Rick Wakeman: British Live Performance Series


by Kevin Wierzbicki

.
Recorded in 1990 and one of the first releases in the new British Live Performance series from Rainman Records, this title features a never-before-released concert from prog keyboards wizard Rick Wakeman. Working with a three-piece back-up band consisting of bassist David Paton, drummer Tony Fernandez and singer Ashley Holt, Wakeman turns in a stellar performance featuring five lengthy cuts taken primarily from his solo works The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

The show begins with the instrumental cut "Catherine Parr," a real showcase for Wakeman and his nine keyboard set-up where a highlight of the twisting and turning arrangement is the portion that sounds like it's played on a pipe organ. The first part of "Elizabethan Rock"/"Make Me a Woman" is a circus-like instrumental, kind of appropriate since Wakeman plays a ringmaster of sorts here.

Singer Ashley Holt makes his first appearance on "Make Me a Woman," portraying a yearning Adam awaiting his Eve. Wakeman, always quick with a witty remark, introduces "Anne Boleyn" by saying he's only met four drummers who could play the piece properly, adding that, "Unfortunately Tony Fernandez isn't one of them."

Fernandez of course proves extremely proficient at reproducing the song's percussion-heavy parts and also takes a very precise solo mid-song. Holt returns to sing the incredible tale told in "Journey to the Centre of the Earth," here performed as an abbreviated form of the album that features about 19-minutes of highlights.

The show closes with "Merlin the Magician" where Wakeman plays piano in the song's quieter parts, switching to synth to back Holt's expressive vocals. Wakeman's fans will know all of the material here but these live versions are mostly rearranged and expertly-played, making this effort a most welcome addition to Wakeman's catalog.

Order the album here.

Rick Wakeman: British Live Performance Series
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