[Review] The Soundtrack Album of the Ken Russell Film “Lisztomania” (1975)

Wakeman scores and (briefly) stars in Ken Russell’s lurid vision of an early rock star. The Liszt you can do is listen.

Kronomyth 3.5: The Reichy Horror Picture Show.

Ken Russell’s gonzo Lisztomania is a polarizing film; you either love it or you hate it. I thought it was brilliant, but my tastes tend to lean toward the unconventional. The film starred Roger Daltrey and featured a musical score of famous Wagner and Liszt themes adapted and arranged by Rick Wakeman. In a move of inspired economy, Daltrey lends his golden voice to several songs in the film, and Wakeman makes a cameo on screen as a golden warrior.

Both the film and the score are way over the top, but you need to approach them with a sense of humor and adventure. Unfortunately, critics can be a humorless lot sometimes. I think Lisztomania is a work of art, and Wakeman’s score artfully reproduces the grandiose styles of Liszt and Wagner in a contemporary rock setting. Is it as inspired as The Six Wives of Henry VIII? No, it isn’t. But Daltrey is a vast improvement over Ashley Holt, and Wakeman is working with some pretty impressive material here (Liszt, Wagner).

I would rank “Dante Period” with the best of Wakeman’s instrumental bits, and the songs with Daltrey (“Love’s Dream,” “Peace At Last,” “Orpheus Song,” “Funerailles”) are as good as anything that appeared on the generally less maligned McVicar. The other vocal tracks, “Hell” (featuring Linda Lewis) and “Excelsior Song” (Paul Nicholas), are much stranger and intentionally less sentimental, dark where Liszt’s voice (Daltrey) is light, which is by design.

If the film turned you off, then the soundtrack probably isn’t a sound investment. Both are in questionable taste (which most people could deduce from the giant penis on the album cover). Maybe your world already has too many freaks, frankensteins and goosestepping gestapo agents in it already, but mine doesn’t (at Liszt not yet, although I understand the powers that be are working on it).

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Original LP Version

A1. Rienzi/Chopsticks Fantasia (Richard Wagner/Franz Liszt)
A2. Love’s Dream (Franz Liszt/Roger Daltrey)
A3. Dante Period (Franz Liszt)
A4. Orpheus Song (Franz Liszt/Jonathan Benson/Roger Daltrey)
A5. Hell (Franz Liszt/John Forsythe)
B1. Hibernation (Rick Wakeman)
B2. Excelsior Song (Franz Liszt/Ken Russell/Rick Wakeman)
B3. Master Race (Richard Wagner)
B4. Rape, Pillage & Clap (Richard Wagner)
B5. Funerailles (Franz Liszt/Jonathan Benson)
B6. Free Song (Hungarian Rhapsody) (Franz Liszt)
B7. Peace At Last (Franz Liszt/Jonathan Benson/Roger Daltrey)

All selections arranged & adapted by Rick Wakeman.

The Players

Rick Wakeman, The English Rock Ensemble, The National Philharmonic Orchestra with Roger Daltrey (vocals on A2/A4/B5/B7), John Forsythe, Linda Lewis (vocals on A5), George Michie, Paul Nicholas (vocals on B2), David Wilde (Liszt piano music). Executive producers: Brian Lane & Bill Curbishley.

The Pictures

Art direction by Roland Young. Design by Junie Osaki.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in November 1975 in the US (A&M, SP-4546), the UK (A&M, AMLH-64546), Germany (A&M, 89 463 XOT), Japan (A&M, GP-260) and New Zealand (A&M, C-25673); reached #145 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Pony Canyon, D32Y-3550).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc on September 3, 2004 in Japan (A&M/Universal, UICY-9294).
  3. Re-released on remastered super high material compact disc on August 26, 2009 in Japan (A&M, UICY-94238).

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