Rick Wakeman: White Rock (1977)

Snow easy feat to write engaging program music for a sports event, but if Wakeman could dispatch six wives, a king and the Earth’s core, how much trouble could a movie and some moguls give him? White Rock was conceived as a marriage of video and music to celebrate the 1976 Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, a forerunner of the “natural” videos that Tangerine Dream and others would release in later years. The instrumental compositions from Wakeman are purportedly inspired by film footage of various events (“Ice Run,” “The Shoot”), which always struck me as a lame source of inspiration. But he doesn’t take the challenge at face value, instead writing the same sort of keyboard compositions that turned up on Six Wives and Criminal Record. The music isn’t as complex as those works, as Wakeman doesn’t have the English Rock Ensemble to support him. So he multitracks piano, Moog, mellotron, pipe organ (and more) into a modest tapestry of moods while Tony Fernandez provides percussion. The result is surprisingly solid, at various times sounding like the work of Keith Emerson (the opening “White Rock”), Yes (“The Shoot”), Camel (“Searching For Gold”) and of course Rick Wakeman. I couldn’t make a case for this record over the acknowledged masterworks (Wives, Journey, Myths), but White Rock belongs to Wakeman’s most fertile creative period and should not be shunned as incidental music to a film nobody remembers. In fact, best not to look at this as a soundtrack at all, since it functions very well as instrumental music independent of the film. Tellingly, Wakeman has revisited some of these compositions over the years, and fans should give White Rock the same warm reception when approaching his catalog.

Original LP Version
A1. White Rock (3:10)
A2. Searching For Gold (4:20)
A3. The Loser (5:30)
A4. The Shoot (3:59)
B1. Lax’x (4:53)
B2. After The Ball (3:09)
B3. Montezuma’s Revenge (3:56)
B4. Ice Run (6:11)

All tracks written, composed and arranged by Rick Wakeman.

The Players
Rick Wakeman (Moog synthesizer, Steinway grand piano, mellotron, Mander pipe organ, RMI computer piano, marindas, RMI Roxichord, Hohner clavinet, Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond C3 organ, harpsichord), Tony Fernandez (percussion) with St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir. Produced by Rick Wakeman; engineered by Paul Hardiman and Richard Lewzey.

The Plastic
Released on elpee in January 1977 in the UK (A&M, AMLH-64614), the US (A&M, SP-4614), Argentina (A&M, 8385), Brazil (A&M, 4965), France (A&M, 985 053), Japan (A&M, GP-2026), the Netherlands (A&M, 28333 XOT) and New Zealand (A&M, L36030); reached #14 on the UK charts and #126 on the US charts. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 2003 in Japan (A&M, UICY-9296).

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