Wakeman, Rick - Christmas Variations,
Having already released an album of variations on hymns, it was suggested to Rick that he record variations on Christmas carols. Originally, he deferred, but finally relented and the end result is an album of variations on ten classic carols. When I say “classic” I mean exactly that, as everyone in the Western world will recognise these, and even sing along (even if it is just inside their head). I have long felt that Rick is often at his very best when he allows himself to go deep inside the music and let his hands do the talking through his piano, and that is definitely the case here. It’s not all piano-led, there are plenty of synths as well, but they tend to be played as if Rick was still sat at a harpsichord or piano.
The only word to truly describe this album is “beautiful”, and at this time of year I can’t imagine a more tranquil and wonderful way of getting into the Christmas spirit. This isn’t an album that will be played in shops with all the plastic razzmatazz where they attempt to persuade everyone that the true spirit of Christmas is how much you spend on gifts, but rather is a thoughtful and contemplative approach to the season. There has been a great deal of thought and care put into these variations, and I can “see” Rick with his eyes closed (as normal) falling deeper and deeper into the music, taking the simplicity and giving it more meaning and love. If I have to suffer carols at Christmas, then truly this is the only way to do it.