination will be a part of your life. Not just for the rest of eternity, but delivering one door to another. And once you opened them up, it is a sight to see from start to finish.