Organ and Keyboard Cavalcade Review by Ian King

Issue 342 – April 2016

(CD) Penny Weedon – Walking Back To Happiness
Running Time 76 minutes – Price £10.95

Penny Weedon - Walking Back To Happiness
Penny Weedon – Walking Back To Happiness

A couple of releases ago, Penny was the first organist to release a CD on the Yamaha Stagea ELS-01C organ, that being her ‘Rustle of Spring’ in 2010. David Last released a sequence dance CD on it the following year, but they were the only two releases. Six years later we have another first (although hopefully not last) with her new release on the new Yamaha D-Deck DDK-7 ‘orchestral keyboard’, plus her first foray into the world of the Tyros 5, albeit with only two tracks.

There are a few other organ CD firsts on this recording too, we have the first appearance of a piece from “The Armed Man”, a Mass from Welsh composer Karl Jenkins (“Benedictus” in this case). This has a wonderful sound with choirs, synth brass and solo violin and showcases the new keyboard and Penny‘s beautiful playing. This CD also contains the inaugural keyboard version of the brilliant James Bond theme “Writing’s On the Wall” from ‘Spectre’. I would hope this will make a few more appearances before long, although Adele’s “Skyfall” only made it onto one CD with John Kyffin’s Bond tribute disc. This is a really strong arrangement with the solo oboe and vocal choir trying to emulate Sam Smith’s amazing vocal.

There is the first-time showing of the theme to the 1970s TV series “No Honestly” (although I bet that appeared on a few organ LPs of the day). There is the solo piano piece, “Primavera” by Ludovico Einaudi which you will probably recognise from the Santander adverts from a few years ago.

“Pokarekare Ana” is a traditional New Zealand love song which has been recorded a few times and is one of the Tyros 5 pieces. The other one is Penny’s own composition “The Isle of Innisfree” which is a very pretty celtic air. “Broken Vow” is a under-used track too, it was released by Josh Groban way back in 2002 and was on DirkJan Ranzijn’s “A Time For Us” CD in 2007, but this is its first appearance since then. It’s done here as a classical piano and orchestral arrangement.

As well as some ‘newbies’, there are some classics here too. There is a lovely arrangement of “Autumn Leaves” which starts with oboe, reeds and strings before going very orchestral and a rippling concert piano backing. We have a lovely soft theatre organ version of “The Folks Who Live on the Hill”, an orchestral version of “Somewhere in Time” and a great swingy version of the ever-popular “Zambezi”. The title track “Walking Back to Happiness” follows a similar rhythm and backing with a trumpet lead. There is also a very ethereal version of the classic hymn “Kumbaya”.

There is a full-on pipe organ extravaganza with Prelude to Act III of “Lohengrin” where Penny does really pull out all the stops! An unusual arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life” next with a fast bossa-style beat. That’s followed by the Glen Campbell classic “Wichita Lineman”. The CD closes with two nicely arranged classical pieces by Grieg and Johann Strauss Jr.; “Ich Liebe Dich” and “Voices of Spring”.

I think this CD is one of Penny’s best and with twenty-one tracks and a running time of 76 minutes, she couldn’t fit anything else on here. It’s definitely one for the collection with an eclectic mix of titles, styles and arrangements. It also has a great overall sound courtesy of the DDK-7.

FULL TRACKS: Do the Hustle • Benedictus (from the Armed Man) • Good Morning Starshine • Autumn Leaves • The Folks Who Live on the Hill • Love Walked In • No Honestly • Somewhere in Time • Zambezi • The Isle of Innisfree * • Writing’s On the Wall • Walking Back to Happiness • Kumbaya • Lohengrin, Prelude to Act III • Primavera • Pokarekare Ana * • Broken Vow • For Once in My Life • Wichita Lineman • Ich Liebe Dich (I Love You) • Voices of Spring (Played on the Tyros 5 *).

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Review by Ian King from Organ and Keyboard Cavalcade Magazine.