Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rick Wakeman - Journey To The Centre Of The Earth

It has been a trying week.  Nothing seemed to go as planned.  Drama and misfortune permeated the atmosphere.  I just wanted to escape.

Yes escape, but not in a fog of self medication.  This had to be soothing, yet adventurous.  I had the urge to travel in mind and imagination away from my daily grind, trials and tribulations.  I wanted to be here but feel as if I was somewhere else - just for a little while.

There's nothing new in that.  Long before recording, TV, even telephones, science fiction writers would sell dime store novels that allowed the reader to escape, at least for a few hundred pages, into an exciting parallel universe of the unknown where the physics of reality were a bit skewed.

One of the best of these early escapist tales is "A Journey To The Centre Of The Earth",  written by French born science fiction writer Jules Verne and first published in 1864. It would later be published alongside other Jules Verne works, such as "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea"  and "Around The World In Eighty Days", as "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth."  Verne's stories explored impossible feats and journeys into the then unknown.  The tales are yarns and speculations about what man would find should he undertake these journeys or perform these feats.  Verne was writing at the start of the Industrial Revolution and there was a sense that man would soon turn these speculations into scientific fact.

I considered pulling out the Kindle and downloading an escapist book to read but I was really too tired to focus on reading and just wanted to let the evening wash over me.  I started to flip through my music collection and suddenly remembered a progressive rock gem of a recording from my high school days. Back in 1974 composer and keyboard player Rick Wakeman took leave from the band Yes to produce a series of solo recordings. One of them was a grandiose interpretation of Jules Verne's 1864 novel.  Because the cost to produce the album in a studio would have been prohibitive Wakeman recorded the album live during the second of two concerts at the Royal Festival Hall in London. To compose and perform the album Wakeman hand-picked the musicians, vocalists and the London Symphony Orchestra to help him with the endeavor.   Although Wakeman sought Richard Harris as the narrator, he rejected the job and Wakeman ultimately settled on actor David Hemmings as the narrator. 

I quickly looked up the album, started it and eased back in the recliner. For forty minutes Wakeman, his keyboards, band, the London Symphony Orchestra, narrator and live audience, took me on an adventurous orchestrated sojourn through the crust, mantle, caves and underworld before returning me to the surface. Wakeman's keyboards are mesmerizing, the points and counter points, chorales echo as if in cavernous spaces; it is an aural motion picture.  The soundtrack is provided; you provide the movie.

As the album ended I felt refreshed and invigorated.  I was again ready to tackle the challenges of the skin atop this world.  I had returned from my Journey To The Centre Of The Earth.  Man, what a ride!

- Old School

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