Pope Francis Releases Prog Rock Album ‘Wake Up!’

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Just when you thought Pope Francis had no more surprises up his sleeve, he has released his first prog-rock album titled “Wake Up!”

Despite its billing as prog rock, however, the 11-song album has turned out to be much mellower than the music press anticipated in the months leading up to its release.

In a September preview, Rolling Stone said the album would deliver the Pope addressing an audience “amid atmospheric synths, trumpeting horns and skyscraping electric guitars reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.”

Wake Up! combines music and the spoken word, with traditional Christian hymns reworked by modern musicians and composers. The music provides a backdrop for 11 speeches delivered by the Pope in Italian, Spanish, English, and Portuguese.

Though elements of prog rock do make an appearance, the music is a broad mix of popular styles ranging from Latin rock (Cuidar El Planeta), to string-laden balladry (¿Por Qué Sufren los Niños?), to Gregorian Chant (Salve Regina) to contemporary pop ballads (Santa Famiglia di Nazareth). The New-Age style track Annuntio Vobis Gaudium Magnum! even works in a Jewish prayer.

One review said the title piece Wake Up! is “one of the more muscular tracks” and credits it with “wailing guitars that later careen over horns and crashing percussion.”

Arrangements for the music accompanying the Pope’s messages were orchestrated by Wake Up!’s producer and artistic director Don Giulio Neroni, who had previously produced albums by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Neroni said that in producing Francis’ album, “I tried to be strongly faithful to the pastoral and personality of Pope Francis: the Pope of dialogue, open doors, hospitality.”

“For this reason, the voice of Pope Francis in Wake Up! dialogues music. And contemporary music (rock, pop, Latin etc.) dialogues with the Christian tradition of sacred hymns,” he said.

Wake Up! List of tracks

  1. “Annuntio Vobis Gaudium Magnum”
  2. “Salve Regina”
  3. “Cuidar el Planeta”
  4. “¿Por Qué Sufren los Niños?”
  5. “Non Lasciatevi Rubare la Speranza!”
  6. “La Iglesia No Puede Ser una ONG!”
  7. “Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!”
  8. “La Fe Es Entera, No Se Licúa!”
  9. “Pace! Fratelli!”
  10. “Santa Famiglia di Nazareth”
  11. “Fazei o Que Ele Vos Disser”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome