Following on from their re-incarnation just prior to the new millennium, Rick Wakeman And The English Rock Ensemble undertook a touring schedule in 2000 which took them to South America, a process they continued into 2001 and resulted in the splendid live Out Of The Blue CD. The core members, Rick Wakeman (keyboards), Damian Wilson (vocals), Ant Glynne (guitars), Lee Pomeroy (bass) and Tony Fernandez (drums), with additional guitar from Fraser Thorneycroft-Smith, went on to release Out There in 2003.
The musical writing process for the album began much earlier, in 1997, with interruptions for the Return To The Centre Of The Earth album which was released in 1999. Although in the preface liner notes Rick does reference back to 1976 and the No Earthly Contact album as his first dabbling into the subject of space exploration.
Now there are many out there (sorry ;0) who saw this album as a return to form for Rick and his most creative work since the halcyon days of the Seventies. I didn’t share this view in 2003 and re-listening to Esoteric Recordings re-master in 2014 my opinions remain unaltered.
There are moments worth savouring as with the radio friendly new-age To Be With You, with programmed percussion and captivating choral arrangement from the English Chamber Choir. The Mission features one of the more memorable vocal melodies, admirably delivered by Damian Wilson and the track does contain a couple of nifty guitar solo as well as an organ passage towards the end of the piece. Music Of Love starts promisingly enough with Pomeroy and Glynne intertwining on the main riff, which in turn is powered by Tony Fernandez, however the verse vocals are a little overpowering, saved only by Wilson’s delivery. The middle and end instrumental sections are well executed, but with a band of such calibre, it does come across a bit run of the mill. The church organ and choir opening to Cathedral In The Sky promises much, but sadly fails to deliver across the entire track.
Where the album falls down, IMHO, is the predominantly heavier sections which come across as misplaced or rather cheesy. The title track and album opener being a case in question. We kick off with a rather ambient keyboard section, The Call (Part I), which whilst not earth shattering is OK, however the rather predictable main theme and galloping riff of Fanfare Of Time (Part I), had me more in mind of Swedish pop metallers Europe. And whatever possessed them to include Universe Of Sound… Enough said!
As mentioned the quality of the musicianship never comes into question, so the failure of the album ultimately comes down to the writing or perhaps the out of context, for Mr Wakeman, predominant metallic riffage. Although this same band went on to perform the previously mentioned Out Of The Blue live album, where the heavier dynamic worked extremely well.
In 2004 the album was released on DVD – Out There – The Movie (2004), where the music was interlaced with NASA footage and dialogue along with animated computer graphics… [Edit 2023: NASA video footage no longer available]
Sadly neither the album or the video did it for me…
01. Out There
– a. The Call (Part I)
– b. Fanfare Of Time (Part I)
– c. The Call (Part II)
– d. Music Of The Mind
– e. Fanfare Of Time (Part II)
– f. The Hidden Symphony
– g. The Beginning Of A Dream (13:11)
02. The Mission (6:29)
03. To Be With You (6:23)
04. Universe Of Sound (7:43)
05. Music Of Love (6:47)
06. The Cathedral Of The Sky (10:25)
Total Time – 50:53
Rick Wakeman – Keyboards
Damian Wilson – Vocals
Fraser Thorneycroft-Smith – Guitars
Ant Glynne – Guitars
Lee Pomeroy – Bass
Tony Fernandez – Drums, Percussion
Guy Protheroe – Conductor [English Chamber Choir]
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Country of Origin: U.K.
Year Of Release: 2014
Original Release: 2003