Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Journey to the Centre of the Earth – Rick Wakeman [#650]

Album cover

Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth is an album that has been in my library for many years. At a time when, most days, I would travel via bicycle wearing in-ear headphones and carrying a Sony Walkman in my pocket, a great deal of the music I owned would be transfered from CD or vinyl to cassette.

My regular trips to HMV, Our Price and Virgin Megastore often resulted in an internal debate on the pros and cons of buying the cassette format of an album or the CD format of an album. Quite often though, like in this case, I was unable to get the CD format because “it wasn’t popular but we could order it you in (for a premium)” and the cassette version was less than a fiver.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth is Wakeman’s attempt at creating a rock homage to Jules Verne’s novel of the same name. You might already be familiar with Verne’s literary masterpiece or you might be more familiar with Henry Levin’s 1959 cinematic version starring James Mason which was regularly shown on TV during school holidays until anything older than 30 years was banned by TV executives.

With narration by David “Barbarella” Hemmings, backing by the English Chamber Choir and London Symphony Orchestra, Wakeman really pulls off a great fusion of classical style music, modern rock and good old story telling. It’s really easy to see why it was panned by stuffy music critics on release but even easier to hear why it became a family favourite for many.

I really love this album. Say what you like about Rick Wakeman’s flamboyancy but Journey is a great album. I’m particularly fond of the first two movements especially how Wakeman managed to pop the words “Silurian epoch” into the lyrics without too much force. With a running time of just about 40 minutes, it makes a great accompaniment to a journey down the road…..

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Illusions on a Double Dimple – Triumvirat [#611]

Illusions_on_a_double_dimpleThis, it has to be said, is quite possibly the album that has been the most influential in my life. From as young as 11 years old, when introduced to the album by my brother who had won it in a competition, to my teen years where Shitbag Pulling and I would sit around his piano and try to deconstruct its intricacies and beyond into my late twenties, thirties and present day. Not a period of my life has gone by without something being connected or linked to this album.

Back in the pre-internet days, one’s only source of music would be friends, relatives and flicking through the alphabetical racks in Virgin Megastore, Our Price or HMV. Every single time I went to those shops I would flick through the racks, Triumph…Trivium…no Triumvirat. Every dictionary of popular music I would thumb through to T looking for anything, even a chuffing footnote about Triumvirat. No. Nothing. By my early twenties, when I was dabbling in Goth, I’d begun to think that maybe the band was just a fantasy. But as the floodgates of internet knowledge started to creak open, information about the band reached me and I began to realise that they were so much much more than this album.

The album is a concept in two parts. The first, an allegorical telling of a tale of social and financial hardship brought on by being “Born on the wrong side of town”. The narrator, fired from their job, accused of some dubious theft, heads to the local bar and seeks out a large glass of Dimple. Dimple, which I didn’t know until I was in my late teens, is a brand of Scotch whisky.  Upon imbibing the drink, and having sold his coat and every possession, our narrator heads out into the streets of Dusseldorf, passes out then plays the piano a bit.

The second half, possibly connected to the first, I’m not quite sure, tells of a band who revolt against their manager, Mr Ten Percent, a frightfully extravagant gentleman with a big Mercedes, a house on a hill and frequent week-long trips to Sweden, and become awesome and meet girls.

Well, that’s my interpretation.

The album was the band’s breakthrough release and saw their popularity rise in America and Europe. Of course, in the UK we’re culturally insular and don’t like anything not homegrown or that we’re not told to like by commerce. As a result, this is probably why Triumvirat, a giant on the world prog rock stage, were never available in major high street record shops in the UK. Well more fool you, Mr HMV. Look what your selfish enforcement of culturally appropriate music did to your profits following the Great Internet Download Free for All of the Early Noughties.  Even Apple Music has Triumvirat!

 

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Hergest Ridge – Mike Oldfield [#582]

Hergestridgecover.jpgOldfield’s second album takes inspiration from a delightfully picturesque area of Herefordshire where Oldfield was living while attempting to escape the media attention gained from the success of his first album.

Until about 2000, I had only been brave enough to listen to the extract of Hergest Ridge that featured on the Complete Mike Oldfield box set having been advised by an elder sibling that “It isn’t much cop”. Still, as with all things in life, your siblings sagely advice can be similar to the type of sage that sits at the back of one’s parent’s kitchen cupboard in that Sharwoods bottle that dates from the 1970s, out of date and a matter of preferential taste.

To be fair, they were kind of right because even after a delayed listening, Hergest Ridge just doesn’t reach the dizzy heights of Tubular Bells or later works such as Islands or AmarokIt’s a very reflective or poignant work, perhaps one that is for good listening to when reading broadsheet newspapers while ensconced in one’s garret. Sure, it is Oldfield’s “difficult second album” but it shows off the young Oldfield’s developing talent and has some beautiful recurring melodies that also crop up in later works.

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