Oliver's Review of 2022
As is normal around the end of January each year, I suddenly realise I’ve completely forgotten to write a review of the previous year and think, I’d better do it now or it will be too late… (and true to form I'm just getting round to posting it on the website in February)
So here we go…
2022 firstly ended up being another year of no live work - which I found very odd due to having played live every year up until Covid hit. This will be rectified this year with at least two shows penciled in so far…and a few more being thought about.
So the year started with me finally giving in to my son and getting an Instagram account. I have posted a few things to it but generally feel more comfortable with Twitter and Facebook as I tend to start with a thought rather than a picture but I will post more bits and pieces this year. Please do follow me there if you can on www.instagram.com/oliverwakemanmusic/
Following on the success of the ‘From a Page’ and ‘Tales by Gaslight’ boxsets, my management company asked if there was anything else from my career that I could package into another boxset. This was a perfect opportunity to look at my past albums and find a way of bring albums of varying styles together into one package.
Whilst listening back through my albums, it seemed that one aspect of my career was that I’d been extremely fortunate to write albums and perform with virtuosic guitarists in Gordon Giltrap and Steve Howe. This seemed a great way to package ‘Ravens and Lullabies’ with ‘The 3 Ages of Magick’ in a boxset. However, calling it ‘Guitarists’ (as was its working title for a long time) didn’t feel right and I finally settled on the title ‘Collaborations’ which suited the box set perfectly.
Both albums were remastered and I must say that ‘3 Ages’ came out exceptionally well. Whilst listening to the new new version I was astounded to find myself hearing things I’d completely forgotten we recorded at the time! This version also included the bonus tracks that were on the 2013 remastered version.
Raven’s had a slightly different approach. When Gordon and I released the original album there were two versions. The standard Jewel case single album and a limited edition 2 cd set which included new studio versions of songs from our back catalogue along with live tracks from the first tour we did together.
I didn’t want to just re-release the bonus disc in its original form as it would fell like there was nothing ‘new’ about the boxset so I started to see what else I could bring to the table to make it an even nicer purchase.
I decided to move the studio tracks (a version of my track ‘Forgotten King’, Bach’s ‘Praeludium’ and Gordon’s classic track ‘Roots’) onto the end of the main disc as bonus tracks. This way, the first disc was now all the studio work we recorded together. However, I also had another idea…
When I was working on the ‘Dark Fables’ record for ‘Tales by Gaslight’ with Clive Nolan, Gordon played on a track I wrote called ‘The Wedding Approaches’, sung beautifully by Charlotte Dickerson. Gordon’s classical interplay around the voice, piano and orchestra was particularly beautiful. I was also particularly pleased with my piano part. However, due to the vocals and all the other instrumentation on the track, both these parts were not the focus point of the song. So I decided to strip everything else away and just have a listen to the original piano and guitar. It was particularly beautiful and a duet and reminded me of the tours when Gordon and I would perform together with just piano and guitar. So I thought it would be nice to add this to the Ravens record as a bonus disc to complete the work we recorded together.
So what about the live tracks from the original limited edition…
I had been approached many years before by a sound engineer who had recorded one of the full band shows to see if I wanted a copy of the recordings. I wrote back to him but unfortunately in between his initial contact and my getting back to him, his laptop was stolen and the chance of a recording of the full band was lost forever…
But he did say that he had a full multi track recording from one of the Christmas shows I had performed with Gordon. This was a particularly unusual show as Paul Manzi had agree to come and sing a few songs with us as well. So this meant I had everything from that night on separate tracks and could mix and master it with much more precision than just a standard stereo pair recorded directly from the mixing desk.
So with the original live tracks from the first tour and the new multitracks I could possibly have a representative live album of the shows that Gordon and I performed over the 3 year period.
It was great to revisit these recordings and the resulting 60 minute album is a really beautiful listen and brings back so many memories. It was also great to listen to all the banter between us on stage (which unfortunately had to be extremely slimmed down or it would have been a double album of stories and music!).
So what should it be called?
The live tour had been called the ‘Ravens and Lullabies’ tour (in which we mainly focused on the Lullabies tracks from the album) but that seemed a bit of a loose title for an album. I remember joking to someone that if we performed the ‘From a Page’ songs live we should call it From a Stage. So I thought that would be a nice title for the live album and would also be a nice link back to the other box set.
I was very fortunate to be supplied with lots of lovely photographs from the people who came to the concerts. The cover was a beautiful picture of a Raven in a boat and had a childlike quality to it which perfectly fitted with the ‘Lullabies’ nature of the shows. The album contains a selection of music from both our careers with many reworked versions. Having Paul Manzi at the show also allowed us to include music from some of my vocal albums as well.
The box set was released with the promotional single/video of Moneyfacturing which received a great response and a lot of radio play. The boxset release was followed by a lot of interviews and magazine articles. The reviews have all been great with a lot of praise for the previously unreleased live album. (Due to it’s success I am now working on the next box set!). There is also a nice teaser video for the boxset which can be seen on my YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/OliverWakeman) along with the aforementioned ‘Moneyfacturing’. The album is available directly from my shop at Burning Shed.
The other nice piece of news from 2022 was the release of ‘Yendor’ - the Rodney Matthews animated film which I wrote the soundtrack for. It became available on Amazon and other streaming platforms with a lovely response and a heap of awards from the various film shows it was entered for.
So onto June and I was the guest on the YouTube channel called the Wiki Tree. This is like an online version of the genealogy show ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ where a group of genealogists researched through my family tree and reported back with some amazing stories about my ancestors! Lots to report but it is probably best to watch the show rather tan me spoil it by listing some of the things here (although I am distantly related to Winston Churchill!). It can been seen here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLRI8Pz1Eas
Then there was the very sad news that my old bandmate from YES Alan White had passed away after a short illness. This was very sad but I was honoured to be asked by the family to put together a tribute to be shown at his memorial concert in Seattle. This was a nice opportunity to reflect on the times Alan and I spent together. The video was very well received and is available to watch on my YouTube channel. You can also read my written tribute on this website.
Still in YES world, I was also asked to write the foreword to a new book about the Yes album Tormato. The book is due of at some point in 2023 and is available to pre-order from Burning Shed.
Work then started on my new album Anam Cara. This was a project I wanted to do quite a while ago but never had the opportunity to start it. So it was really nice to start to work on the project properly. It is currently in the recording stage and due for release in the Autumn.
Whilst I was working on Anam Cara, I also got approached by my guitarist friend David Mark Pearce to see if I could contribute a keyboard or two to his new band album. The band is called ‘Monroe’s Thunder’, and their debut album ‘The Black Watch’ is an excellent hard rock album fronted by Ronnie Munroe. I initially supplied keyboards for one track and Dave replied with, ‘well there is another one that needs keyboards if you could…’
Before too long I had ended up on most of the album and was also able to utilise my graphic design qualification to put together the sleeve and design the logo for the band. It is a great record and came out on November and is available from lots of online retailers including Amazon. If hard rock is your thing, then this album is a worthy addition to your collection. There is currently talk of a follow up!
Towards the end of the year it was lovely to catch up with Dad when he performed at the Cheltenham Town Hall. A great concert and nice to catch up with lots of fans who I hadn’t seen for many years.
The end of the year finished on a very sad note with the passing of Tracy Hitchings. Tracy was the singer on both the ‘Jabberwocky’ and ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ albums and her wonderful performances were a highlight for me. In later years Tracy was also very generous with her time and contributed the guide vocals to a project which has yet to be released. We kept in regular contact and she was as warm and fun to be around as when I first met. She always approached life with an infectious enthusiasm and she will be sorely missed.
In between all this news and album work, it was also one of the busiest years I have for session work, playing on over 50 tracks for other artists. So there should be lots of releases which I have contributed to seeing the light of day this year.
As always, thanks for all the support over the year and I’m sure that 2023 will be a great year with lots of great music seeing the light of day.
All the best
On arrival in Canada (where we were rehearsing and doing our first show) I was met at the airport by Paul Silveira who was the tour manager for the whole of the period I was in the band. Chris and his wife Scotty were at the airport but Alan was already at the hotel and so I didn’t really meet properly until we started the rehearsals.
We were rehearsing in a large building and had the full stage set up and I finally met Alan properly. It was immediately apparent that he was (besides being ridiculously talented) an extremely easy going person. The overriding memory I have is when we moved into a smaller rehearsal space and I was desperately trying to get my head around the 3 1/2 hours worth of music we were making the set from (in just 2 weeks). Chris has just asked me to work up a piano arrangement for his new track Aliens and I was feeling a little overwhelmed. Chris, Steve and Alan had been playing the songs for about 30 years and Benoit had been singing a large part of the set in his tribute band but I was coming to all of the music completely new.
I remember during a break, Alan making a point of noticing this and taking time to sit with me and tell me that I was doing great as he knew it was a lot to learn and absorb in such a short period of time. He reminded me he was in the same position when he joined and knew how daunting it could be. I immediately felt more settled and always thought it was a very kind gesture from one musician to another.
I remember during one of the tours we were in Boston and (being a huge Frasier and Cheers fan) really wanted to see the famous bar.
Alan said he would show me round Boston and we had a fantastic afternoon together and ended up in the recreated Cheers bar where we bumped into Tom Babsom (Tom the lawyer from Cheers) who was in the bar on a promotional visit. We had a great afternoon swapping tv and tour stories with each other and were rewarded with official Cheers staff T-shirts at the end of our afternoon by the bar staff!