Lee Speaks About Music… #163

Clam – Sproingg



After a good 3 years the three-piece outfit and band that go by the name of Sproingg, have finally SPRUNG! their way back into action with their next ZANY! musical adventure and second studio album to date entitled Clam. My first encounter with this musical trio came back in July 2017 when I was contacted and approached by the bands drummer Erik Feder asking me if I would review their self-titled debut album they had released back then.

To be perfectly honest when I set up this blog site I did so solely to review the music I go out and buy myself. I had no idea people would take that much of an interest and I would get musicians from all over the world chucking their latest creations at me wanting me to review it as if it was one of those many sites or magazines that write about such things.

In many ways I do feel quite touched by it especially with my lack of school education due to hating and bunking off 4 years from it. I am hardly the brightest person on the planet and far from the best person to be around when it comes to being in a social conversation and can be quite shy at times and can be as quiet as a mouse. Unless the conversation is about music and then you won’t shut me up 😁😁😁

Though I will say that the music does have to speak and appeal to my taste in the first place for me to want to speak about it. The fact that the music that Erik had presented to me 3 years ago was right up my street or alley so to speak, is the very reason I did not have to turn him away. As a matter of fact, turning the music of Sproingg away would be a bit like turning my back on the likes of King Crimson and Frank Zappa and that is something I could never do.

Sproingg are very much an instrumental band that reside in Germany to which two thirds of the band are German the latter third Erik Feder is American and is often seen as the spokesman of the band. It’s very much a prog-fusion band that take their time developing their music over so many years, structuring and piecing it together out of improvisations and jams. Further developing it into something more of a composition that they can finally bring to the table and present on an album and also be able to go out and play it live.

This is very much a 3-piece outfit that impressed me when I first heard them 3 years ago and I still very much think their self-titled debut album was well worthy of the 10 out of 10 rating I gave it. You can find that review should you wish to read it here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/lee-speaks-about-music-20/ and it is an album worth checking out.

Now that the long-anticipated wait is over and their second album has finally arrived. The question is have the band managed to come up TRUMPS! once again?  Well. before I delve deeper into the new album and answer that question let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…


The CD comes in a 2-panel cardboard Digipak very much the same as their debut album did back in 2017. I do prefer this packaging myself and it shows the band care about presentation and it looks a lot neater than a standard plastic Jewel Case and is more like a mini replica of a Gatefold Vinyl album cover.

I pre-ordered the CD package from Bandcamp on the 7th of September and it SPROINGGED! through my letter box a week after the official release date which was quite good considering it was coming from Germany. The good thing is that you also get the Digital Download included with the price of the CD so I was able to enjoy the album whilst waiting for it to arrive and get to work on my review.


The artwork and design were once again done by the bands bass player Johannes Korn and he’s basically created the album cover out of a collage of very strange people, hands, fingers, thumbs and a nut. I have to confess it was driving me nuts trying to figure out how it ties in with the albums title. For example, the word “Clam” originally originated from a Clam-Shell basically because it clamps together. It can also be short for the word “Clamp”.

But over the years it’s also been used in slang terms for a dollar and also in the case of a reluctant person who refuses to speak can be said to clam up so to speak. The latter of those two is perhaps the more logical meaning behind the albums title. But whatever it is, just like the artwork for their debut album I quite like it.

Release Editions…

The bands new album Clam is available to purchase on Bandcamp in 2 formats the cheapest option being the Digital Download priced at 7 Euro. The physical CD is priced at 10 Euro plus postage & packing and whatever taxes Bandcamp add onto the price.

The tax will also apply to the Digital Download as well so bare that in mind but in general its around 1 Euro (82p UK). I am pretty sure the p&p is around 3 Euro and I ended up paying 14 Euro (13.02 UK) for the CD which is about the right price I would expect to pay for an imported physical product from Europe.

The band have also included a couple of discount packages for this release where you can save yourself a bit of money in obtaining both their debut album and Clam together. They have also included a 1-hour live concert video they have entitled The Hottest Hour for free in both of these packages.

The “All the Sproingg you can eat” discount digi-combo pack contains both albums plus the video in the form of a Digital Download and is priced at 15 Euro. Alternatively, the “All the Sproingg you can eat” discount combo pack contains the both physical CD’s and video and is priced at 22 Euro. The video is only in the form of a Digital Download only and all the instructions of how to obtain it are described the details of each package.

Hottest Hour Video Promo

The band have also uploaded a promotional video of their Hottest Hour live concert to their Youtube channel as you can see above. You can also purchase the digital download of the live video on its own for 5 Euro which is something I most likely will do later on. All the bands music you can also listen to for free or purchase @ Bandcamp from the link here: https://sproingg.bandcamp.com/

The Album In Review…

Sproingg’s latest album Clam was released on Sunday the 20th September 2020. The album itself contains 8 instrumental tracks spread over and overall playing time which is a tad under an hour at 59 minutes, 58 seconds. Although I much prefer the old album time slot from the 70’s of around 40 minutes (to which even their debut album was done over that more considerable time slot) they have utilised the extra time quite well and it does not feel overcooked.

Sunday is perhaps a strange day to release an album and the biggest majority of artists normally release their albums on a Friday. There was a time when I thought the album was not going to make its release date because it was not released until 10:53 pm here in the UK. I spent most of that day eagerly awaiting its arrival and, in the end, had to download it and put it on my phone to listen to in bed. So, it was not until the early hours of the next day that I got to finally hear it.

The reason for the delay may of been down to them playing a special gig the night before to promote the release of the CD and they may of all got a bit intoxicated celebrating it 😁😁😁. I am not sure how they managed to arrange it especially in light of the present situation with the Coronavirus but I am sure it may have been carefully arranged and above board to fit in with the social distancing procedures, and perhaps they played the gig to a small group of friends.

As I mentioned in my introduction the band Sproingg do take a lot of time developing their music to get it to where it is and to a level where they feel it’s good enough to put out. All 3 members of the band also contribute to the music and they work very well collectively as a team.


There is no doubt that all 3 members of the band have learnt their instruments very well to be able to play them at an accomplished level and they are really GREAT! musicians. Though they do not take it too seriously and like to inject some fun into it and you can see in the picture above they all look happy enough to be doing what they do.

Playing live is also vitally important for the band especially given the time it takes them to put out an album. It’s perhaps their only way of letting people know you are still out there and active. Back in December of 2019 the band did release a one-off improvisation entitled “Antetonkel” that they recorded on the spare of the moment in the rehearsal studios.

I did listen to the improvised piece a few times although it spoke to me more like a jam over its 8 minutes and was travelling along the same path or over the same ground without really going anywhere else. Which was not to my liking and why I never bothered downloading it even for free.

However, if you were to listen to some of the earlier improvisations and jams the band did of material that eventually found its way onto their debut album has I had done. I could of said very much the same thing about most of them. But was blown away by how they had further developed them to make the final album what it is.

If you read the description on Bandcamp of “Antetonkel” you will notice that they also stated that the piece would not make it onto their 2nd album but there was a fair chance of it making it on their 3rd album. Which just goes to show how much work they put into a piece before they think it’s finally ready. I could also say the same thing about many of King Crimson’s live improvisations and many of their improv’s were nowhere near as further developed like these guys have gone on to do with them.

2020 has been a tough year for many musicians affecting their livelihood in the case of those who make their living out music alone. The very fact that they can no longer get out there and play live due to the Coronavirus may very well of forced many to write new material and get it out there just to tie them over and put food on the table.

Though Sproingg’s second album Clam is certainly no rush job and I could certainly hear that a lot had been put into it on the couple of tracks you instantly got from the album when I pre-ordered it. The material for the album they had been working on for quite a while and was scheduled to be released this year.

I am pretty sure its band members have regular jobs besides to put food on the table and they and their families would die of starvation if they relied on their music alone to support them like many unknown artists and bands.

Musicians & Credits…


All music composed & improvised by Sproingg. Recorded & Mixed by Erik Feder & Johannes Korn @ Sproingg Central sometime between 2019/20. Cover Design by Johannes Korn.

Prudi Bruschgo: Electric Guitar – Electric Baritone Guitar.
Johannes Korn: Chapman Sticks – Electric Violin.
Erik Feder: Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

One of the things I gave a certain amount of credit to on the bands debut album were the titles they chose for the tracks and I thought they was well thought-out, even though they were a bit on the bizarre side of things such as “Sugarwax Nailface” and “And The Mountain Rat Saw God“. I think its hard enough coming up with titles for instrumental pieces and sometimes you do have to dig a bit deeper and be a bit more imaginative.

Quite a few of the titles on their new album Clam have more of a Zany Theatrical feel about them and some are perhaps along the lines of the silly sense of humour you got with the British comedy of Monty Pythons Flying Circus. Some are quite lengthy to and the last track in particular may be an attempt at trying to beat what Roger Water’s did on the 1969 double album Ummagumma 😁😁😁.

As with all instrumental tracks they can be quite a challenge to review each track individually and it is practically impossible to describe them all with every detail. But I shall try my best and I may even throw in my own sense of humour along the way. So let’s now take a closer look to see how the album shapes up as I take you through its tracks.

Track 1. Stuffer Gapes And Drapes His Cape On A Vaping Ape (Including Destiny’s Abortion)


The album opens up with the first of a couple of tracks that have more or less the same bizarre title given to them. According to the description on their Bandcamp page (most likely written by the bands drummer) this opening piece is the first of a couple of Siamese twins that were separated before birth by some 11 days, 16 hours, 47 minutes and 19 seconds.

Reading the description alone I can tell that the band already have this track in mind to take on the road and play live, they may have already played it a few times live already. In many respects the bands drummer Erik is a bit like Peter Gabriel when it comes to preparing for a live show in that they both concoct up and tell some strange story in between the songs whilst the other members of the band are tweaking and tuning their instruments.

Both guitarists Prudi and Johannes have an array of pedals and utilise various effects for most of the bands material so they will need quite a bit of tweaking at times. In the opening section of this piece they may even need a Looper for the repeated couple of lead notes that have either been overdubbed or a Looper might very well have been used for the bass line instead which would allow them both to play the guitar parts.

This particular piece opens up quite mysteriously and both the guitars and drums work their way around Johannes pumping bass line and it runs along in a similar pattern right up to the 3:44 mark to which it comes to halt and brings in the first of two transitional changes.

The first of the transitional changes picks up the pace quite well and we get more structure coming from the bass line whilst Prudi’s guitar is sort of going on a crash course a bit like what Steve Howe was doing in the battle section of “Gates Of Delirium” back in 1974. However, unlike that Yes song Erik’s drums are doing something totally opposite and are not so much bashing it all out and he’s working in some kind of skip beat between the hi-hat and snare to keep a nice tight groove.

This section grinds itself down around 6:18 to bring in the next change which I presume is meant to describe “Destiny’s Abortion” that enters in around the 6:40 mark and this is where it goes into more of a frenzy and you could say they are going ape shit with the vape and steaming up the place 😁😁😁.

Overall, “Stuffer Gapes And Drapes His Cape On A Vaping Ape (Including Destiny’s Abortion)” is a three part piece that sits in the groove and the same pocket of what one would have expected if you had already heard the bands debut album. However, I do not really see it as anything new or better and I personally do not think it’s quite up to par with the material on their debut album. But I do not see it as a bad track either.

Track 2. (Impure Thoughts) Pure Cushion.

T 2_Fotor

In terms of how this next piece is structured it does have way less going on here in relation to the opening track on the album. However, this is a good example of how sometimes less can be more and this is certainly more of an accessible piece and more along the lines of a composition.

It’s very much a piece that features Erik’s drums doing a GREAT! job of putting the ape back into the jungle whilst Prudi’s wayward guitar lines add the right scope for it to make it feel more like an urban jungle sort of thing. It’s a piece that very much opens and closes up with a very effective ambient soundscape created on the pedal board and it instantly has the right effect to draw you into the piece.

It builds itself up quite well to run into the jungle section that runs between 1:50 – 6:59 of the piece. This section is perhaps a bit more urban than the heavier industrial side of things like King Crimson done on their Discipline album back in 1981. According to their own description they describe as a jazz klezmer-polka-waltz romp. Well they certainly are romping it along and in style too and this is a GREAT! track that seems to be over in no time at all.

Track 3. Z’Mörgele.

T 3_Fotor

I have to confess I have no idea what the word “Z’Mörgele” means and I was coming up with Zilch trying to translate it in Googles Translator. Though through my research on Google the word was most commonly associated with Cafes and Restaurants in Switzerland and the images I found mostly associated it with some form of breakfast with fruit. So, I guess it means “breakfast” in Switzerland.

Musically it starts off in a rush as if it was a snack and they was in a hurry to get breakfast out of the way and get on with whatever they had planned for the rest of the day. Erik is the first at the table and he going for a quick roll after which both Prudi and Johannes join in and man these guys are drilling the stuff down their neck 😁😁😁.

The band then slightly change gear over a couple of very slight transitional changes that come into play around the 1:53 and 2:46 mark and then drive it right down very well around the 3:29 mark into more of a smoother change and I quite like how all 3 musicians settle their way into the groove on this section. I also like how they end it all off abruptly by turning up the heat once again but only for a few bars. “Z’Mörgele” is one of my personal favourite tracks and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 4. Lovebird Dogbane Receives Higher Education.

T 4_Fotor

The title of this one according to the description on Bandcamp is self-explanatory. However, as I mentioned in my introduction of how I had a lack of education I was quite puzzled and it had me scratching my head and was a bit like trying to decipher something in a crossword to which I am no good at those either. So, I had to do a bit of research in particular on the word “Dogbane”.

I first discovered that it was a plant known as Indian Hemp that grows throughout much of North America and the southern regions of Canada. This very much gave me the vision of some Lovebird getting stoned out of his head on the stuff 😁😁😁 and I am pretty sure that comical side of looking at it is very much what Erik intended to do with the title here.

The plant itself is poisonous and like many poisonous plants can be used for medical treatments for humans. However, to animals such as dogs and birds the plant can be quite lethal causing them to be sick and even kill them should they eat enough of the plant. Birds are also known for eating insects and the metallic rainbow coloured beetle I chose in the picture above lives on the stuff and is known as a Dogbane Leaf Beetle.

This piece starts off in quite a menacing comical way were all 3 musicians sound a bit like they are doing their own thing over the first 3 minutes, 45 seconds yet regarding the interplay between the drums, bass and guitar it all works very well. The next transition introduces some heavier power chords on the guitar to drive it along over a sluggish pace. They have also created a nice bit of a haunting organ sound on the pedal board that accompanies them along this section every now and then.

The final section comes in around the 5:41 mark and here they have completely slowed things right down and the pedal board effects have been put to fine use. It gets even more mysterious almost alien like in particular with the flutey synth sound played along to a heavy drone effect. Overall, they have done another fine job here.

Track 5. And Her Name Was “Jo-Jo, The Dog-Faced Boy” (Part 1)

T 5_Fotor

This next piece is the shortest track on the album and a little over 3 minutes. They also describe it as a happy-go lucky, ragtime, children’s song. If this is ragtime it’s certainly different to anything Scott Joplin did that’s for sure 😁😁😁. However, I can see where they are coming from and this is a very well arranged piece with some GREAT! progression and very sweet piece of work indeed and one I would also add as another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. Progg Is A Five-Letter Word.

T 6_Fotor

By the sounds of the title prog was not foul enough as a 4-letter word and they had to do a bit of Spinal Tap and turn it up a notch. The one thing I will say about it is that it is certainly very PROGMATIC! and this is a very well-crafted and constructed piece of work that not only sits very well and tight in the GROOVE! It also goes down quite a few roads with its progression and transitional changes.

The band describe it has a nostalgic tearjerker, to be honest its quite hard to describe apart from rather than go into any sort of a frenzy the band are very much weaving their way along at a careful steady pace through its many directions. It’s very much another of my personal favourite tracks on the album a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 7. Stuffer Vapes And Drapes His Cape On A Gaping Ape.

T 7

This next track comes with the same bizarre title has the opening track on the album, only minus the addition of “Destiny’s Abortion“. You would have thought it would have been somewhat a bit shorter however, this is longest track on album weighing in at 12 minutes. It’s also completely different even though it shares the same title and the only track on the album that features Johannes Korn on electric violin.

It’s a shame really that the violin was not utilised more often on the album because they can be a lot more diverse in their creativity with that instrument and both “No Place For Children” and “Krummfutter” from their debut album injected other influences into their music and are really GREAT! tracks.

There is no doubt the violin gives this band another avenue and direction to go down and it adds a good dose of haunting darkness to their music as you will hear with how well its utilised on this particular piece. The combination of the haunting folk vibe from the violin GELS! very well with Prudi’s crunching metal guitar whilst Erik keeps them both in line and holds the forte on this mystical almost satanic ritual into the dark void. It really is a GREAT! journey to take on over its 12 minutes and another very firm favourite of mine enough to jointly merit the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 8.  In A Recent Survey, 4 Out Of 5 Clinically Depressed, Middle-Aged Suburbanites Strongly Preferred New And Improved Jizzo Brand Cream Cheese To A Mortally Wounded Clam.

T 8_Fotor

No doubt the band were trying to beat Roger Waters when they concocted up this lengthy title and this final track is the albums self-titled track. It was from this title where the albums title originated Erik informed me and it was from one his stories he often talks about at the bands live shows. It was also more or less of how I described it in my own description in the artwork section and he did say that he had used many of the same references in his introductory speech to the audience.

This final track goes through a few transitions and over its first minute and 25 seconds they are rocking it out in a bit of a familiar style of The Police back in the late 70’s. It then falls into this mysterious alien like effective section and it sounds like they are either on another planet or they are melting the Jizzo cream cheese 😁😁😁. They then go into another rocked out section around the 2:38 mark and it grinds itself down to a halt at the 3:48 mark and it sounds like it’s all over.

Then after a couple of seconds silence it goes into another mysterious section that perhaps describes the wounded clam mostly done by the playfulness of Prudi’s guitar. It then rolls back into the action with Erik’s drums around the 5:25 and the band more or less go on a frenzy to drive last section home. I quite like the mellotron sound from the pedal board and it does sound like a real mellotron too.

Overall, its perhaps an extraordinary piece to end off the album and its one of those where you can hear how each section was worked on and put together to make it what it is. In terms of its structure it is very much like the opening track on the album with how it was stitched together and even though they are different tracks in some respects you could say the album was bookended and effectively it works that way.


To sum up Sproingg’s second album Clam. The material is quite a bit different in relation to their self-titled debut album and gone are many of the other influences that made that album stand out so well. However, the King Crimson influence still slightly remains and it’s also quite evident that the band are developing and injecting a lot more of their own input and ideas into their music and are creating more of their own unique style which can only be seen as a good thing.

It is the PROGMATIC! fusion side of things that really ties the bands music to the likes of King Crimson more than anything else and its perhaps in that that pocket where their music really sits. It’s very much has they describe it being experimental polyrhythmic chaos and music your mother would not allow you to listen to and if you like your music to be on the weird and adventurous side, this is an album that will be very much up the right end of your street and in the same ball park so to speak.

Clam is perhaps not an album that I would personally recommend to introduce first time listeners to the bands music, and their first album does really show more of what this band are capable of doing. You would be better off listening to that album first to get to know where they are heading now and see how the band are working together as a unit.

Though I touched on how their debut album has more influences from others injected into it, that is far from what makes this band so unique. What I love so much about the bands debut album is how the band have worked so uniquely together has a combined unit even to the stage where the drummers input into the written material plays a pivotal role.

As a matter of fact, most of the tracks on their debut album do feel like they were written around Erik Feder’s drum kit. Even the way his drum kit was tuned is totally different to how they sound on their new album. Johannes Korn’s electric violin also played more of a role and added to much of the diversity and arrangement that made that album work so well and those are perhaps some of the key issues the album Clam is missing and why this album is not so much up to the same strength with its predecessor.

However, there is no questioning the ability of all 3 musicians in the band and Clam certainly has its moments and is far from disappointing and my personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Z’Mörgele“. “Stuffer Vapes And Drapes His Cape On A Gaping Ape“. “Progg Is A Five-Letter Word” and “And Her Name Was “Jo-Jo, The Dog-Faced Boy” (Part 1)“.


To conclude my review of the bands latest album Clam. I personally would not say it was a solid album like their debut album or has the strength of the material that holds that album up so well. However, there is certainly nothing remotely bad and there is enough here to enjoy and get plenty of satisfaction from. Like the bands debut album it’s been very well recorded and produced and the track placement works very well in making the album flow well enough from start to finish.

Regarding my question of have they managed to come up TRUMPS! once again. I personally still think they have, and even though this is a different album there is no denying the bands formidable style is still very evident throughout. The zany titles are still present too though I do think they went to extremes with albums self-titled track 😁😁😁.

Sproingg are very much a PROGMATIC! band that should appeal to most PROGSTERS! and FUSION HEADS! alike and its bands like this that are keeping such GREAT! music still alive today. They have their own approach and own way of presenting their music to you and their 2nd album Clam still has enough on it to deliver the goods and make it well worth buying and I highly recommend you at least check them out.

PROGMATIC FUSION! All Clamped Into A Shell Of Goodness…

The track listing of the album is as follows:

01. Stuffer Gapes And Drapes His Cape On A Vaping Ape (including Destiny’s Abortion). 9:00.
02. (Impure thoughts) Pure cushion. 7:51.
03. Z’Mörgele. 7:09.
04. Lovebird Dogbane Receives Higher Education. 7:54.
05. And Her Name Was “Jo-Jo, The Dog-Faced Boy” (Part 1) 3:06.
06. Progg Is A Five-Letter Word. 6:02.
07. Stuffer Vapes And Drapes His Cape On A Gaping Ape. 11:59.
08. In A Recent Survey, 4 Out Of 5 Clinically Depressed, Middle-Aged Suburbanites Strongly Preferred New And Improved Jizzo Brand Cream Cheese To A Mortally Wounded Clam. 6:57.

Lee’s Overall Complete Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7.5/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #162

Sola Gratia – Neal Morse

Neal MorseSola Gratia


I have to admit I have lost track just how many albums Neal Morse has made and put out since he left Spock’s Beard around 2002 and I am pretty sure he had a couple of solo albums out before he left the band and if you were to count his Christmas album that would make another one. Since leaving the band he has put out god knows how many Christian albums and a complete rake of studio and live albums under his own name and with his band besides all the other bands and projects he’s worked in. 

I have the biggest majority of his solo albums and the ones he has put out with his band and there was a time when I honestly praised him for his song writing especially in the field of prog-rock. Though I have to confess that since he released Momentum back in 2012 I rather think that things have started to become a bit more stale and I found the last 3 albums I brought The Grand Experiment, The Similitude Of A Dream and The Great Adventure started to speak too much of the same language in that it was all too much of the same thing so I never even bothered buying his last PROG! album Jesus Christ The Exorcist.

I know that Morse is very much devoted to his faith and Christian beliefs and I have nothing against that. I also know he’s a very good songwriter, but at the high rate he churns out music it can be a bit too much food for thought at times and the food in some cases is getting stale before it reaches the table so to speak. It will also cost you an arm and a leg to keep up with it although to be fair I have always found his albums very reasonably priced and they do offer value for the buck.

It was very much the title of this release that caught my eye and made me go out and buy it. The reasoning behind that is because his 2007 album Sola Scriptura has always been my favourite album of his, and the title of this new album Sola Gratia was ringing out to me in the way that it could be a sequel to that album. My second favourite album of his came out a couple of years earlier in 2005 and that album was simply titled ? as in a question mark.

In total I have 14 of his studio albums and those two albums have always been my GOTO! albums of his. Personally, I don’t think anything that came after them is on the same level of par and it’s been a bit too much of the same thing. The question is does Sola Gratia live up to its predecessor or are my expectations too high? Before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork per usual.

Packaging & Artwork…


The Limited Edition comes with a bonus DVD and both the CD & DVD are stored in a 3-panel cardboard DigiPak that has plastic trays to hold the both discs. It also comes with a 20-page booklet that contains all the lyrics, credits and linear production notes which can be stored neatly in the left-hand side of the Digipak.

Overall, it’s a very neat well-made package to which I got at a very good price of £12.99 from Amazon UK. I pre-ordered it on the 5th August and it arrived a day after its release which is quite good considering it comes from America and it arrived earlier than expected. The album is also available on vinyl and has been pressed onto 2 x 180-gram black vinyl LP’s priced around £24.99 and it also comes with the CD. There is also a CD (only) edition that comes in a standard jewel case for £10.99 and I dare say a Digital Download of the album for not much less.


The artwork and Design layout were done by the German graphic designer Thomas Ewerhard who also done the cover for Sola Scriptura and many other Neal Morse and Spock’s Beard albums. He mainly does the artwork for metal and prog bands and his work is very impressive and I particularly like the artwork he’s done for the German supergroup metal opera project Avantasia. The artwork he has done here is well apt and fitting for the sequel to Sola Scriptura.

The Album In Review…

Neal Morse’s latest studio album Sola Gratia was released on the 11th September 2020. The album contains 14 tracks and has an overall playing time of 65 minutes, 40 seconds and it runs along like a non-stop Rock Opera. I do find that over the more recent years that Neal likes to get more involved in the act for his live concerts and tries to act out the parts. He even adds in the odd stage prop and dresses up to try and look the part of the many concept story albums he writes.

The one thing I do admire about him is that he always puts his heart and soul into his live performance. However, I do find that he’s perhaps going a bit too over the top with his costumes and props 😁😁😁. I also find that the only way you can get to hear and enjoy his concerts are on DVD and not at the concert itself. Because they are played at ridiculously high-volume levels that goes beyond the level of distortion and will bounce off walls all around the arena.

Sola Gratia is indeed a sequel to its predecessor he wrote back in 2007 and the whole idea was ignited by a misunderstanding and of him not quite catching on to what his wife was saying during a conversation they were having at the time. She was asking him if his next album was going to be a solo album and he thought she said “Sola” and thought that would be a good idea hence the reason why we now have a follow up. There are in fact five solas so we may very well see other sequels arrive later.

Sola Scriptura translated to English is “scripture alone” and is a theological doctrine held by some Protestant Christian denominations that the Christian scriptures are the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice.

To be perfectly honest I myself am not into all this GOBBLEDEGOOK! and quite often in the world of prog-rock the lyrical content is meaningless and all written about mythical fantasies more than anything else. It’s the music and the way the words are expressed are all that really matters to me and when it comes to reality you will find a lot more sense in the song “He Died At Home” that he wrote for his Life & Times album a couple of years ago than what you will ever find here.

When it comes to Christianity and common sense you will also find more logic listening to Stephen Fry talk about religion and he’s a lot wiser man than the likes of Solomon and the Three Wise Men 😁😁😁.

Like all his studio albums they are mostly recorded at his own studios at his home and he started work on the album towards the end of January this year, the recording was done between February – June. Being the highly talented multi-instrumentalist he is, he laid out all the tracks for the demos by himself including playing drums on all tracks and then sent them over to both Mike Portnoy and Randy George for them to play their parts.

As a rule, Neal likes to have the musicians in the same room but due to the Coronavirus this was not possible and it’s the first time he’s ever made an album and had to work this way. All three musicians are the main core on the album though both the other couple of musicians from his band also get to play a few parts and there are also a few string players and backing vocalists that also contribute to it.

The Limited Edition comes with a DVD that shows the making of the album and this bonus feature is something of a norm with all the projects Morse works on and he films everything. It would not surprise me if he takes his video camera with him when he pops down to the grocery store 😁😁😁. So, lets now take a look at the DVD.

The DVD.


The DVD plays immediately when you insert it into your player and the only way you can access its main menu (as seen above) is by either waiting for the DVD to end or via the Top Menu button on your remote. As a rule, Neal mostly films and documents much of the recording progress for his studio and live albums and you can at times get many hours of film footage on them.

This however, was one of the rare occasions where he hardly filmed anything at all and some of the footage he even recorded after the process to make up the 66 minutes you get here. I find these making of the album very interesting and in this footage, you even get to see how he recorded some of the ideas with his voice on his mobile phone before he had written the music, and him putting those ideas into fruition. 

You also get to see Mike Portnoy and Randy George recording some of their parts at their homes along with the string players recording their parts in Neal’s studio plus hear a song that never made it on the album. The one thing you do not get is a 5.1 mix of the album tracks. Though to be perfectly honest from the attempts I have heard in the past done on his live DVD’s and the other projects he’s been involved in you would only end up being hugely disappointed 😁😁😁.

The picture quality is basic but to be expected when filming yourself on video and I have nothing to complain about especially as the DVD you are getting for practically nothing with the price, I paid for it. I would also say it’s worth getting the Limited Edition especially if you like to see the production side of things. The video editing was done by Randy George.

Musicians & Credits…


All songs Written & Produced by Neal Morse. Recorded between February -June 2020 at Neal’s home studio. Mixed & Mastered by Rich Mouser at The Madhouse. Pasadena US. Strings recorded by Gabe Klein. Drums tracks Engineered by Thomas Cuce. Artwork by Thomas Ewerhard. DVD Edited by Randy George.

Neal Morse: Vocals – Keyboards – Guitars – Percussion – Drums (On “Building A Wall”)
Mike Portnoy: Drums (Voice Mow only on “Building A Wall”)
Randy George: Bass.

Additional Musicians:
Bill Hubauer: Piano & Aha Moment.
Eric Gillette: Guitar in “Overture”. “In The Name Of The Lord”. Big Solo on “The Glory Of The Lord”.
Gideon Klein: Cello – Viola – Stringed Bass.
Josee Weigand: Violin – Viola

Backing Vocals – Wil Morse, Debbie Bresee, April Zachary, Julie Harrison and Amy Pippin.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Sola Gratia or “grace alone” which it translates too is actually the third Thesis that was written and not the second of the 5 Solas so regarding the sequel side of things Neal may have got his wires slightly crossed. Basically, it’s from the book of Ephesians in the bible that was supposedly written by God and by the Apostle Paul’s hand and can be found in chapter 2 verses 8-10.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

In layman’s terms it’s basically saying that we were saved for our sins by grace alone and the grace was a gift from god in offering his son at the alter for us. Although it might not appear that way in the way that it is written in the King James version of the bible (above). But there are several versions of the book and many different interpretations of it which is why there are so many different religions.

The bible was never written in a straight forward way for you to understand and try and decipher. Many songs are also written in the same way and many people will have their own interpretations of them. In the case of songs, I personally think that’s a good thing, but surely if there was a god out there, he would not of given you a book of riddles to lead you up the wrong garden path so to speak, or perhaps he was the author of confusion has Neal mentioned on his One album back in 2004 😁😁😁.

The first notable thing I noticed regarding the sequel is that the material for this album was written over a lot more tracks than its predecessor and they are considerably a lot shorter in length. Most of the shorter tracks also make up the first half of the album and I would even say that Sola Gratia is a bit like listening to an album of two halves with how the material flows along. So, let’s take a closer look at the album.

Track 1. Preface.

T 1_Fotor

You could say that the preface part of the book lets you know that it’s a sequel to the first book or album and it does so BEAUTIFULLY! with a lovely little acoustic version of “The Door” from the 2007 Sola Scriptura album. I totally love what Neal has done here and even though it’s only 1 minute, 26 seconds long it is one of the best tracks on the album. You will also hear parts of it pop up and reoccur in the backing vocal sections throughout the album, but here it’s just Neal’s voice and his 6 & 12 string guitar and it really is GORGEOUS!

Track 2. Overture.

T 2_Fotor

After it’s GORGEOUS! opening the album then EXPLODES! into action with this instrumental piece and this is by far the most PROGMATIC! track on the whole album. Neal quite often likes to BIG! things up with his overtures and has done several times in the past on his other albums and they generally contain some really GREAT! musical interplay with the instrumentation and run along some sophisticated time signatures and transitional changes that weave in and out of each other. It’s something he does best and there is no exception here.

This is actually one of the only longer tracks to be found in the first half of the album and besides the 3 main core musicians Morse, Portnoy and George it features his other two band members Gillette and Hubauer and both string players Gideon Klein and Josee Weigand that play their role in beefing up the orchestration very well. It’s also my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. In The Name Of The Lord.

T 3_Fotor

It’s time to ROCK! things up and this one even throws in some Metal to add a bit more weight to it and could quite easily be seen as the single release from the album. Although without the rest of the story behind its concept it’s lyrical content might very well give people the wrong impression about Neal himself, and that is exactly what it did when I shared the official video with a small group of friends in private group on Facebook last Friday and this is how one person in the group described it.

“Definitely motored right along with some ‘Nasty’. By the sounds of it…he ain’t a fan of Jesus and more the other guy. I enjoyed this you ole Devil”.

The lyrical content is often the reason why so many songs from concept albums do not make good single releases even though musically this would be more fitting for a single release and you will get that impression from the official video that was put out on the record labels Tube channel.

This particular song does also have quite a bit of an Alice Cooper influence and there is a couple of songs on this album that do feel more like Cooper songs rather than Morse.

Regarding the lyrical content it could easily come across like it came across to that person in the group and many more especially, if you know very little or nothing about Neal Morse and to be honest this is a group where I post more songwriter based songs and very little in the way of prog-rock and I only posted this cause it is a rock song.

The fire and anger in Neal’s voice will also give people that impression but he does like to put himself into the right frame of mind and picture of the times he is portraying in the story, and the story is based upon the times where even an apostle like Paul would fear for his own safety talking about Jesus and back then you could even get stoned for uttering the word. 

In The Name Of The Lord” does have more of a commercial rock feel to it which is why I could see it like a single release. The fact that I do like Alice Cooper also makes this appeal to my taste and I do see this song has one of the highlights of the album and it’s a contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 4. Ballyhoo (The Chosen Ones).

T 4_Fotor

More influences are coming out of the woodwork here and this a song that is structured around the piano and its vamping style gives it that BEATLE-ESC! feel. It’s quite a jolly up-tempo little song even if the lyrical content is kind of celebrating in an evil way 😁😁😁 and the word “Ballyhoo” is associated with a lot of noise and activity, often with no real purpose behind it.

I suppose you could describe it sort of like making a lot of fuss out of nothing and that is what the chosen ones i.e. Saul and the Pharisees are bragging about here on their road to Damascus. But then again, the Pharisees were seen as hypocrites of god by god.

Track 5. March Of The Pharisees.

T 5_Fotor

This is a short instrumental interlude and this piece is structured more or less around a continuous bass line that pumps its way along to the beat of the drums very well allowing space for the hammond organ and guitars to build it up and add some power to it.

There is quite a bit of TASTY! guitar work on this by Morse and the way the guitar echoes out in parts and is panned between left and right to good effect puts me in mind of “Dogs” by Pink Floyd. Even the way it marches along also reminds me of “Dogs Of War” by them too though the lead lines very much speak differently and this a GREAT! little interlude.

Track 6. Building A Wall.

T 6_Fotor

The Alice Cooper influence is back for this ANTHEM ROCKER! of a song though some may even see it has even a Pink Floyd influence regarding its wall. They might even see it has a political influence brought on by the LUNATIC! I chose for the picture here 😁😁😁. However, the wall of separation here was brought on by the Scribes and Pharisees and with Jesus delivering his damming discourse to them as described in the book of Matthew chapter 23 verse 13.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in”.

Neal’s original drums were left in on this song and the only thing Mike Portnoy is doing on the track is one of his funny voice “Mows” in which you can see in the official video that was once again put out on the record label’s Tube channel.

This is yet another GREAT! commercial rock song that would be fitting for a single release and apart from the lyrics. musically both “In The Name Of The Lord” and “Building A Wall” do have the presence of some of Alice Coopers earlier hits. Though even the lyrics on this particular song could easily be interpreted into today’s political affairs and this is another of the albums highlights and strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 7. Sola Intermezzo.

T 7_Fotor

It’s time for another musical intermission or in this case an intermezzo which is an Italian pronunciation that is used in the general sense of a composition which fits between other musical or dramatic entities, such as acts of a play or movements of a larger musical work. This also could be seen as a piece to put an end to first part or half of the album and though it’s much shorter than the overture you get some fine interplay and it’s another of the PROGMATIC! tracks on the album.

Track 8. Overflow.

T 8_Fotor

Like I mentioned earlier in some ways this is like listening to an album that has two halves and most of the material from here on does get longer. This is very much a ballad of a song that perhaps gets stretched out longer over its 6.5 minutes than it really needs to be. It’s not a bad song by any means and it also has a nice musical section to break it up. However, I do feel the chorus is overcooked and can be too repetitious.

Track 9. Warmer Than The Sunshine.

T 9_Fotor

You could say this is another instrumental piece with what little words you get here and they are only a couple of short verses that come into play at the end. This is also one of the couple of shorter pieces on the second part of the album though both are approaching the 3.5 minute mark and this one works very well with all that has been put into it. 

You could say it does help lift the album back up slightly and once again there is a fine PROGMATIC! touch to it with the interplay between the musicians and instrumentation. It’s also a very well-structured piece of work where the keyboards and bass play more of a dominate role, though the guitars and drums also play vital parts to make it what it is as well and it a GREAT! piece of work.

Track 10. Never Change.

T 10_Fotor

This next song for some reason has me thinking of the “Warrior” by Wishbone Ash in particular with its one haunting ambient note on the guitar that echoes every now and then to the jangly rhythm guitar. Although it’s nothing like that song I find myself singing the words “I’m leaving to search for something new” and I can actually squeeze in the first 4 lines of that song into the intro of this song before Neal starts singing.

This is one of the better songs on the second half of the album and I like how it builds itself up with quite some power to take it into the next track. Neal also plays a very TASTY! lead guitar solo that runs between 4:10 – 5:31 that is very FLOYD-ESC! which has that feel of some of guitar work Dave Gilmour played on The Division Bell album.

Track 11. Seemingly Sincere.

T 11_Fotor

By far the most powerful song of the album and when it comes to energy, I would say that a lot of it has been sucked out of it on the second half of the album and it needed something like this to wake it up. It is quite a synth driven track and the sequenced intro is once again quite FLOYD-ESC! and a bit like “On The Run” from their prolific Dark Side Of The Moon album as you can hear in the official video release.

Though it also has some heavy metal driven into it with the guitars and one hell of a powerhouse drummer to help drive it along too. “Seemingly Sincere” is the longest track on the album weighing in at 9 minutes, 34 seconds and it contains some really GREAT! progression that adds plenty of weight to it all with how it builds up into quite a monstrous song that has all the right balls and grit. It’s very much my personal favourite song on the album and jointly merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! along with its instrumental overture.

Track 12. The Light On The Road To Damascus.

T 12_Fotor

This is the second of the shorter tracks on the second half of the album and effectively its like having 3 tracks rolled into one which does not really work that well at all. Talk about being in the land of confusion and I think Neal certainly was when he put this together.

OK! you could say the intro which is the only part that contains some words may have been essential to get the story across and the short-orchestrated section that follows and ends in a bang works too. However, what does not work is having the instrumental part that comes in at the 2:14 mark on the same track and this little small instrumental piece that is used to bring in the next track might have worked better if he further developed it and put it on another track.

Track 13. The Glory Of The Lord.

T 13_Fotor

This song should of really of been the final track on the album and it runs along in similar vein to much of the material you will find on other Morse albums such as Testimony for example. It has some nice rich orchestration to accompany the piano from the string players and Eric Gillette‘s BIG! blistering guitar solo works a TREAT! to spice things up and helps it raise the bar a bit. It’s a GREAT! song and another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 14. Now I Can See / The Great Commission.

T 14_Fotor

A two-part song to which the first part is really just an extension of the previous song and is like a reprise of it with the backing singers singing it’s title like in the way of a canticle as Neal repeats the words of the first part of the new title to practically the same tune played on the piano.

It then builds up with the orchestration and brings in a transitional change which is sort of like a Gran Finale although it’s not quite over yet has it comes down and he introduces a different melody on the piano for the final part “The Great Commission” to which brings in the final few words and it trickles its way out subtly and nicely on the piano to put an end to it all.

With how the last couple of tracks on the album work he could of easily done away with a track and made the two part song out of the 13th track and titled it as thus “The Glory Of The Lord / The Great Commission“. Though I am sure Neal has his own reasons but I did feel that the album should have ended off with the 13th track.


To sum up Sola Gratia by Neal Morse. I would say it’s a decent enough album and much of the excitement and energy is contained within the material that was written for first half of the album. It is an album of two halves and the second half of the album is not in any particular hurry and its as if all the life and energy has been sucked and drained out of it in relation the first half to a certain degree.

In many respects I could also see those who brought the album on vinyl wearing out the first LP in no time at all. Simply because that is where all the adrenalin has been contained and it is only really “Seemingly Sincere” that really lives up to the energetic pace on the second part of the album.

Though I must stress that the way everything works with the concept I can see why Neal wrote it like this and it does work. The second half of the album is far from disappointing either even if I do have a few little niggles with a couple of the tracks in the way he presented them like he did and my personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Overture“. “In The Name Of The Lord“. “Building A Wall“. “Seemingly Sincere” and “The Glory Of The Lord“.


In conclusion Sola Gratia is a very good fine body of work that Neal Morse has written with all the material that is contained upon it and no doubt he has put his heart and soul into the album. It can be quite exciting in parts and has other pleasurable moments and is quite an enjoyable album to listen to. Though I would not say it was a solid body of work. Though I certainly think it’s a better album than some of his more previous outputs of work he has put out since 2012 and it’s a way better album than Momentum.

As for my question in the introduction of my expectations being too high to live up to its predecessor Sola Scriptura in the way of a sequel. Personally. I would be both shocked and stunned if it did and my expectations were never that high in the first place especially knowing his output of work over the last decade or more. It would take something really special for that to happen and it may never either.

However, in some ways this new album of his has restored some of my faith in him as a writer and I may end up buying Jesus Christ The Exorcist. Though not right away as both this month and next month my music expenses are already tied up with the amount of new releases that are coming out over these couple of months. I also hear that there is also a new Transatlantic album in the pipeline that will be coming out either this year or next year and shall be looking forward to that.

Overall, Sola Gratia is an album that is both PROGMATIC! and ROCKMATIC! and I don’t think it will disappoint many PROGSTERS! especially with its musical content. I can understand some people not being into the religious side of things and this is really a concept about Saul who was blinded by God and later seen the light so to speak on his road to Damascus with the Pharisees.

But as I mentioned earlier. I can take the lyrical side of most prog-rock albums with a pinch of salt as long as the words are expressed well and add to musical side of things to which no doubt Neal can deliver them with ease on that score, because he does have a GREAT! voice and completely throws himself into it like an actor in many respects.

I do think it’s worth going with the Limited Edition that includes the DVD even if the content is not quite up to some of the other behind the scenes in the studio, he’s done n the past. But for it’s price point you are practically getting the DVD for free anyway.

Most Seemingly Sincere…

The Album track listing is as follows:

01. Preface. 1:26.
02. Overture. 5:59.
03. In The Name Of The Lord. 4:27.
04. Ballyhoo (The Chosen Ones). 2:43.
05. March Of The Pharisees. 1:40.
06. Building A Wall. 5:01.
07. Sola Intermezzo. 2:10.
08. Overflow. 6:27.
09. Warmer Than The Sunshine. 3:21.
10. Never Change. 7:52.
11. Seemingly Sincere. 9:34.

12. The Light On The Road To Damascus. 3:26.
13. The Glory Of The Lord. 6:17.
14. Now I Can See / The Great Commission. 5:17

Lee’s Overall Complete Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

The Bonus DVD Rating Score. 6/10

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7.5/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #161

The Red Planet – Rick Wakeman



It’s been quite a while since Rick Wakeman last wrote a studio album of new material and I could be wrong but I think the last studio album he made of his own new written material would have been Past, Present and Future back in 2009 and that was a triple album of piano solos only. He’s perhaps spent most of the past couple of decades doing things for Television and playing music by other artists than he has in the way of writing new material of his own. He’s also been living in the past in the many live shows and albums he has released and practically played material from his first 3 albums (excluding Piano Vibrations) to death 😁😁😁

Rick Wakeman has a Discography that most likely will fill several planets and you could easily find well over a hundred albums that have been released somewhere down the line floating around in some form or another that have been put out over the past 5 decades. Although he perhaps has around somewhere between 30 to 40 studio albums that are tied to him as a solo artist including the ones he did with his Rock Ensemble over all those years and in all honesty his discography is in a right mess and I am not going to even try and work out just how many official studio albums he has.

What I will say though is that over the many years he has put out some right SHITE! and that’s putting it mildly 😊😊😊. Though I would say he has around at least a dozen studio albums that are pretty good and I still think the first six albums he put out in the ’70s (once again excluding Piano Vibrations) are amongst my personal favourites and what I consider to be his personal best output.

Upon reading the many promising reviews of his latest album The Red Planet since its release I see many are already calling it the PROG! album of the year. To be honest, when I look at how disappointing this year has been so far for prog-rock releases it’s hardly surprising because the competition has been pretty much dim and bleak, to say the least, and the Coronavirus has had quite an effect on many musicians this year and it also has played its part of how this album got released and why it was delayed for so long. But before we go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…


The CD comes in a plastic jewel case which is not the best presentation and is perhaps outdated and looks cheap these days. I do prefer cardboard DigiPaks and DigiSleeves these days and I could have purchased the album in one that had a pop-out picture a lot earlier on in the year. However, the price for that package was twice the price of what it should have been sold for and was very extortionate.

It comes with a 20-page booklet that mostly comes with more informative information about the exploration to Mars and is also filled with plenty of photos which look quite impressive. It also contains the usual linear and production notes. However, as you can see in the photo above the writing as been printed in very small print and you might need a magnifying glass to read it all.

Overall, it’s well worth it’s money and I did get lucky when I went to order it from Amazon UK. I was about to put it into the basket just before I was off to bed and it was priced at £10.50. But the Mrs was pestering me to hurry up so I left it till the next morning. When I woke up the next day to pop it in the basket it was only £9.00 and being a Prime member, they also delivered it on the same day. That was a nice surprise and I saved myself a few pennies and it’s always nice to get a bargain.


The albums Cover Design, Artwork and Layout was done by Martin Robert Cook who has been a professional graphic designer for over thirty-five years, creating print and digital design for magazines, books, adverts, vehicle livery, signage, packaging and exhibitions. He’s also worked on books and albums for the likes of Jethro Tull, America, Bill Bruford, Billy Cobham and many others. I quite like the album cover and Cook has done a GREAT! job of it and made good use of the many NASA photos and a photo that was taken by Rick’s wife Rachel Wakeman

The Album In Review…

This particular edition of The Red Planet was released on the 28th August 2020 and everything about how Rick Wakeman’s latest album got released is all over the shop and very confusing. The album itself contains 8 instrumental tracks spread over an overall playing time of 55 minutes, 24 seconds. It’s quite a lengthy time slot though not a double album worth of material even if these days it will cost you a lot more money to purchase on vinyl because it comes on 2 LPs. There are some completely dodgy goings on with how this album got released so let’s go back to how the album was originally released.

Rick Wakeman’s Extortionate Emporium…

There is no doubt the Coronavirus very much effected the original release date of Rick’s latest album and The Red Planet was scheduled to be released on the 3rd April. But because he had planned a playback event the day after the album release at the National Space Centre in Leicester it was cancelled due to the pandemic and the albums release date got put back to June. The album was officially released on the 19th June but only in the form of a Digital Download with subsequent physical copies to follow later on has they got made up.

Speaking of made up everything about the website Mr. Wakeman had set up to sell his album on was made up without any real thought at first and things started not to look as rosy as one might expect. For example, my first real interest in the album was that there was going to be supposedly a 5.1 mix and at first it stated on his Emporium website that the DVD that came with the CD in the pop-out DigiPak contained the 5.1 mix of the album.

The only thing that prevented me from pre-ordering it at the time was its ridiculous price tag. With the postage and packing it cost near enough £35 which is twice the price one would expect to pay for such a package. OK! It was limited to 2,000 copies only but quite frankly that’s taking the PISS!

I was having seconds thoughts a week later and it was then when I popped back to the website that I noticed that the 5.1 had been removed and after some further investigation I soon discovered that there was no 5.1 mix of the album at all and the DVD only contained the video footage or some VR footage of Mars like he was showing on his YouTube channel.

It was at this point I had lost all interest in the album and even the Limited CD (only) Edition was priced at over £20 for the pop-out DigiPak as to why it was not priced at £12 like any other DigiPak is beyond me and everything on Rick’s so called Emporium was a complete rip off in my honest opinion and nothing but GREED!

But once GREED! sets in it creates more greed and having extorted all the money out of the suckers who brought up all the limited editions he then decided to do another deal with Madfish Records and release the album again and to get around the fact that it was all supposed to be a limited edition only and not so much piss off all the customers who brought the album. He decides to make a few changes with this new release.

The first was to release the CD in a Jewel Case (Only) at a more respectable cheaper price. The price the original CD should have been sold at in the first place. In all honesty I consider this to be a bit of an insult, and he really has been a bit of a cheapskate in the way he has gone about re-releasing the album and you will soon see how far he’s gone when you compare the original vinyl release to the new one.

TRP Vinyl_Fotor

The original Limited Vinyl Edition was limited to 1,000 copies only, and they were pressed onto 2 x 180-gram Red Vinyl LP’s. To be perfectly honest I cannot remember what it was priced at but it would have cost you somewhere in the region of £50 – £60 including the postage and packing. The very fact that they were pressed onto Red Vinyl is the only real thing that should have made it different from any other release and should have been the only thing that is distinguishing between the Limited Edition and future releases.

But a lot more than that has been stripped back for the new vinyl release and not only as he removed the pop-out from the Gatefold Sleeve, but he foolishly decided to save a few pennies by having the album pressed onto 2 x 140-gram Vinyl LP’s instead. The quality has gone completely out of the window for you vinyl lovers and this is one of the major reasons I myself stopped buying vinyl back in the 90’s. It is now sold at a cheaper price of around £30 but in all honesty, you would have to be a complete MUG! to buy this vinyl release talk about adding insult to injury.

To be perfectly honest as a rule I do not subscribe to this sort of GREED! and I did not intend to buy the album at all because of it. The only reason why I ended up buying this album in the first place was because a mate of mine who pre-ordered the Limited Edition CD/DVD happened to of sent me the Digital Download of the album to listen to back in July. So, I felt obliged to buy the album myself.

Back To The Review…

Rick Wakeman has always been my personal GOD! of the keyboards and my first encounter to his skills on the keyboards would have been back in 1971 when I first heard him on the Fragile album by Yes. Since then, I have brought quite a few of his solo albums over the years and as good as some of them are he has also produced a lot of SHITE! over those years like I mentioned in my introduction. I have also seen him play live a few times with Yes and on his own with a band. So, I do have a lot of admiration for this guy’s talent, and he is an extremely talented musician and as always been my personal king of the keyboards.

Although it might not seem that way with the way I described how this release was put out. But as with any review I will give you my own honest opinion and no way will I reflect that side of the business to hinder any part of my review of the album itself. After all the musical content should always hold more value than the price of the album unless it’s a really bad album and to be honest The Red Planet I personally think is one of his better albums and even over its longer time slot of 55 minutes the material we have here does hold up well over it.

Though its certainly not as cranked up as many reviewers have described it and to even make comparisons of it to his 1971 album The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, I can honestly say they are poles apart. I think the best way I could possibly describe this new album is that it’s MOOG DELICIOUS! Which is not how I would ever describe The Six Wives Of Henry VIII simply because that album has a lot more going on in it.

Another way to describe this album especially when making comparisons to some of Wakeman’s other albums is that it’s perhaps more along the lines of his 2003 album Out There and both the Retro albums he put out in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

It’s also worth mentioning that unlike both Retro 1 & 2 in which he did only use only analogue synths. The only analogue synth you will hear on this new album is the Moog and the rest of it was played mostly on his Korg Kronos. Which is another thing that most reviewers got completely wrong. You will also hear the odd throwback to a couple of his 70’s albums Journey To The Centre Of The Earth and No Earthly Connection scattered about in parts on a couple of tracks.

Wakeman as once again assembled his English Rock Ensemble to accompany him again out of a couple of the musicians who have played for him for quite sometime now such as bassist Lee Pomeroy and guitarist Dave Colquhoun. Both of them also played on the couple of Retro albums and Pomeroy even played on Out There and no doubt you would of seen him play with Steve Hackett over the years too. The one thing that did surprise me is that his long-time drummer Tony Fernandez is not on the album and he’s been replaced by Ash Soan.

The album was recorded earlier on in the year between January to March at various studios many of which may have been at the band members own personal studios as you can see from this video that captures Lee Pomeroy talking about the recording process and playing some fine examples of it that was posted on Rick’s Youtube Channel.

There is no doubt that Wakeman has some GREAT! musicians working with him and Lee Pomeroy is an excellent bass player to which you can see in this video. Once the album had been recorded it was left to Erik Jordan to do the final mix assisted by Toby Wood. Simon Heyworth done the Mastering and further Remastering was done by Bill Sellar.

Musicians & Credits…


All Tracks Written by Rick Wakeman. Produced by Rick Wakeman & Erik Jordan. Recorded between January – March 2020 at The Sunflower, PWL, Shabby Road and The Windmill Studios. Mixed at The Nursery, Cambridgeshire, England by Erik Jordan & Toby Wood. Mastered by Simon Heyworth. Remastering by Bill Sellar. Album Cover Artwork & Design by Martin Robert Cook.

Rick Wakeman: Keyboards.
Dave Colquhoun: Guitars.
Lee Pomeroy: Bass.
Ash Soan: Drums.

The Red Planet Tracks In Review…

All of the tracks upon The Red Planet are based on the names that were given to some of the places or regions that are on the planet Mars. Musically this is not the sort of music that really projects any visualization of the places or to the planet itself unlike some atmospheric soundscape perhaps would. I would even say that the backline to the music is more rock driven more than anything else and most of the tracks are quite busy and run along in the same vein as most rock music.

It is quite MOOG DELICIOUS! in parts like I mentioned earlier and if you think along the lines of the self-titled track on his White Rock album that is the sort of thing you will get with a lot of the tracks here. Where the album does fall short is that there is not enough variety and that is something you will find more of with his earlier albums like White Rock and The Six Wives Of Henry VIII and those albums have a lot more going for them in that the material on them does vary and have plenty of scope for the piano as well. Whereas there is very little piano work on this album at all and certainly not enough to write home about anyway.

So, lets now take a closer inspection at the album and see what we can dig out beneath the surface of it all as I got through the albums tracks.

Track 1. Ascraeus Mons.

T 1_Fotor

The album gets off to a flying start and quite a very nice THEMATIC! one that is driven along by the pipe organ. Although this piece is not so much like pieces such as “Judas Iscariot” found on his 1977 album Criminal Record and “The Cathedral of the Sky” from the 2003 album Out There which are solely played on the pipe organ.

I quite like how he’s blended and layered some of the other textured keyboard sounds to add colour to it, such as a touch of clavinet and the choral sounds and it works very well. You will also hear his familiar lead lines from the synths and most of the sounds were most likely from his Korg Kronos and his mini moog does not get utilised on this opening track.

Ash Soan’s drums play more of major role in lending support to the piece and they do so in a thumping manner whilst Lee Pomeroy pumps his bass along with them. Dave Colquhoun’s guitar only plays a small part right at the end of the piece to which he adds some fine lead guitar lines to lend support and it’s a nice touch.

Ascraeus Mons is a large shield volcano located in the Tharsis region of the planet Mars. It is the northernmost and tallest of three shield volcanoes collectively known as the Tharsis Montes. Judging by the photograph it looks like somebodies been playing rounders in the sand 😁😁😁

Overall, “Ascraeus Mons” is not so much a MOOG DELICIOUS! track but quite a nice piece to open up the album and you could say that it marches its way along in the way of an introduction and it sets up the album very well for what is to come. I would also consider it a contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! Rick also posted the piece on his Youtube channel so you can hear it for yourself.

Track 2. Tharsis Tholus.

T 2

Judging by the picture of this one it looks like somebody has been constructing golf courses on Mars 😁😁😁 and Tharsis Tholus is another of the three shield volcanoes and is located on the eastern region of the planet. The volcano was discovered by the Mariner 9 spacecraft in 1972 and originally given the informal name Volcano 7. In 1973. Whoever gave it the name it has now must have lived on the planet Zarquon 😁

The way this piece opens up you can plainly hear that Rick has lifted some of the lines from “Spaceman” from his 1976 album No Earthly Connection and Lee Pomeroy is more or less walking along with the same bass line to that track too. It’s a piece that uses some smoother textured flutey sounds from the keyboards at first and then further develops into more of a PROGMATIC! affair with some twisting spasms with the time signature changes along its path. He also gets to fly out a very TASTY! solo on the Moog which perks it up a bit and this is my personal favourite track of the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Arsia Mons.

T 3_Fotor

Arsia Mons is another shield volcano and is the southernmost of the three on the planet. This is a piece that is driven along by a keyboard riff and contains a few more subtle come down sections giving it more of an airy feel. It also allows Colquhoun to utilise his acoustic guitar and the second come down section allows him to incorporate a rather TASTY! lead break on the acoustic. The more uptempo sections that are driven along by Rick’s keyboard riff showcases some really GREAT! bass work from Pomeroy.

Track 4. Olympus Mons.

T 4_Fotor

Looking at the the title I might have expected something that was a bit more along the lines of the material Rick wrote for his White Rock album as it was written for the Winter Olympic Games. Although Olympic and Olympus are not quite the same, they could be seen as something BIG! and the Olympus Mons is yet another shield volcano but on a much larger scale and is around two and half times the height of Mount Everest.

This is another of the better PROGMATIC! tracks on the album that has a couple of nice transitional changes, though I will say the backline of the drums and bass are certainly more rock driven but work very well. It’s also the shortest track on the album but does feel longer and that might be down to the first section of the piece. Rick is very much flying all the way along though on this one and he also gets to do quite a lengthy TASTY! moog solo to drive it home in the second half of it.

Track 5. The North Plain.

T 5_Fotor

Vastitas Borealis or as its more simply referred to as the North Plain is the largest lowland region of Mars it was named by Eugene Antoniadi, who noted the distinct albedo feature of the Northern plains in his book La Planète Mars published in 1930. The name was officially adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1973.

For this piece Rick has created a mystical spacey soundscape intro to try and capture the atmosphere of the region which is quite fitting. The intro lasts for around 1.25 minutes but is further utilised later on as the piece falls back into it around the middle section.

The second and final sections are very much ROCKED! out with some of Rick’s familiar keyboard lines and here he is using some crunchy distorted Hammond and you also get a bit of moog along the way to add good measure. The rest of the band play their part well and Colquhoun also gets to unleash another fine solo on the guitar.

Track 6. Pavonis Mons.

T 6_Fotor

This next piece stampedes and marches its way along and Rick is once again very much flying along on his synths creating the melody lines as he flies along to the driving rhythm provided by the rest of the band. It’s also one the three rare occasions you get to hear a bit of piano and once again you will hear familiar patterns in his playing to many other albums he’s done over the years. There is no mistaking Rick’s formidable style.

Pavonis Mons is a large shield volcano located in the Tharsis region of the planet Mars and is the middle member of a chain of three volcanic mountains collectively known as the Tharsis Montes. The volcano was discovered by the Mariner 9 spacecraft in 1971, and was originally called Middle Spot and was formally given the name it has now back in 1973.

Track 7. South Pole.

T 7_Fotor

Just like on earth the south pole is the coldest region on Mars and it was given the Latin name of Planum Australe which translates to the southern plain. According to scientists based on MARSIS radar studies they discovered the first known stable body of water on the planet. Planum Australe is partially covered by a permanent polar ice cap composed of frozen water and carbon dioxide about 3 km thick.

This particular piece reminds me of some of the smoother arrangements that Rick had given to certain parts of Journey To The Centre Of Earth that can be found on many of his live performances of the piece over the years. It’s also another of the tracks on the album where he gets to play a bit more of piano and it’s quite a lovely sounding piece. 

Track 8. Valles Marineris.

T 8_Fotor

The final piece on the album is the longest track on the album weighing in at just a tad over 10 minutes. It very much kicks off in Ravel’sBolero” fashion and settles down into quite a THEMATIC! style that would suit a Television series especially within its smoother sections that have some nice flutey sounds and a nice bit of piano. You will also get to hear the odd glimpse of melody lines lifted from Journey To The Centre Of Earth and a slight touch of Criminal Record along some of the transitional changes along the way.

Valles Marineris is a system of canyons that runs along the Martian surface east of the Tharsis region of the planet. It’s also one of the largest canyons of the Solar System, surpassed in length only by the rift valleys of Earth. It has also been more recently suggested that Valles Marineris is a large tectonic “crack” in the Martian crust.

Overall, there is a certain feel and sense of BEAUTY! about the final track on the album and it almost builds up to a grand finale at the end however it’s perhaps a bit more on an abrupt ending but winds the album up very well and even over its longer distance it’s not dragged out and seems to be over sooner than it should have been. The rest of the band play their part and fit in very well and I would consider this to be another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!


To sum up Rick Wakeman’s latest album The Red Planet. It is without doubt one of his better albums and the written material works and flows very well throughout. Both thought and attention has gone into the track placement which works particularly well in making it an enjoyable album to listen to from start to finish. I would even say that it could be seen as a welcoming return back to the world of PROG! Especially in relation to some of his more recent solo piano albums he has churned out over the last few years.

Rick’s formidable style is quite evident on this album throughout though I personally do not think amongst its tracks there is anything quite memorable that would stand out like many of the classics he wrote back in the 70’s. You will also hear glimpses of those albums pop up every now and then too which is something he has done consistently on many of his albums over the years.

I would also say that the titles we also have upon The Red Planet are not that easy to pronounce and will be tricky to remember and judging by the biggest majority of the titles on the album it appears that there is life on Mars after all. However, you might just find they are a load of Geysers 😁😁😁 and maybe Rick seen them as a load of Grumpy old men who like to let off some hot steam every now and then 😁

Joking aside I do feel Rick has done well here and my personal highlights from the album is as follows: “Ascraeus Mons“. “Tharsis Tholus” and “Valles Marineris“.


In conclusion I would say that even as a 71 year-old ROCKER! Rick has still got it and what it takes and the The Red Planet is quite a solid enough album to testify that. However, personally I do not think it’s got enough or the right amount of variety to be on par with some of his earlier albums from the 70’s and you will find that a lot more was put into those albums.

It is however, quite MOOG DELICIOUS! and if you are one of those who likes to hear Rick fly his way along on the keyboards this will be right up your street so to speak. I certainly think it’s the best album he’s put out since the couple of Retro albums he did over a decade ago and in many ways The Red Planet could be seen as a return to form and both the written material and production standards are quite good.

Though I would not stick my neck out and say that this is the PROG! album of the year even with what little in the way of prog-rock has surfaced so far this year. Simply because although the album does have its PROGMATIC! moments a lot of the backline is more rock driven more than anything else. Besides that, both this month and next month look more promising on the prog-rock front and there looks like some exciting times ahead.

But if like myself you are into Rick WakemanThe Red Planet is an album that does not disappoint and one I do recommend buying. Though personally I would stick with cheaper CD and advice you not to waste your money on the lower quality new vinyl release.  Unless you like your albums to WARP! 😁😁😁

Rick Rocks Out On Mars…

The Album Track Listing is as follows:

01. Ascraeus Mons. 5:53.
02. Tharsis Tholus. 6:17.
03. Arsia Mons. 6:10.
04. Olympus Mons. 5:20.
05. The North Plain. 6:53.
06. Pavonis Mons. 7:14.
07. South Pole. 7:35.
08. Valles Marineris. 10:02.

Lee’s Overall Complete Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 7/10

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10

The Album Rating Score. 7.5/10