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Wakeman Album Aids Church Group

To most fans of progressive rock, Rick Wakeman is a virtuosic keyboards player who made his mark in the ‘70s with Yes and a subsequent series of elaborate solo opuses about mythic and historical subjects.

But Wakeman also has branched into Christian music over the past five years, a development that has been helpful to ASSIST, a Christian organization based in Garden Grove.

Wakeman’s most recent solo release, “In the Beginning,” is a benefit album, with all royalties going to ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times). The organization, founded by Dan Wooding, a transplanted British journalist, forges links between churches in the United States and churches in countries that are (or were until recently) under Communist regimes.

Wooding was the first reporter ever to interview Wakeman, back in his pre-Yes days, when the classically trained keyboards player was just emerging as a rock session musician. The two became friends, and Wooding later wrote an authorized biography, “Rick Wakeman, the Caped Crusader.”

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They had a reunion backstage at the Pacific Amphitheatre in September, 1989, when Wakeman was appearing with the Yes-offshoot band, Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe. That led to Wakeman volunteering to make a benefit album for ASSIST. He recorded it at his home studio in England, setting music to readings from the Bible by his wife, Nina Carter. “In the Beginning” was released last fall on ASAPH Records, a Christian label affiliated with Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. It has been marketed mainly in Christian bookstores.

“It was a real sleeper for a while, but it’s just beginning to take off,” Wooding said. “All the Yes fans are after it.”

For Wakeman, 42, the album is a broad departure from his classic-rock constructs of the past. “There’s no soloing, no fancy stuff,” he said. “I was trying to create an atmosphere more than anything else. It’s trying to promote Christianity and ASSIST, and not Rick Wakeman.”

Wakeman said he is working on another benefit album for ASSIST, with hopes for a Christmas release. Dubbed “Prayers,” it will incorporate songs as well as narrated segments.

Wakeman rose to stardom with Yes’s “Fragile” and “Close to the Edge” albums, and with two mid-'70s solo releases, “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” and “Journey to the Centre of the Earth.” But six years ago, he said, he found himself trying to cope with a drinking problem and financial woes. That led to his re-immersion in religion (London-born Wakeman had been raised a Baptist).

“I needed guiding in everything I did, because that’s the only way I would get through and put my life back together,” he said.

Wakeman’s first Christian album, “The Gospels,” was released in England five years ago. He said he plans to re-record it for release in the United States.


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