Top positive review
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If I had been born three years earlier ...
on 30 April 2014
I was probably too young to fully appreciate Rick Wakeman in his heyday. I was born in 1965, and so, when I became more conscious of the transformative powers of music, Rick Wakeman was on the lips of those already ‘past it’ (that is, two or three years older than me) rather on those of my contemporaries (though there were some who then mourned the passing of ‘Yes’).
So I have come to Mr Wakeman later in life. I heard some of his music by chance and thought it might be good to explore some more. I started with this CD, which was listed as the most-popularly ordered CD of his on Amazon. It dates to 1975 and lasts – as albums did in those days – a ‘mere’ forty-five minutes. There are no bonus tracks. There is also no lyric sheet. In fact, the sleevenotes are pretty bare, which is a bit disappointing.
As for the music itself, It’s pretty good stuff, with no duff tracks. Featuring rock group, keyboards, orchestra, choir, and some doses of whimsy in the form of a harpsichord, it rivals the likes of the music of the later ELO, Genesis, Alan Parsons Project, and Jeff Wayne that I did listen to when young. Certainly Wakeman’s prodigious talent is on display, with impressive compositions, impressive keyboard playing, and impressive production.
The music unfortunately sounds in places more like a musical than a concept album: so thank god for the solo in the middle of ‘Sir Lancelot’ as well as the lengthy instrumental that is ‘Merlin the Magician’ – but did we really need the completely inappropriate ‘Wild West’ saloon bar variation in its middle? Magic, it ain’t! But I did like Wakeman’s successful fusion of classical and rock music, such as in the reprise of the Arthur theme at the end of ‘The Last Battle.’
In conclusion, I am well-impressed. It’s not brilliant and it’s of its time, but it has inspired me to explore more of his work.