Rick Wakeman
No Earthly Connection


4.0
excellent

Review

by e210013 USER (112 Reviews)
November 5th, 2018 | 12 replies


Release Date: 1976 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This is a forgotten album of Wakeman. But is undoubtedly among Rick’s best works and certainly worth a place in any decent album’s collection.

“No Earthly Connection” is the fourth studio album of Rick Wakeman and was released in 1976. The line up on the album is Wakeman, Ashley Holt, Roger Newell, John Dunsterville, Tony Fernandez, Martyn Shields and Reg Brooks.


As many of we know among music fans, Rick Wakeman is a polarizing and polemic figure. Some love his work and others despise it. For those in the former camp, his keyboard playing, composing and arranging show a deft, assured and endlessly creative master. Both, as a highly in demand sessioner, on David Bowie‘s “Changes”, Cat Stevens’ “Morning Has Broken” and Black Sabbath‘s “Sabbra Cadabra”, (to name but three of countless contributions he’s made) and as a member of Strawbs and Yes, his work is often exciting. But to his detractors, he’s the visible symbol of everything that was wrong and excessive with rock in the 70’s. In any case he’s an inescapable figure of those times.

“No Earthly Connection” was a return to a more “normal” format, although there is supposed to be some a sort of concept to the album. It isn’t as popular as the first three Wakeman’s releases. Still, “No Earthly Connection” rates right up there, if for no other reason than this was an exceptionally creative period in the keyboardist’s career. So, somehow, “No Earthly Connection” is certainly a lost gem for the ages and represents for many the last great album of Wakeman.

His breakout solo studio album “The Six Wives Of King Henry VIII” established him as a potent force, and his follow up album “The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table” was also quite good, though it didn’t quite scale the heights of his debut. By 1976, Wakeman had settled into recording with a steady band he called the English Rock Ensemble. Still interested in conceptual and thematic works, “No Earthly Connection” concerns itself with big ideas. The music remains keyboard heavy, as we could expect, but his band is prominently featured as well.

So, along with Wakeman and his enormous array of keyboards, we have also the band, the English Rock Ensemble. “No Earthly Connection” is another conceptual album. The concept is based on Wakeman’s belief that there is life and “unknown dimensions” beyond what we know of. The concept is somehow pretentious and difficult to put in music. Somehow and despite the clear differences, “No Earthly Connection” represents more or less a kind of a return to the same formula of “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”, where he employed members of Yes and other rock musicians, but chose not to use the orchestras of “Journey To The Center Of The Earth” and “The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Roundtable”. “No Earthly Connection” was recorded in France, supposedly for tax reasons.

“No Earthly Connection” has three parts. The first part is the suite “Music Reincarnate” and is divided into five chapters: “The Warning”, “The Maker”, “The Spaceman”, “The Realization” and “The Reaper”. The second part is “The Prisoner” and the third part is “The Lost Cycle”. The first part opens with the startling Moog ascending arpeggio of the “Music Reincarnate” suite. It has plenty of string sounds, lots of Clavinet and some nice bass playing of Newell. The music sounds like a cross between Alan Parsons and Gentle Giant. The former is recalled through the album’s ambitious yet catchy arrangement, while the latter comes to my mind via the tricky time signature changes and complex vocal arrangements. It features some great vocal snippets while Wakeman provides an atmospheric musical bed. Sometimes it’s a bit pompous and silly to be sure, but fun nonetheless. And the analogue synthesizers’ solos are predictably tasty. The second part “The Prisoner” is led by Newell’s bass. Wakeman comes in on harpsichord and duel ensues. This is more or less a read on the trials of the spaceman. It’s a tune that requires complete attention to the lyrics and a deep love for progressive stuff. The third part “The Lost Cycle” ends the album, pulling out all the stops as Wakeman plays a flurry of keys. The lyrics describe the spaceman’s full journey. But the song is less about the story and is more about Wakeman’s superlative arranging and playing. It indicates how Wakeman is taken with his technique.


Conclusion: If you like pianos, organs, Mellotrons, Moogs and all sort of other keyboard instruments, you’ll find plenty to like on “No Earthly Connection”. But, it’s overall a more mainstream album than Wakeman’s earlier works. “No Earthly Connection” is deeply layered stuff even without Wakeman’s reliance of an orchestra. The lyrics may come off as a bit trite, the story is nothing more than weak sci-fi, but the musicianship of The English Rock Ensemble and the vocals of Holt, make this album certainly worthy of inclusion on a list of classic lost albums. Somehow, “No Earthly Connection” is, comparatively, a streamlined album by Wakeman. It’s not as elaborate and ambitious as its immediate predecessors, “The Six Wives Of Henry VIII”, “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth” and “The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table”. Anyway, it still remains, for me, an impressive work, one of his best.


Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)



Recent reviews by this author
Conspiracy (Prog) The UnknownThe Moody Blues Long Distance Voyager
Refugee RefugeeStrawbs From the Witchwood
Badger One Live BadgerGTR GTR
user ratings (13)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
e210013
November 5th 2018


2256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

So, finally here it is, as I promised, another review about a Wakeman's album, the last one in this moment. Unfortunately, this is almost a forgotten album, but I really think it deserves much more attention that it had until now. I really think it deserves a review on Sputnik. Honestly, I hope you can enjoy it, like me.

Divaman
November 5th 2018


3466 Comments


I really need to pick myself up a copy of this one. As you know, of the two Wakeman camps you mentioned, I'm firmly in the first one -- I consider him the ultimate rock keyboard player of his period (and probably of any period). Nice job as always, e.

Digging: Kakkmaddafakka - Diplomacy

Divaman
November 5th 2018


3466 Comments


Sorry, I seem to have made a duplicate comment, with no way to delete it. So sinceI have this extra panel, what do you guys think? Was Wakeman the best of his time? Is there someone else you like better, like Keith Emerson or maybe Patrick Moraz? e, Jethro, and anyone else who wants to chime in, tell me your opinions please.

e210013
November 5th 2018


2256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, Diva. Definitely you need to pick up a copy of this album, since you're a great fan of Wakeman, like me. This is, perhaps the last great work of him, ij the 70's, despite I also like of "Criminal Record".

Thanks for your comment and pos.

e210013
November 5th 2018


2256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Since you duplicate your comment, I'm going to do the same. As maybe you know, I'm a great fan of keyboards. So, I always had a great admiration by keyboardists in general. If Wakeman is the best keyboard wizard ever, I'm not pretty sure about it. But, I can agree that he is, perhaps, the most gifted keyboardist with Emerson, of all time. At least, both are, perhaps, the most bombastic of all. Anyway, I have many other keyboardists that I like very much too. Here there are the names of some of them that come to my mind in this moment: Tony Banks, Jon Lord, Ken Hensley, Richard Wright, Jordan Rudess and Kevin Moore. But there are some others that deserve a special attention by me, especially because their influence in the band's music always was fundamental. I'm talking about Ray Manzarek, Kerry Minnear, Hugh Banton, Patrick Moraz and even Dave Greenfield.

Divaman
November 5th 2018


3466 Comments


>So you're not as much of a fan of Criminal Record then?

Scratch that, I just saw your comment on Criminal Record above. I'm pretty sure I once owned Criminal Record, although I don't really remember it that well. I don't think I ever owned No Earthly Connection.

e210013
November 5th 2018


2256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No problem Diva. But sincerely I'm not pretty sure about "Criminal Record", in this moment. I don't check that album for many years. But, for what I can remember, I think I liked it. I need to check it again and maybe I review it too.

Divaman
November 5th 2018


3466 Comments


I'd love to see you do it.

Jethro42
November 5th 2018


15673 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i think you guys nailed it. Wakeman and Emerson are the most versatile. Emerson has the same flaw that Moraz and Rudess have, i.e. the tendancy to do three hundred of notes per minute. It's maybe impressive, but it's not aesthetic.

My favorite keyboardists tend to play jazz. The one who impresses me the most overall is Chick Corea. I think this guy could play any of Wakeman's material, but not the other way around. I just wish that jazzman was more proggy for Return To Forever, but his training is decidedly into classic jazz. He knows how to bring climaxes and his playing is tight and very expressive. Another guy that I appreciate the style used to play for Bill Bruford, Hatfield And The North and National Health. It's Dave Stewart. Not that he is flamboyant, but I like the way he complements the musicians. He enhances the music and he just plays for the band with dexterity and good instinct. You named pretty much the essentials for rock music, e21.

I'll have to relisten to No Earthly Connection, and I'll read your review later, my friend.

Digging: The Claypool Lennon Delirium - Monolith of Phobos

e210013
November 5th 2018


2256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Maybe I named the essentials but I really forgot to mention Corea and Stewart. Thank for you make me remember of those two great keyboardists, bro.

Jethro42
November 6th 2018


15673 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You're right in mentioning Wakeman's ambitious and catchy arrangements. And it's the case for all his works; He always flirts with the simple and with the grandiose. Here, the album sounds like an opera in places. Vocals and instruments really fit in harmony. I really like ''The Prisoner'' and ''The Lost Cycle'', and for the Music Reincarnate suite, I prefer the laid back sections over the busy parts. I'm not a fan of most of the opener, but luckily, it's not representative of the album. One thing I observed are the vocals. I'm usually not a fan of Ashley Holt, but here, he's doing a pretty good job. It seems he gained in technics.

I pos'd your review, bro.

e210013
November 7th 2018


2256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks my friend for your comment and pos.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy