Hear Rick Wakeman’s Musical Adaptation of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, “One of Prog Rock’s Crowning Achievements”

So unfash­ion­able for so long, pro­gres­sive rock has late­ly come in for a re-eval­u­a­tion. The qual­i­ties that cur­rent music crit­ics have come to appre­ci­ate — often the very same ones that both­ered so many of their col­leagues in the 1970s — include its tech­ni­cal vir­tu­os­i­ty, its com­po­si­tion­al inven­tive­ness, its sheer per­for­ma­tive unabashed­ness, and its will­ing­ness to draw from oth­er forms of art, espe­cial­ly lit­er­a­ture. Or lit­er­a­ture of a cer­tain kind, any­way: hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured prog-rock adap­ta­tions of Isaac Asi­mov’s I, Robot by the Alan Par­sons Project, George Orwell’s 1984 by Rick Wake­man, and H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds by Jeff Wayne, today we give you Jules Verne’s Jour­ney to the Cen­tre of the Earth as adapt­ed by Wake­man in 1974.

You can lis­ten to the album, which All Music Guide’s Mike DeGagne calls “one of pro­gres­sive rock­’s crown­ing achieve­ments,” on Spo­ti­fy (and if you don’t have Spo­ti­fy’s free soft­ware, you can down­load it here). “With the help of the Lon­don Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra and the Eng­lish Cham­ber Choir, Rick Wake­man turns this clas­sic Jules Verne tale into an excit­ing and sus­pense­ful instru­men­tal nar­ra­tive,” using not just his own Ham­mond organ and Moog syn­the­siz­er but Blow-Up star David Hem­mings’ recita­tion of Verne’s words as well.

“Record­ed at Lon­don’s Roy­al Fes­ti­val Hall, the tale of a group of explor­ers who wan­der into the fan­tas­tic liv­ing world that exists in the Earth­’s core is told musi­cal­ly through Wake­man’s syn­the­sized the­atrics and enriched by the haunt­ing vocals of a cham­ber choir.”

Wake­man’s Jour­ney to the Cen­tre of the Earth demon­strates what not just Verne’s sub­ter­ranean explor­ers but all the best prog-rock­ers have in spades: ambi­tion. And though the work evi­dences deep famil­iar­i­ty with the nov­el on Wake­man’s part, you need­n’t have read a page of Verne — nor of the recent books attempt­ing to bring prog-rock to respectabil­i­ty — to enjoy it.  You don’t even need to take it seri­ous­ly, as one All Music Guide user-review­er, present as a wide-eyed teenag­er at the Roy­al Fes­ti­val Record­ing, adds: “It was all very avant garde and I felt quite sophis­ti­cat­ed as a 16-year-old attend­ing the show with smart kids who use to sit around crossed legged on the floor lis­ten­ing to Dark Side Of The Moon.” For him, the album now pro­vides “a view back to the oh so earnest days of grandiose prog-rock and for that rea­son alone it can be seen as some­thing it nev­er was at the time… fun!”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear the Prog-Rock Adap­ta­tion of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds: The 1978 Rock Opera That Sold 15 Mil­lion Copies World­wide

Rick Wakeman’s Prog-Rock Opera Adap­ta­tion of George Orwell’s 1984

Hear The Alan Par­son Project’s Prog-Rock Inter­pre­ta­tion of Isaac Asimov’s, I Robot (1977)

The Great Leonard Nimoy Reads H.G. Wells’ Sem­i­nal Sci-Fi Nov­el The War of the Worlds

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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