Rick Wakeman was keyboardist for YES, joining in 1971, while also doing concept albums with his own band. JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH was released in 1974, combining his own English Rock Ensemble with the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Choir to produce a work based on Verne’s novel.
Way back then, my best friend and I shared an apartment together, this was in the days of vinyl, and we both owned copies. We used to play them both, stacked on the spindle so that it played the whole set without changing while we cleaned the apartment. I couldn’t tell you how many times we played it, suffice to say we wore those records out.
It was more classical than his usual stuff with YES, though they got out there every now and then as well. But for a couple of rockers it was like nothing of which we regularly listened. It’s hard to explain what the music said to us, but that we loved it. Sweeping arrangements that I hope, think, will be listened to well into the future.
Who knows? The sweep and feel of the music spoke to me as rock music, much as I loved it, like nothing else. I’m no expert on music by any means. All I can do is recognize something I like and my tastes are varied.
About ten years ago, Wakeman did a sequel, RETURN TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH. He released several other concept albums over the years, before and after this one, as well. I may do them all here as I don’t hear much about him anymore and the music deserves an audience.
I’m including a few clips to give you the flavor:
This second piece is titled THE FOREST:
And last a concert clip, though the sound quality could be better: