Journey to the Centre of the Earth (album)

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Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Rick Wakeman Journey to the Centre of the Earth.jpg
Live album by
Released3 May 1974
Recorded18 January 1974
Venue Royal Festival Hall, London
Genre Progressive rock, symphonic rock
Label A&M
Producer Rick Wakeman
Rick Wakeman chronology
The Six Wives of Henry VIII
Journey to the Centre of the Earth
The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

Journey to the Centre of the Earth is the third album by English keyboardist Rick Wakeman, released on 3 May 1974 by A&M Records. It is a live recording of the second of his two concerts at the Royal Festival Hall on 18 January 1974, the premiere of his 40-minute orchestral rock piece based on Jules Verne's science fiction novel of the same name. It tells the story of Professor Lidenbrook, his nephew Axel, and their guide Hans, who follow a passage to the Earth's centre originally discovered by Arne Saknussemm, an Icelandic alchemist. Wakeman performs with the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Choir, and a group of hand-picked musicians for his rock band, which later became the English Rock Ensemble. Actor David Hemmings narrates the story.

Rick Wakeman English keyboardist, songwriter, television and radio presenter, and author

Richard Christopher Wakeman is an English keyboardist, songwriter, producer, television and radio presenter, and author. He is best known for being in the progressive rock band Yes across five tenures between 1971 and 2004 and for his solo albums released in the 1970s. He is a current member of Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman.

A&M Records American historical record label

A&M Records was an American record label founded as an independent company by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss in 1962. Due to the success of the discography A&M released, the label garnered interest and was acquired by PolyGram in 1989 and began distributing releases from Polydor Ltd. from the UK. Throughout its operations, A&M housed well-known acts such as Gin Blossoms, Dishwalla, Joe Cocker, Procol Harum, Captain & Tennille, Sting, Sergio Mendes, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Supertramp, Bryan Adams, Burt Bacharach, Liza Minnelli, The Carpenters, Paul Williams, Quincy Jones, Janet Jackson, Cat Stevens, Peter Frampton, Elkie Brooks, Carole King, Styx, Extreme, Amy Grant, Joan Baez, the Human League, The Police, CeCe Peniston, Blues Traveler, Soundgarden, Duffy and Sheryl Crow.

Royal Festival Hall concert hall in London, England

The Royal Festival Hall is a 2,900-seat concert, dance and talks venue within Southbank Centre in London. It is situated on the South Bank of the River Thames, not far from Hungerford Bridge, in the London Borough of Lambeth. It is a Grade I listed building, the first post-war building to become so protected. The London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are resident in the hall.


Journey to the Centre of the Earth was overall well received by music critics. It reached No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart, the first album from A&M to do so, and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 in the United States. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in October 1974 for selling 500,000 copies. The album earned Wakeman a nomination for an Ivor Novello Award and a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. In 1999, Wakeman released a sequel album Return to the Centre of the Earth . After the original score was presumed lost, Wakeman was reunited with it in 2009 and re-recorded the album three years later with 18 minutes of music previously cut due to time constraints.

The Official Albums Chart is a list of albums ranked by physical and digital sales and audio streaming in the United Kingdom. It was published for the first time on 22 July 1956 and is compiled every week by the Official Charts Company (OCC) on Fridays. It is broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and published in Music Week magazine, and on the OCC website.

The Billboard 200 is a record chart ranking the 200 most popular music albums and EPs in the United States. It is published weekly by Billboard magazine. It is frequently used to convey the popularity of an artist or groups of artists. Often, a recording act will be remembered by its "number ones", those of their albums that outperformed all others during at least one week. The chart grew from a weekly top 10 list in 1956 to become a top 200 in May 1967, and acquired its present title in March 1992. Its previous names include the Billboard Top LPs (1961–72), Billboard Top LPs & Tape (1972–84), Billboard Top 200 Albums (1984–85) and Billboard Top Pop Albums.

Recording Industry Association of America Trade organization representing the recording industry in the U.S.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a trade organization that represents the recording industry in the United States. Its members consist of record labels and distributors, which the RIAA says "create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 85% of all legally sold recorded music in the United States." The RIAA headquarters is in Washington, D.C.


By mid-1973, Wakeman had been with the progressive rock band Yes for almost two years, and he had released his debut solo effort, The Six Wives of Henry VIII , to critical acclaim. For his next release Wakeman wished to make an album that told a story with its music, something that he had been inspired to do so since his father took him to see a performance of the symphonic fairy tale Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev which features a narrator telling the story and an orchestra illustrating the action. [1] Wakeman had wanted to do an orchestral rock piece based on the 1864 science fiction novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne as early as November 1971, but he put the project on hold until he had finished recording The Six Wives of Henry VIII in October 1972, [2] and had accumulated some money and had written some music for it. [3]

Progressive rock is a broad genre of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom and United States throughout the mid- to late 1960s. Initially termed "progressive pop", the style was an outgrowth of psychedelic bands who abandoned standard pop traditions in favour of instrumentation and compositional techniques more frequently associated with jazz, folk, or classical music. Additional elements contributed to its "progressive" label: lyrics were more poetic, technology was harnessed for new sounds, music approached the condition of "art", and the studio, rather than the stage, became the focus of musical activity, which often involved creating music for listening rather than dancing.

Yes (band) English rock band

Yes are an English progressive rock band formed in London in 1968 by singer Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist Tony Kaye, and drummer Bill Bruford. The band has undergone numerous formations throughout its history; twenty musicians have been full-time members. Since June 2019, it has consisted of guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White, keyboardist Geoff Downes, singer Jon Davison, bassist Billy Sherwood, and additional touring drummer Jay Schellen. Yes have explored several musical styles over the years, and are most notably regarded as progressive rock pioneers.

<i>The Six Wives of Henry VIII</i> (album) 1973 studio album by Rick Wakeman

The Six Wives of Henry VIII is the second studio album by English keyboardist Rick Wakeman, released in January 1973 on A&M Records. It is an instrumental progressive rock album with its concept based on his interpretations of the musical characteristics of the wives of Henry VIII. After signing with A&M as a solo artist, Wakeman decided on the album's concept during a tour of the United States as a member of the rock band Yes. As he read a book about the subject on his travels, melodies he had written the previous year came to him and were noted down. Musicians from Yes and from Strawbs, the group Wakeman was in prior to Yes, also play on the album.

The project developed in December 1972 when Wakeman took part in the orchestral concerts of The Who's rock opera Tommy at the Rainbow Theatre in London, which featured the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Choir, conductor David Measham, and musical arranger Wil Malone. Wakeman told his idea for Journey to the Centre of the Earth to the show's producer Lou Reizner, who put him in contact with Measham to further discuss plans. [4] [5] Wakeman then produced a demo tape that contained a rough outline of the overall structure of the music using a Minimoog synthesiser, Mellotron, Rhodes piano and clavinet and presented it to Measham, indicating where the orchestral parts were to be placed. [5] After Measham agreed to be involved, Wakeman met with his manager Brian Lane to pitch the idea of performing it with an orchestra, choir, and a rock band. [5] As the cost of recording the album in a studio was too high, Wakeman's label A&M Records agreed to have the work recorded live in concert. To help finance the project, Wakeman sold several of his cars and "mortgaged himself up to the hilt" to cover the estimated £40,000 in costs. [6]

The Who English rock band

The Who are an English rock band formed in London in 1964. Their classic line-up consisted of lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist and singer Pete Townshend, bass guitarist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon. They are considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century, selling over 100 million records worldwide.

<i>Tommy</i> (album) 1969 studio album by the Who

Tommy is the fourth studio album by the English rock band the Who. It was first released as a double album on 17 May 1969 by Decca Records. The album was mostly composed by guitarist Pete Townshend, and is a rock opera that tells the story of Tommy Walker, a "deaf, dumb and blind" boy, including his experiences with life and his relationship with his family.

Rainbow Theatre former cinema and music venue in London, England, later used as a church

The Rainbow Theatre, originally known as the Finsbury Park Astoria, is a Grade II*-listed building in Finsbury Park, London. The theatre was built in 1930 and was originally used as a cinema. It later became a music venue. Today, the building is used by Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, an Evangelical church.

After the album received the green-light from A&M Records, Wakeman worked on the music "on and off" through 1973 and had assistance with the orchestral and choir arrangements with Malone and Danny Beckerman; [7] the latter first met Wakeman during a Yes tour of Australia. [3] A typical session had Malone devising chords and melody lines while Beckerman wrote the parts out on a score, which took several hours. It was Malone's first attempt at writing for a symphony orchestra' he had not received classical training. [3] The original score lasted 55 minutes but it was reduced to 40 so it could fit the time constraints of an LP. [1] Malone called the project a challenge and "completely different" to what he had been involved with previously. [3] A&M Records had wanted Wakeman to select a group of known musicians to play in his rock band, but he opposed to the idea as he intended for the public to like the album for its music rather than the performers. [8] Wakeman chose a group that he used to play with at the Valiant Trooper, a pub in Holmer Green in Buckinghamshire. [9] "I'd played with them for fun quite a bit on Sunday evenings...I was playing keyboards with the lads when I thought, they could play Journey for me. I'm sure they could do the concert and do it well". [7] He picked vocalists Ashley Holt of Warhorse and Gary Pickford-Hopkins from Wild Turkey, drummer Barney James, also of Warhorse, bassist Roger Newell, and guitarist Mike Egan, who had also played on The Six Wives of Henry VIII. [7] [10] [11] [12] The first bassist picked was Dave Wintour, also a performer on Six Wives. [11] Actor and singer Richard Harris was the first choice to narrate the story but he was unavailable, so Wakeman picked actor David Hemmings. [10] [12]

To green-light is to give permission or a go ahead to move forward with a project. The term is a reference to the green traffic signal, indicating "go ahead". In the context of the film and television industries, to green-light something is to formally approve its production finance and to commit to this financing, thereby allowing the project to move forward from the development phase to pre-production and principal photography.

Holmer Green village in United Kingdom

Historically, Holmer Green was a hamlet in the civil parish of Little Missenden, in Buckinghamshire, England. It is next to Hazlemere, about 3 miles (5 km) south of Great Missenden.

Warhorse was a British rock band formed by the bass guitar player Nick Simper.


The 40-minute piece is in four distinct sections: "The Journey", "Recollection", "The Battle", and "The Forest". [12] Wakeman wrote all the lyrics and narration. [3] Wakeman was not confident with his lyric writing, and admitted that his first set of lyrics were "really bad" which prompted a rewrite. His band nicknamed him "Longfellow". [3] "The Forest" includes an excerpt of In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg. [12]

"In the Hall of the Mountain King" is a piece of orchestral music composed by Edvard Grieg in 1875 as incidental music for the sixth scene of act 2 in Henrik Ibsen's 1867 play Peer Gynt. It was originally part of Opus 23 but was later extracted as the final piece of Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1, Op. 46. Its easily recognizable theme has helped it attain iconic status in popular culture, where it has been arranged by many artists.

Edvard Grieg Norwegian composer and pianist

Edvard Hagerup Grieg was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is widely considered one of the leading Romantic era composers, and his music is part of the standard classical repertoire worldwide. His use and development of Norwegian folk music in his own compositions brought the music of Norway to international consciousness, as well as helping to develop a national identity, much as Jean Sibelius and Bedřich Smetana did in Finland and Bohemia, respectively.


German Professor Lidenbrook discovers an old parchment that detailed a journey to the centre of Earth undertaken by Arne Saknussemm, an Icelandic alchemist. The parchment, when decoded into Latin and translated by Lidenbrook's nephew Axel, reveals an entrance to the route in the extinct volcano of Snæfellsjökull in Iceland. The pair embark on their journey with their guide Hans. [12]

Upon entering the volcano they pass a lava gallery and find themselves in an intersection of two paths. Lidenbrook chooses the eastern tunnel, but after three days it had taken the trio to a dead end. They returned with just one day's supply of water, reaching the intersection weak and tired. After sleep, they continued their journey and Hans hears flowing water behind a wall of rock and attacks it with a pick axe, revealing a stream of boiling water they named the Hansbach.

The three temporarily separate, and a lone Axel becomes increasingly frightened. Thinking of those who he had left at home, he cries and runs through a tunnel blindly. He almost gives up, but suddenly hears Lidenbrook's voice in the distance and calculates he is just four miles apart and sets off to reunite. At one point the ground beneath Axel collapses and he finds himself with Lidenbrook and Hans in a giant mushroom forest nearby cliffs and sea.

The trio build a raft and set sail for a port they named after Axel's fiancee, Port Grauben. Five days into their sail, they witness a battle between an Ichthyosaurus and Plesiosaurus . The Ichthyosaurus wins, and the travellers are hit with a four-day storm and take shelter by some overhanging rocks. The storm had caused them to travel only some miles north of Port Grauben, so they set on land to track Saknussem's original route once more. They cross a plain of bones and into a forest inhabited by giant Mastodons led by a 12-ft high Proteus, a mythological human. Stunned, the three flee the forest for the Lidenbrook Sea and enter a dark tunnel that plunged deep into rock which they blast through with dynamite. The explosion causes an earthquake, and they become trapped in an active volcano shaft which projects them to the surface of the Earth by Mount Etna in Sicily.



The Royal Festival Hall where Journey was recorded. Royalfestivalhall.jpg
The Royal Festival Hall where Journey was recorded.

The concerts and album were first announced in October 1973, [11] and organised during a break when Yes were touring Tales from Topographic Oceans . Two sell-out performances were held at 6 and 8 p.m. on Friday 18 January 1974 at the Royal Festival Hall in London, attended by 3,000 people each. [13] [14] Rehearsals took place at Farmyard Studios in Little Chalfont, owned by Trevor Morais and on the day of the shows, began at 9 a.m. [15] [3] Each performance lasted for one hour and forty minutes. [11] Performing with Wakeman and his band were the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Choir conducted by Measham. A projection screen was placed above the stage, initially to display stock footage of mountains and caves, but permission was granted from 20th Century Fox to show excerpts from the 1959 adventure film of the same name to accompany the music. [14] [3] An initial plan was to have the concerts filmed for a prospective home video release when it was "commercially viable", but it did not come into fruition. [11]

The shows were introduced with an excerpt of Symphony No. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninoff. The first half was taken up by "Catherine Parr", "Catherine Howard", and "Anne Boleyn" from The Six Wives of Henry VIII, with comical pieces "A Road to Ruin" and a comical rendition of "Twelfth Street Rag" with bajos, minstrel dancers, and accompanying footage of Laurel and Hardy and various silent films. [15] [16] [17] Wakeman thought the segment would be a disaster as the film arrived at the venue shortly before the first performance and resorted to improvising on the piano without knowing what the footage was. [18] Wakeman wanted the first half to be "musical and entertaining" and a way of easing Journey to the audience, which made up the second half of the program. [3] [15] [13] The encore was "The Pearl and Dean Piano Concerto", a humorous piece based on various television and film music. [19] News reporter Chris Welch attended the shows and noted: "Several members of the choir could be seen jiving during the more rhythmic moments, and when Rick played some beautiful classical piano, approving nods could be detected from the massed ranks of the orchestra". [16] A party was held after the second show which Wakeman did not attend due to exhaustion. According to Welch, "He was driven home – asleep". [16]


Wakeman had hoped to record both concerts and select the best performance of the two, but the London Symphony Orchestra requested double pay if this went ahead. He then took "the frightening decision of only recording the second performance and hoping there weren't too many mistakes". [20] The performance was recorded using Ronnie Lane's Mobile Studio which housed a 16-track studio fitted in an Airstream trailer. [12] [18] The first half of the second show was recorded, initially as a test to see if the equipment worked correctly. It remained unreleased until 2002 as part of Wakeman's limited edition box set Treasure Chest. [19]

The recordings were produced by Wakeman, and mixed by him and engineer Paul Tregurtha at Morgan Studios in London from 21 to 29 January 1974. [12] They encountered a number of problems during this time. Wakeman said: "Someone in the street had accidentally kicked out the vocal mike cable just before we started recording. So we boosted up the vocals that were picked up on the other mikes". [18] A snare drum and its microphone broke during the performance, and Hemmings re-recorded some narration in the studio after a tape change occurred during of one of his passages. There were four bars of "complete shambles" between the orchestra and the band, so an identical passage that occurred later in the performance was inserted. [18]

The original plan was for A&M Records to produce the album quickly for a February 1974 release, but the additional time required to fix the recordings and a shortage of vinyl at the time caused the label to push the release to early April. This sparked concern from management for potential bootleg recordings of the concert to be sold to the public. A&M reported that a later release would "tie in more conveniently with Wakeman's plans" as he had resumed touring with Yes during this time. [21] Wakeman heard cuts of the album during the subsequent Yes tour, rejecting several of them. "I just didn't like the sound, and it was worth doing it properly for the sake of a few extra days". [18] Another factor in the delay was a paper shortage as the original album design consisted of a gatefold sleeve with an 8-page booklet, but the designer refused to reduce the package to a standard sleeve. [18]


Upon its arrival at A&M Records, the finished album was poorly received among management; they refused to sell it. [22] However, as Wakeman was under contract with A&M in the United States, a cassette was sent to co-founder Jerry Moss in California, who subsequently agreed to release the record. [23] According to Wakeman, the album received 50,000 advanced orders. [18]

Released on 3 May 1974, Journey to the Centre of the Earth topped the UK Albums Chart for one week, the first album from A&M to do so. It peaked at No. 3 on the US Billboard 200 chart for two weeks in July during a stay of 27 weeks. [24] The album became a multimillion-dollar seller in six weeks. [25] Wakeman received an Ivor Novello Award for the album, [26] and it earned him a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. [24] The record was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in September 1974, [27] and a year later in Brazil. It was subsequently released in the four-channel Quadradisc CD-4 format. The album has sold 14 million copies worldwide. [28]

In 1999, marking the album's 25th anniversary, Wakeman released a sequel titled Return to the Centre of the Earth . The story follows a group of adventurers who attempt to follow the previous expedition to the Earth's centre as discovered by Saknussemm.

In 2002, Wakeman released the 8-CD compilation box set Treasure Chest which contained the previously unreleased first half of the second concert at the Royal Festival Hall. [19] The recording was presumed to have been wiped, but a rough mix was accidentally discovered on a poorly conditioned and mislabelled tape initially used as a guide for the mastering, and was digitally remastered. The CD also contained Hemmings record narration in five dialects during a recording session when he and Wakeman had been drinking while the album was being mixed. [19]

In May 2016, a 3 CD+DVD Super Deluxe Edition box set was released containing a new remaster of the original album, live performances from 1974 and 1993, and a DVD-Audio with a Quad surround sound mix and Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab mix. [29]


The album received some negative reaction upon its release, with music critics having described the record as a "classical pastiche...genuinely appalling" and "brutal synthesiser overkill". [30] Journey however, was well received by others. A journalist for The Sunday Times missed the Royal Festival Hall concert, but thought on record the music "comes over magnificently ... a striking work which only occasionally lapses into pretentiousness". [31] Music journalist Chris Welch of Melody Maker thought the album was "entertaining, fresh and disalarmingly unpretentious ... This could be a score for a Hollywood musical – tuneful, but with epic overtones". Welch noted Wakeman's "familiarity of the story" and his "close observance to detail engenders a warmth to the work, which made it a resounding success as a concert performance". [31] In a retrospective review, Mike DeGange of Allmusic called the album "one of progressive rock's crowning achievements" and noted "interesting conglomerations of orchestral and synthesized music". [32]

2012 re-recording and performances

After the album's original tour, the conductor's score was placed into storage by his management company, MAM Records. After the label folded in the early 1980s, he recalled that no one had knowledge of its location and declined offers from promoters to stage concerts as he thought a rewrite of the score would not live up to the quality of the original. [1] However, in 2009, a box from Australia arrived at Wakeman's house which stayed in his garage for about five months before he looked through it, finding nothing that belonged to him except a copy of the original score which by then had suffered from water damage. [33] [34] In the course of a year, the score was digitised and pieced together with assistance from conductor and arranger Guy Protheroe which Wakeman used to make a new studio re-recording of Journey to the Centre of the Earth with 18 minutes of music that was cut from the original piece due to time constraints on a vinyl added in, making a new 54-minute piece. Recording took place from July to September 2012 with the Orion Orchestra, the English Chamber Choir, and his rock band, the English Rock Ensemble. [34] [1] As Hemmings died in 2003, the narration is voiced by actor Peter Egan. [1] Released on 20 November 2012, the album was packaged with a one-off magazine published by Classic Rock and a replica of the 1974 Royal Festival Hall concert program and a 132-page booklet. [34] Wakeman toured the new arrangement with a UK tour from 24 April to 10 May 2014. [35]

In celebration of the album's 45th anniversary and Wakeman's 70th birthday, Wakeman performed the re-recorded version at the Royal Festival Hall on 13 and 14 July 2019. [36]

Track listing

Original LP

All music composed by Rick Wakeman.

Side one
1."The Journey"/"Recollection"21:20
Side two
1."The Battle"/"The Forest"18:57

2012 re-recording

2016 Super Deluxe Edition

Chart performance


Prog UKThe 100 Greatest Prog Albums of All Time [44] 201455


Credits adapted from the album's 1974 liner notes. [12]



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