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Rick Wakeman: Piano Portraits

 A l b u m   D e t a i l s

Label: Universal Music Group
Released: 2017.01.13
Category: Classical Piano
Producer(s): Rick Wakeman
Media type: CD
Web address: www.rwcc.com
Appears with: Yes
Purchase date: 2017
Price in €: 1,00

 S o n g s ,   T r a c k s

[1] Help! (J.Lennon/P.McCartney) - 3:56
[2] Stairway to Heaven (R.Plant/J.Page) - 6:13
[3] Life on Mars (D.Bowie) - 3:23
[4] I'm Not in Love (E.Stewart/G.Gouldman) - 3:10
[5] Wonderous Stories (J.Anderson) - 4:24
[6] Berceuse (G.Fauré/arr. R.Wakeman) - 4:28
[7] Amazing Grace (Traditional/arr. R.Wakeman) - 3:56
[8] Swan Lake (P.Tchaikovsky/arr. R.Wakeman) - 4:29
[9] Morning Has Broken (Traditional/ arr. R.Wakeman) - 3:42
[10] Summertime (G.Gershwin) - 4:07
[11] Space Oddity (D.Bowie) - 4:47
[12] Dance of the Damselflies (R.Wakeman) - 3:33
[13] Clair de Lune (C.Debussy/arr. R.Wakeman) - 3:06
[14] I Vow to Thee, My Country (Traditional/arr. R.Wakeman) - 2:57
[15] Eleanor Rigby (J.Lennon/P.McCartney) - 5:05

 A r t i s t s ,   P e r s o n n e l

Rick Wakeman - Steinway Model D Concert Grand Piano, Producer
Erik Jordan - Engineer
Ian Brown - Project Co-ordinator
Stylorouge - Design
Rob O'Connor - Photographer
Dick Beetham - Mastering at 360 Mastering
Universal Music Group - release co-ordination, marketing

 C o m m e n t s ,   N o t e s

CD 2017 Universal 5723627
LP 2017 Universal 5727972
Recorded in July-August 2016 at The Old Granary Studio, Norfolk, England.

Revered keyboardist, songwriter and broadcaster Rick Wakeman will release his new solo album Piano Portraits on January 13th 2017. Prompted by the unprecedented reaction to his performance of David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’ on BBC Radio 2 earlier on this year, Wakeman has recorded a full solo piano album featuring a varied selection of music including classic songs that he originally performed on.
Bucking the trend of 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, the 15-track collection ranges from landmark David Bowie hits ‘Life on Mars’, which Wakeman recorded the original piano parts for, and ‘Space Oddity’ to 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.”
Rick 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 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.
Ex-Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman‘s new solo album, Piano Portraits, gets its release today on CD and as a digital download. Amazingly, the 15-track collection is the 100th solo album Wakeman has released.
Piano Portraits features instrumental versions of a number of well-known rock and pop songs, including covers of three tunes he played on as a studio musician — Cat Stevens‘ “Morning Has Broken” and David Bowie‘s “Life on Mars” and “Space Oddity.” The album also features renditions of The Beatles‘ “Help!” and “Eleanor Rigby,” Led Zeppelin‘s “Stairway to Heaven,” 10cc‘s “I’m Not Alone” and Yes’ “Wonderous Stories,” plus a few classical pieces of which Rick is fond.
“I’ve been wanting to do a piano album for years of classic songs, a mixture of music, some classical, all done in the only style I know how to play,” Wakeman says in a video promo for the album. “I spent quite a bit of time looking at everything from almost straight classical pieces to some stuff that I’d played on in the past…plus pieces of music I thought would work really, really well, like ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and some of the great classics like ‘Claire de Lune.'”
You can check out some video of Rick performing some of the songs on Piano Portraits on his official VEVO YouTube channel. The album also will be released as a two-LP vinyl set on February 3.
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio
Piano Portraits is the 100th solo album from Rick Wakeman in what represents a truly remarkable body of work. The 15 tracks that Rick has re-interpreted on piano represent a distillation of all the music that has impacted and influenced Rick’s life over the decades, taking in 70s rock and pop, classical, jazz and choral. Painting pictures is how Rick describes his playing style and how he visualises music, and this album paints a very vivid, lush landscape for the listener to explore. Key tracks include Life on Mars, Space Oddity, Help and an original composition Dance of the Damselflies.
Piano Portraits is a studio album by English keyboardist Rick Wakeman, released on 13 January 2017 on Universal Music Group. The album was made following the positive reception to Wakeman's live radio performance of his piano arrangement of "Life on Mars?" by David Bowie following the singer's death in January 2016, and a subsequent single of the track released in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support released in 2016. After Wakeman received offers from several music labels to produce an album of piano arrangements, he chose Universal and chose songs that were his favourites, he played on as a session musician and as a member of Yes, classical music pieces, and original material. Piano Portraits was first released on CD and as a digital download. A double vinyl followed on 3 February 2017. Upon release, the album reached number 6 on the UK Albums Chart, becoming Wakeman's highest charting album in the UK since 1975. Wakeman will support the album with a 10-date tour of the UK from May to July 2017.
In January 2016, Wakeman performed a piano arrangement of "Life on Mars?" by David Bowie that was broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 in the wake of the singer's death. Wakeman had played the piano on the original 1971 recording. Several days after, a video of the performance received 2 million views online, which sparked the idea for Wakeman to produce a single including the song, a piano arrangement of Bowie's "Space Oddity", and "Always Together", an original piano composition by Wakeman. The single was released in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. The positive response to video and single led to Wakeman receiving offers from several recording labels who suggested to record a solo piano album of rearranged songs in the same style. The idea appealed to Wakeman as the piano is his favourite instrument to work with. Among the offers received was one from Universal Music Group, which Wakeman chose as "they envisioned it exactly as I did — as a real mixture of music, not losing sight of what the original songs stood for but always working as piano pieces". He then selected songs that he had played on throughout his career, as well as renditions of classical music pieces and original music. Taking music from artists and "playing around" with the arrangements had always been something Wakeman had enjoyed doing since his college days. The first list of tracks to record contained 24 songs, which was reduced to a final selection of 15. Among the scrapped tracks was a proposed suite for "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, but after three days working on it, Wakeman could not develop an arrangement that worked.
The album was recorded in July and August 2016 at The Old Granary, a restored 18th century barn and recording studio in Norfolk, with Erik Jordan as audio engineer. Wakeman performed each track on a Steinway Model D concert grand piano. Some of his rearrangements allowed for the addition of improvisation at some points, adding: "The way I do variations is instinctive, but I know what I'm going to do. If I played them all again for you now they would be probably 95% of what you hear". He compared the idea of rearranging music to classical music composers whose variations on a theme or piece by another were instinctively how they felt the pieces should be.
Wakeman's arrangement of "Help!" by The Beatles was inspired by the 1968 cover version by Deep Purple, and he performed his own version on stage through his career. "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin is a track that Wakeman had always liked and enjoyed its melody, but had reservations about recording his arrangement for the album as he could "do it in one, or it's gonna fall apart". Wakeman played it through and felt happy enough to include the second take. The idea to include "I'm Not in Love" by 10cc was not Wakeman's, rather "someone at Universal". He liked the band but not the song as much, and encountered problems when it came to writing a theme to its chorus or bridge as neither his assistants or himself had an idea that worked. "I started playing around with it ... doing as much with the tune as I think can be done. So I played it through, and Erik said "You're almost there". I said it's a bit short, but he said "No, it's over three minutes. It does stand up". "Wonderous Stories" is a track Yes recorded for Going for the One (1977), which marked Wakeman's return to the band following his first departure. Wakeman decided to record a piano arrangement as it was one of the two track that was presented to him when he was asked to return to the group, which had "a great tune and some lovely lyrics" and represents happier times with the band.
Piano Portraits was released on CD and digital download on 13 January 2017. A double vinyl set followed on 3 February.
Upon release, the album entered the UK Albums Chart at number 7, marking Wakeman's highest position on the chart since The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (1975) peaked at number 2. In its second week, the album climbed one position to number 6. Since the album's release, Wakeman said he is "genuinely thrilled with it". Wakeman will support the album with a 10-date tour of the United Kingdom named Piano Portraits in Concert, from 25 May to 6 July 2017.

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