is one of several New Age recordings by British
keyboardist Rick Wakeman that were
released in the 1980's. This album, recorded with Wakeman's longtime
drummer Tony Fernandez, was released in 1988 on the UK's President Records
label. Zodiaque is composed of twelve individual musical interpretations
of the twelve signs of the astrological zodiac, and is about as close
to an ambient record as Wakeman ever produced.
It's a wonderful album, not so much for the topic but for the
quality of the music. It is entirely instrumental, and the two musicians
use only electronic keyboards and percussion (except for the cymbals on
the drum kit). It creates a wonderful, quiet, contemplative space whenever
I put it on, and is one of my favorite Wakeman albums.
The premise of the record is that each of the twelve signs of the zodiac,
and the planets which "rule" them,
impart a certain character to those born while the Sun resides in their
sign. Wakeman and Hernandez tried to fashion songs with similar
characteristics to the nature of each sign. Whether or not they actually
believe in astrology is irrelevant, as they're merely trying to interpret
artistically the perceived influence of the signs. Though my knowledge of
astrology is limited, I think the two musicians do an
excellent job of bringing the zodiac (or "Zodiaque") to life.
The twelve songs (with their descriptions in quotes) are:
- Sagittarius (4:19) -- "Ruler: Jupiter. Traits: Optimistic, active,
- Capricorn (4:42) -- "Ruler: Saturn. Traits: Careful, ambitious,
- Gemini (2:51) -- "Ruler: Mercury. Traits: Lively, versatile, and
- Cancer (3:17) -- "Ruler: Moon. Traits: Imaginative, sensitive, and
- Pisces (4:43) -- "Rulers: Neptune and Jupiter. Traits: Caring,
intuitive, and vague"
- Aquarius (3:52) -- "Rulers: Uranus and Saturn. Traits:
Independent, original and obstinate"
- Aries (5:22) -- "Ruler: Mars. Traits: Brave, energetic and
- Libra (3:57) -- "Ruler: Venus. Traits: Idealistic, romantic and
- Leo (3:15) -- "Ruler: Sun. Traits: Strong, creative and
- Virgo (3:48) -- "Ruler: Mercury. Traits: Modest, practical and
- Taurus (4:14) -- "Ruler: Venus. Traits: Determined, warm and
- Scorpio (3:21) -- "Ruler: Pluto and Mars. Traits: Passionate,
purposeful and jealous"
The songs match the "characteristics" of the
individual signs perfectly. Songs like Sagittarius and Aries are lively
and uptempo to match their "active" and "energetic", Capricorn is
dark and brooding to match the "careful and pessimistic" sides of its
nature, and Leo takes on the air of an imperial march for the "strong
and pompous" king of the beasts. But regardless of the
emotion and temperment being conveyed, they're all very beautiful pieces. Each has
a lilting, ethereal quality that makes them peaceful to
But they're also melodic enough to make them engaging and interesting
at the same time.
The liner notes are scarce, but Rick Wakeman used Korg synthesizers
throughout. Tony Fernandez' equipment isn't
listed, though it is apparently a mixture of electronic, sampled drums,
and tuned percussion and cymbals. I have to say that Rick Wakeman is a
bit more prominent in the mix, though that may be because I'm more attuned
to what he's doing. Despite that, both musicians are billed equally, and
they both share composition credit for all tracks.
Rick Wakeman has put out several albums in this vein over the years. My
favorites include the trio of Country Airs, Sea Airs, and
Night Airs (recorded simply with a grand piano and no
accompaniment), and a musical impression of
the Isle of Man (Wakeman's adopted home) called
Chronicles of Man. But Zodiaque is still one of
my all-time favorites of his. It reminds me a lot of
some of Vangelis' work, and might appeal to
Vangelis fans, and those interested in new age electronica
or ambient music.
The CD was originally released on President in the
UK, and on Relativity here in the United States. The
crimson, with a wheel of the zodiac in the center. The catalog number of the
CD I have is Relativity-President 88561-1024-2.