I promised Raphael Rudd's manager, Rob Findlay and Joe Perricone from Wedge Music that I'd prepare a review of this two disc album several months ago. At this writing, we're not sure if the album is readily available through traditional distribution channels. Anyone having difficulty in obtaining the album should contact Wedge Music directly; a link to the Wedge Music web site is included in the Northern Lights links section. Material extracted from the liner notes has been used in this document with permission.
Raphael Rudd began studying piano at the age of 10 and went on to play both keyboards and harp with the classically influenced progressive band Renaissance from 1984 until they called it a day in 1987. He then played with the Annie Haslam Band for several years afterwards and now has a solo career.
He developed his own right-handed technique out of necessity after destroying the tendons in his left hand through practicing in excess of 8 hours a day during his teens. Classically trained, he earned Bachelors and Masters degrees from Manhattan School of Music. Influenced by a broad spectrum of mainstream progressive music moguls and a strong spiritual underpinning, Raphael Rudd's work was first recorded professionally in 1978 when asked by Peter Townshend to come to London work on a collection of songs dedicated to their Indian spiritual master, Meher Baba. The project which also included collaboration with with Annie Haslam and Phil Collins would eventually become Disc One in the two-CD set The Awakening (Wedge Music WM 80322, 1996). Rudd went on to conduct an orchestra of musicians from the Royal Philharmonic and the London Symphony for the soundtrack for the film Quadrophenia.
Raphael Rudd's later work, recorded in 1989, resulted in his first solo album, Skydancer (Polystar PSCW-1071, 1991). This was released only in Japan and is now deleted, however, the songs from the album are all included on Disc Two of The Awakening with the exception of the track "Seasons" which is included on the first CD in the set.
My interest in Raphael Rudd's recordings was first inspired by his involvement with Renaissance and Annie Haslam. About a year ago I read about a cameo track Annie Haslam did with Raphael Rudd on the Skydancer album in the Gibralter Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock and that's what really caught my attention. This track is, of course, "Seasons."
"Seasons" was originally recorded in 1978 in London and this version is featured on The Awakening. According to the liner notes written by Jody Miller, "Seasons," Disc One's featured song, was written by Raphel with Annie Haslam's voice in mind long before they ever met.
Another version of the song was recorded in 1989 for what would become the Skydancer album. Annie Haslam recalled in a 1989 interview with the legendary Alison Steele, ... Raphael apparently, many years ago, wrote a song for me called "Seasons," which in fact I'm going into the studio with him tomorrow to record for his album. ... He wrote this song before he met me, for me, without even knowing that he would even meet me, never mind, you know, play in the same band.
Annie continues, recalling her experience from 1978, And I got this telegram from Pete Townshend one day saying 'please call me at this number' and I thought "Pete Townshend, why does he want me?" So I rang him up ... and he was involved with Raphael and he said he was doing an album with Raphael and Raphael wanted me to do some vocals for him, so they rang me up and got me to go down and "Seasons" was the song. And through that song I also met Phil Collins because he was on the demo's as well. It was quite an exciting time. And that was how Raph and I met.
Annie Haslam is featured on three tracks on Disc One. They are "Seasons," "Willow Song" and "The Awakening" which she sings with Peter Townshend. Annie does not contribute to any of the songs on Disc Two.
The initial track on Disc One, "Homage," is an instrumental track with several distinct movements and is reminiscent, as are some of the other tracks, of Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson's work. As expected it features Raphael Rudd's fine keyboard work. The song sets the stage for the rest of the disc which explores a broad range of Raphael Rudd's musical styles and moods. "Seasons" follows; the song opens with a multi-tracked keyboard introduction and a buildup with synthesizer, drums and percussion as Annie's vocals begin and take over. The chorus features multi-tracked Annie Haslam vocals, a strong piano theme and light percussion to underscore the rhythm of the song. Keyboard interludes separate the verses and fully demonstrate the range of Raphael Rudd's capabilities. The song has a strong resemblance to mainstream Renaissance in many ways and is certainly the highlight of Disc One.
The song "Travels" continues the progression through Disc One in a style very similar to "Homage," with almost percussive keyboard work and, like the two tracks that precede it, progressive drumming by Phil Collins. Rudd then conducts the Chamber Orchestra in a somber instrumental piece, entitled "The Game," featuring lovely oboe solos followed by Rudd's distinctively rhythmic piano work leading to a full orchestral treatment in later portions of the song.
The track that follows next begins with a very strong piano introduction and then, almost in reverence to the music of The Who, the short track "Kids Like Me" opens in full splendor. It sounds like it came right out of Tommy,, but of course it didn't. It features Raphael Rudd on piano, keyboards and vocals.
"Captivity," also featuring Raphael Rudd's vocals, piano and keyboards, is next up. The song has a style and mood right between the instrumental tracks "Homage" and "Travels" and the '70s Who sound of "Kids Like Me," but it reaches a higher level of sheer musical energy, far above these other songs, before fading away to conclusion.
"Moments" is a piano and oboe piece, very much in the style of "The Game," and almost follows on naturally from this earlier song. The song is much more classical-sounding than the other tracks on Disc One and is certainly a "surprise" track for what is supposed to be a progressive rock album. The piano work is softer and more somber; it lacks much of the percussive tendency heard on the tracks preceding this one. Again, the keyboard work is very reminiscent of Rick Wakeman, especially in his work, The New Gospels.
A very strong classically-sounding harp piece entitled "Magic Grace" follows demonstrating the strength of Raphael Rudd's talent. The song sets the stage and provides a wonderful introduction for the final two tracks of Disc One and Annie Haslam's next vocal track, which she sings accompanied by Raphael Rudd on harp, entitled "Willow Song." This very somber ballad is carried by Annie's voice and the harp provides perfect accompaniment. And while some may say that "Seasons" is the featured track of Disc One, I can assure you that others will say "Willow Song" is by far the most significant testament to Annie Haslam's vocal talent, and one that provides a sound you will hear no place else, not even on Still Life.
The title track, "The Awakening," concludes Disc One. A brief piano introduction leads to Annie Haslam's vocals opening the song with Peter Townshend joining. Other instruments, most notably a flute, join the song as it develops further. Then Raphael Rudd's piano takes over just prior to the main, highly spiritual, theme of the song. Instrumental interludes with short, but extremely powerful, piano solos join the theme sections, which feature emotional and spiritual vocal segments by Annie and Peter Townshend. Together this all makes for a very nice song, albeit very different from what some might expect on a progressive rock-oriented album.
Disc Two, recorded much later in Raphael Rudd's career, is certainly more new agey in sound and texture. Jody Miller writes: Disc Two is a sensuous blending of acoustic harp and piano surrounded by a multitude of electronic keyboards, guitars and percussion. These compositions cross the boundaries of traditional classical music, sweeping romantic melodies and high energy instrumental pop.
The music is multi-tracked with distinct drum programming and clear presence of both synthesizer and piano. If one were to compare the sound to other artists work, it would most likely be to closest to Yanni. The opening track "Joyfest" is an excellent example of this similarity, and the rhythmic sensation of Raphael Rudd's piano is felt most clearly. "Awaken" follows and again the new age feel comes through loud and clear with rich orchestral production while Rudd's harp is added giving the song an extra layer of texture and sheer brilliance to the sound.
A much slower and more somber song, "Evening Silences" follows featuring prominent harp and piano textures, but with a theme very similar to that of "Awaken." The two songs seem to go together like matching bookends with "Awaken" being the faster, more intense of the two and "Evening Silences" being the more somber, relaxed, quieter number. A very melodic yet somber piano song with synthesizer accompaniment entitled "Beyond Passion" follows. The song is reminiscent of theme music that would be heard in a very emotional segment of a romantic movie.
The title track of Raphael Rudd's other album, "Skydancer" is next up on Disc Two. The song opens with a rhythmic harp solo and builds gradually adding drum programming and more synthesized instrumentals until the flute and piano come alive to share in the theme. The theme is then echoed by the synthesizer which is used in a variety of voices to give tremendous depth to the song before the piano takes over once more to give additional warmth and depth to the song.
"Contemplation Of The Heart" is a song with a sound similar to "Skydancer" but the (multi-tracked) flute is much more prominent with the harp and piano almost becoming accompanying instruments. The final track "The Eastern Arti," is the only track on Disc Two with vocals and these are performed by Jane Brown, who has a very nice voice and a good range. This song is much more in the style of the spiritual songs on Disc One and this is clear from the harp part as well as the melody and lyrics which were written by Meher Baba and adapted by Raphael Rudd for this album.
The Awakening is nicely put together in a double-size double-CD package and it comes with a nicely printed booklet complete with photos of Annie Haslam, Peter Townshend, Phil Collins and Raphael Rudd. You'll also find a letter from Annie Haslam, another from Peter Townshend and one from Raphael Rudd. There are a brief set of liner notes, well written by Jody Miller, and a list of tracks for both CDs with a complete list of credits as well. The CDs are pressed and silk-screened nicely and the artwork is first class. Wedge Music have done a good job with this release.
So there you have it, our review of Raphael Rudd's album, The Awakening. If you like Annie Haslam's vocals and just can't get enough of her with Renaissance, the album is worth having perhaps if just for the track "Seasons" which is most likely one of the very best of the short tracks recorded. If you have enjoyed Annie's solo albums, it'll be worth it to have "Seasons" and "Willow Song." If you like music from new age instrumental artists like Yanni (Who in the USA hasn't seen Live at the Acropolis on PBS yet?) then odds are that you'll like the entire two CD set. And if you like music from The Who, don't forget the excellent, albeit short, track "Kids Like Me."
Raphael Rudd played great keyboards and harp with Renaissance during their final days and although he wasn't featured on any of the group's released recordings, unauthorized audio and video tapes circulating in the fan community provide a clear testament of his contribution. He contributed significantly to the sound of the 1989 Annie Haslam album and has worked with Annie on several live performances since. We can see that he's off to a bright solo career now and wish him success and of course look forward to new music from him in the future.
R. W. Elliot
26 December 1996