Wakeman, Oliver With Steve Howe - The 3 Ages of Magick

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Resurgence/Voiceprint
Catalog Number: RES144CD
Format: CD
Total Time: 59:41:00

I always thought that being the child of a famous musician gave a lot of advantages in the music industry, yet looking at people like Julian and Sean Lennon (sons of John), Damien Anderson (son of Jon), Zak Starkey (son of Ringo Starr) and a trillion others, it rather looks like these youngsters have it more difficult than had they been total strangers in the first place. Take Oliver Wakeman. As the oldest of Rick Wakeman's five children, the typical style of Rick can be heard throughout every note this guy plays. Yet despite being "the son of," he doesn't fare at all well in the music industry, even choosing to work part-time at a bank because stepping fulltime in the music jungle seems too big a gamble nowadays! Whilst it was mainly his younger brother Adam who toured with his dad, Oliver released his first solo album called Heaven's Isle in 1997, an all instrumental album inspired by the island of Lundy off the North Devon coast. No fewer than four years later The 3 Ages Of Magick is the next sign of recorded life we get from good old (shouldn't that be "young"?) Oliver Wakeman. Together with none other than the famous Yes-guitarist Steve Howe, Oliver once again shines in all his instrumental glory with a superb album that will certainly appeal to lovers of lush symphonic rock.

Opener "Ages Of Magick" already illustrates the compositional skills of Oliver by almost kicking off with the same atmosphere as his dad's Return To The Centre Of The Earth, although certainly with only a fraction of the budget! The sound of the keyboards is almost identical to Rick's, and add to that the equally distinctive sound of Steve Howe's guitar, and you're in for a real treat. In steps Jo Greenland on violin, adding the classical touch. Towards the end there's a bit of Moog that sounds as if it's lifted and sampled off the great Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, as is the choir which proceeds this section by the way. Based on the way magic has been perceived over the centuries, the rhythm section here is handled by Dave Wagstaffe (Landmarq) and Tim Buchanan, adding power where necessary but also keeping it soft when the music dictates it. Feeling at ease in whatever context he plays in, needless to say Oliver has certainly been inspired by his father and probably takes a fancy to the more ballad oriented offerings. Take "The Forgotten King," which sounds like a dialogue between Oliver's piano and Steve's acoustic guitar. If this is how heaven sounds then do count me in!

Blending all different styles into one, Oliver admits that the many pub appearances he did (sounds familiar!) enabled him to tackle all kinds of music, which sooner or later filter through in his own music. A first example is noted in "The Whales Last Dance," which includes Uillean pipes played by Tony Dixon giving it that superb Celtic feel. "Time Between Times" sounds very dramatic and really screams for a real orchestra, whilst the melody played by the piano is of the same calibre as Rick's very own "Birdman Of Alcatraz" quality! "Standing Stones" could even be performed by the Raindance company, once again because of the Celtic influences on flute and violin. Eat your heart out Michael Flatley! One of my favourite tracks on this album certainly has to be "The Enchanter," which begins with superb church organ (not the real McCoy, but close enough, as I'm sure Oliver couldn't afford a new roof on top of the church; something his dad did when he recorded Six Wives!). Oliver tries to rival his dad where speed is concerned, but he can't reach the maximum speed Rick settled for in "Catherine Parr"! The song then changes towards different atmospheres and rhythm changes in exactly the same way as his dad's "Merlin The Magician." As Oliver explains in the liner notes: "Myths and legends have always been my favourite reading material,' so it is no surprise that the music often leads towards the Myths And Legends? material as well. Once again "The Healer" is a very soft melodic piece performed mainly on piano with violin stepping in and muted (synthesized) trumpets adding a stately effect to the composition.

The sound of an upright (almost honky-tonk like) piano opens "Through The Eyes Of A Child," which is exactly as the title suggests. It's a piano based song on top of which a child explains what its perception of magic really is. It's that naïve storyline that is the nucleus of this song, adding its arrangement along the way - simple but effective. The final track "Hy Breasail" kind of includes influences you can find all over the album, yet tucked into one final view. It starts off in a rather bombastic fashion, taking in some of the earlier melodies before and also re-introducing the choir. There's a fair amount of church organ blending nicely with the choir before those glorious Moog sounds let you drift away to imaginary surroundings. Simply magic! But then you hear acoustic guitar, yet played by Oliver on keyboard, so one wonders why Steve couldn't have done this bit as this is the kind of material Howe learns and plays in five minutes flat! It's not that Howe had already left as, he includes kind of a flamenco solo a bit later on. Then Oliver picks up where he left off in order to finish the album with kind of a finale, which doesn't really hold the power to go out with a bang!

This is a fine album for anyone into nice symphonic rock with a fair amount of classical influences; however, I do feel the result might have been even better given the right budget. Some of the orchestral passages would have fared better with a more detailed approach as to how an orchestra really sounds. Listen to Mickey Simmonds' passages on the latest Renaissance album Tuscany or analyze the music by Robert John Godfrey's The Enid and you know what I mean. It certainly illustrates that the Wakeman pedigree has some wonderful surprises in store for us for the future, but here I would have loved to hear more by Steve Howe and certainly some nicer orchestral keyboard sounds. If these points were taken into consideration then we would have had a fantastic album. As it stands now, however, this is a bloody good album!

Ages Of Magick (5:48) / Mind Over Matter (4:02) / The Forgotten King (3:02) / The Storyteller (3:42) / The Whales Last Dance (4:30) / Time Between Times (5:03) / Flight Of The Condor (4:48) / Lurey And The Mermaid (3:02) / Standing Stones (4:31) / The Enchanter (6:04) / The Healer (4:18) / Through The Eyes Of A Child (2:13) / Ny Breasail (8:38)

Oliver Wakeman - keyboards, pianos, Hammond organ
Steve Howe - electric and acoustic guitars, steel guitar
Dave Wagstaffe - drums, percussion
Tim Buchanan - bass
Tony Dixon - uilleann pipes, whistles, flute
Jo Greenland - violin

Heaven's Isle (1997)
Nolan/Wakeman - Jabberwocky (1999)
The 3 Ages Of Magick (2001)
Nolan/Wakeman - The Hound Of The Baskervilles (2002)
Purification By Sound (2003)
Mother's Ruin (2005)
Enlightenment & Inspiration (2003/2007) (avail as an iTunes download0
Coming To Town (2009)
The Strawbs - Dancing To The Devil's Beat (2009)

Coming To Town (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin UK

Added: November 25th 2001
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website: www.oliver-wakeman.co.uk
Hits: 891
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]