Prompted by the enthusiastic reaction to his performance of David Bowie's "Life on Mars" on BBC Radio 2 in 2016, revered keyboardist and songwriter Rick Wakeman has recorded a full solo piano album featuring a varied selection of music, including classic songs on which he originally performed. Bucking the trend of orchestral projects, Piano Portraits captures both the technical virtuosity and lightness of touch that have become trademarks of Wakeman's playing since he first made a name for himself in the '70s. Recorded at The Old Granary in South Norfolk, the 15-track collection ranges from landmark David Bowie hits "Life on Mars," which Wakeman recorded the original piano parts for, and "Space Oddity" to which he contributed mellotron; through The Beatles, Yes and Led Zeppelin; to classical pieces composed by Debussy and Tchaikovsky.
"I've been wanting to do a piano album for years and I spent quite a bit of time looking at everything from straight classical pieces to stuff that I'd played on in the past like 'Morning Has Broken' and 'Life On Mars'," Wakeman explains. "Plus pieces of music that I thought would work really well like 'Stairway to Heaven' and classics like 'Clair de Lune.' Nearly all of the tracks have a memory for me somewhere down the line and it just seemed to work."
Rick Wakeman has carved out a fascinating, idiosyncratic career that has comfortably traversed multiple musical worlds. A classically trained pianist, he studied at the Royal College Of Music before going on to become a much in-demand session musician playing on a string of hit songs by the likes of Black Sabbath, Elton John, Cat Stevens and David Bowie. Also well known as a member of progressive rock band Yes and as a hugely successful solo artist, Wakeman is without doubt one of the most original, entertaining and groundbreaking performers of his generation.