While it may seem like just another album of acoustical keyboard tracks, The Piano Album is actually a mixture of instrumentals that were composed by other artists, as well as a few of Rick Wakeman's own classics. Recorded during his acoustic tour in March 1994, Wakeman played his grand piano to a crowd of nearly 8,000 people, without any flashy stage equipment or even a public address system. The result is culmination of some interesting movements, including his versions of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and "Yes"' "And You and I," performed in his elegant yet distinctly ornate fashion. Without his usual fanfare of synthesizers, his artistry is noticeably channeled into the serene and delicate sound of the lone piano, emphasized in tracks like "A Wish" and "A Glimpse of Heaven," the latter written by Strawbs member David Cousins. Two of his own compositions, "Merlin the Magician" and "Gone but Not Forgotten," are interesting to hear in an alternate context, with the raw power of the synthesizer replaced with the charm of bare strings. Although no version can ever supercede the originals, the fact that Wakeman can still make them sound magical, no matter what the form, is compelling enough. Even his rendition of "Wondrous Stories" carries a poshness and a certain exquisite complexion, contrary to Yes' full-blown progressive version. The Piano Album serves as a novel example of how Wakeman can pleasingly rearrange the hard components of his and other artist's songs into subtle yet impacting interpretations.
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AllMusic Review by Mike DeGagne