Review by Erin Parnell
The Albano-Waite Tarot card deck is one of the many clones of the Rider Waite Smith deck. Like other clones, it has kept Pamela Colman Smith’s original drawings while changing the colors. This is one of those decks (like the RWS itself) that people are either going to love or hate. Some people may prefer the brilliant colors of the Albano Waite over the standard RWS, while others want to try something else.
I found this deck next to the Radiant Waite deck in the Tarot card case in Borders, and ended up buying (and enjoying) both of them. According to the Little White Book, the Albano Waite deck was originally published in 1968 by Tarot Productions Inc, with the art directed by Frankie Albano. The LWB also states that the deck went out of print in the late 1970s and “efforts to locate Frankie Albano have proven futile”. The deck that US Games Systems publishes is a facsimile (copyrighted 1991) of the 1968 edition. Otherwise, the LWB gives the standard issue short meanings for the cards.
The images themselves are almost exactly the same as the standard issue RWS deck. One exception is the Temperance card. A rainbow appears over the head of the angel Michael, which is apparently appropriate because the card Temperance and the rainbow correspond to the astrological sign Sagittarius, as well as Iris, goddess of the rainbow. (For more info read: The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination by Robert M. Place.) The cards themselves are roughly two and three quarter inches by four and three quarter inches. The cardstock is thick, glossy and should hold up over time. The back is white with an abstract sun design in gold leaf that is not reversible.
The main difference however, is the colors. The colors are very bright, powerful, and psychedelic. There are no real shading, but simply either bright colors or gray and black and nothing else in between. Examples include the Devil’s bright purple wings or the red sky behind the figure of Death. The grapevines on the robe of the King of Pentacles look like they would glow in the dark. The colors in the cards also clash, especially in certain cards as the Two of Wands, with the purple cloak on the figure clashing with the orange background. The farmer in the Seven of Pentacles wears sky blue and yellow clothes against a lime green sky and purple mountains. Some cards are predominately gray (examples include the Hierophant and the Seven of Cups.)
The backgrounds of the Minor Arcana are color coded. The Swords are light yellow, the Pentacles are lime green, the Wands is orange, and the Cups are a light turquoise bluish green. The Court Cards are also color coded (the Swords are light blue, the Cups are light turquoise blue, the Wands are dark turquoise blue, and the Pentacles are grey.)
The Albano Waite deck almost screams “late 1960’s acid trip.” I have thought of the deck as the Rider Waite Smith on acid. This deck is probably not for everyone. It is definitely a product of the late 1960’s. I like this deck because of the crazy colors and because I like anything from the 1960s and 1970s. To me the Albano Waite Tarot deck is very unique, has a fun feel to it, and is an improvement on the regular RWS. Other people may not feel the same way and find the colors too much to handle.