Why did Yes want Rick Wakeman…back…again? – Part 2 – 584

Produced by Joseph Cottrell, Ken Fuller, Wayne Hall and Jeffrey Crecelius

This week Mark and I subjected ourselves to 2 sides of Yes by Rick Wakeman. As you’ll hear, it was a bit grim at times. See what you think of our responses and let us know what you think of this collection in the comments on this week’s show notes.

  • What is this collection like?
  • What was Rick thinking?
  • Come on…!

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from:

10 replies on “Why did Yes want Rick Wakeman…back…again? – Part 2 – 584”

Kevin, considering your very positive tone on the Podcast, you are pretty brave here to open the door for commentary on “Two Sides”! Alas, “ditto” on every single negative comment you made. About a month ago “Two Sides” popped up on YouTube as a suggestion, and I listened to as much of each track as I could stand before jumping ahead. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

On a related topic, there is the generalization that most musicians tend to fall into two basic categories: those who are primarily best as soloists, and those who strengths are best revealed in ensemble situations. Despite the exception of several brilliant solo albums where individuals had complete control, I believe all the Yes members truly need each other to bring out their best. Iron sharpening iron.

Thanks for the comment. I’m very glad we have the likes of Six Wives, Olias and Fish Out Of Water but overall I agree with your assessment.

I never listen to “Two Sides of Yes,” because I don’t like the jarring shift between the electronic and acoustic tracks. This material is much better as Rick original planned it, with the electronic versions in isolation as originally released on “Rick Wakeman’s Greatest Hits” (1992) and the acoustic piano performances as released on “The Yes Piano Variations” (2002) ten years later. These tracks were not intended to be a single project!

Fragile Records released a 2-disc album called “Rick Wakeman’s Greatest Hits” in 1992, all in the same electronic instrumental style. Disc 1 was the Yes songs discussed in the podcast with Alan Thompson on bass and Tony Fernandez on drums. Disc 2 was new instrumental re-recordings by the same trio that might be considered a “best of” selection from Rick’s solo career.

In 2001 (nearly ten years later), the first CD called “Two Sides of Yes” was released by Legends Records, consisting of a mix of new piano recordings with a few of the tracks from “Rick Wakeman’s Greatest Hits.” Then in 2022, Legend Records released “Two Sides of Yes, Volume 2” with the remaining electronic tunes from “Greatest Hits” and more piano recordings.

Later in 2002, Legend Records released “The Yes Piano Variations,” which was a compilation of all the piano tracks from Volumes 1 and 2. I suspect that Legend Records decided to take the path of a “money grab” by releasing “Two Sides of Yes” as two volumes before then giving us the all-piano album that I am confident Rick originally planned.

I enjoy the all-piano disc the most, but I do occasionally play the “Greatest Hits” disc, too. But I never mix them together, and the record label would have been well advised not to do so, either.

Thanks Ray – that’s really interesting and insightful information. I agree that the piano material is fantastic.

Fellows, given your comments on the podcast, it’s obvious that Rick’s solo career is one that you really have to pick and choose through. When he puts his mind to it. he’s capable of putting out some amazing work, but when he’s just in “churn” mode, most of this stuff is best avoided. It’s something I’ve observed on my own through the years. Mark, if you want to be a RW solo completist, I take my hat off to you, but I think you are already realizing that the return on your investment is marginal at best. I really wonder who is buying much of this stuff ? Somehow Rick is making a living ( at least in part ) from selling it though, so kudos to him. That said, Rick can be astonishing at times, and I thoroughly enjoy his peak solo and Yes work.

Thanks Steve. It’s a real puzzle isn’t it? I wonder if there is any other musician of his talent who is happy to have so much under-par stuff out there. Surely not.

Kevin has pretty much nailed it here; most of the solo piano work is gorgeous and often inventive; the band tracks sound like supermarket music, the drums might a well be programmed drum machine, and as Mark says, Rick has the uncanny ability to pick out the worst digital keyboard presets (the prefab synth flute on Madrigal, the annoying square wave patch replicating Steve’s solos on Don’t Kill the Whale). Starship Trooper sounds like a TV Sports theme from the ’80’s. The only 2 exceptions to this are the end of Roundabout which is done creatively, and Siberian Khatru, which contains some compelling moog solo work. I would compare SK favorably to The Steve Howe Trio version on The Haunted Melody. The rest is unlistenable.

However, I really enjoyed the piano solos. Your Move was incredibly beautiful, as were Long Distance, Awaken & Close to the Edge. I’d like to put these tracks on a playlist and bring them to the beach this summer. Mark’s objections to Rick’s playing around with the arrangements and chords reminds me of what I imagine Steve H’s reaction would be LOL. Kevin, you need to school Mark in classical piano music, introduce him to the theme & variation form; start with some easy-listening Satie & perhaps Mozart’s K. 331, then on to Bach’s Goldberg variations, and to see the inspiration for Rick’s embellishments, get him into some Chopin & Rachmaninoff.

I loved this ranty show. Rick is a great musician but seems to have cloth ears when it comes to his own music. I agree with everything you both said.

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