Review of The Classical Connection 2 submitted on 31st October 2000
This recording contains a selection of Rick Wakeman's compositions and two of his best covers, all performed in a classical style. Eleanor Rigby has been arranged by Rick in the style of his favourite composer Prokofiev and gives the listener not only a virtuoso performance by the maestro but also a brilliant accompaniment by David Paton on guitar. It's as close to a duet as you can get. The wonderfully gentle Birdman of Alcatraz has been rearranged from the now unavailable Criminal Record. Summertime by Gershwin is another triumph of interpretation and is a perfect lazy Summer Sunday afternoon track. Farandol was recorded in 1971 during the recording sessions for The Six Wives of Henry VIII and is special because it features Steve Howe on guitar, Chris Squire on bass and Alan White on drums. It's only short but it's a real fun piece. All the tracks are good but one other that stands out for me is Art and Soul. It's a piano piece with digital orchestral accompaniment, which is just brilliant.
Review of The Very Best of the Rick Wakeman Chronicles Video submitted on 11th November 2000
This is definitely one for the collection! If you didn't have the privilege of seeing Rick live in the early days, you need to get this video to see what you missed. Filmed in Australia in 1975 at a huge venue, it shows the maestro in his flamboyant youth, all flowing hair, sideburns and voluminous spangled cape. Why he never featured in shampoo commercials is beyond me because his hair is in such great condition and he swings it around in true superstar fashion! Performing with the Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra and the Melbourne Chamber Choir as well as a six piece rock band, Rick dominates the proceedings and looks confident and in control throughout. He tells a couple of anecdotes that are very funny. The whole thing evokes the mood of the time perfectly with Terry Taplin giving it large in true thespian style as he narrates Journey to the Centre of the Earth, complete with giant plastic dinosaurs. Gary Pickford Hopkins is every inch the rock vocalist, lithe and svelte in tight trousers and a lacy shirt, in direct contrast to the more robustly built Ashley Holt. Journey is performed in its entirety and there are two tracks from the then unreleased King Arthur. Three of the Six Wives complete the set list. Particularly good is Catherine Howard that has a good acoustic guitar solo by Jeffery Crampton that includes a snippet of Waltzing Matilda, much to the delight of the Aussie crowd. The mixing is a bit dodgy in places but it doesn't spoil the enormous fun. This is Rick in his heyday and is a great piece of rock nostalgia.
Review of Official Live Bootleg submitted on 11th November 2000
This two cd set was recorded live in front of 8,000 people in Buenos Aires, Argentina during August 1993. On this tour, Rick was accompanied by his son Adam who also plays keyboards, long time collaborator Tony Fernandez on drums and Alan Thomson on Bass. "Lure of the Wild" opens the first cd with an atmospheric intro and some typically dazzling speed playing from Rick. Live regulars "Catherine Howard" and "Catherine Parr" both give him the opportunity to play a bit with the basic pieces, a task he accepts with relish. Rick's arrangement of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby", is wonderful and a great live piece. Highlights from "The Myths and Legends of King Arthur" are played without the vocal accompaniment that makes an interesting change. The second cd is almost entirely devoted to "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" and very good it is too. Again, no vocals allows the music to paint the pictures and the arrangements are fantastic. Even if you know "Journey" really well, this live version will give you a whole new perspective on it. Rick's interpretation of "Paint it Black" the Rolling Stones hit, is the last track on the cd and is absolutely stunning. Throughout, it's practically note perfect and as the sleeve notes say, no jiggery-pokery has been done to the recording at the mastering stage so you can be assured this is exactly as the audience heard it. Rick Wakeman is at his very best in front of an audience and this cd proves it in great style.
Review of The Word and The Gospels submitted on 11th November 2000
Open this video with a fabulous Rodney Matthews cover and you have a live performance recorded in an outdoor amphitheatre in Caesarea, Israel in 1988. It starts at sunset and the backdrop to the performance is a tranquil beach. Rick, soberly dressed in a black suit and wing collar shirt with sparkly dicky bow, looks really great and the performance is lovely. The story of Jesus Christ is narrated capably by Robert Powell both live and in the intercut scenes out and about in the Holy Land. This gives the video an interesting dimension and adds texture to the musical performance. Rick performs with the Israel Symphony Orchestra, the Eton College Chapel Choir and Ramon Remedios and the whole show is delightful. Regulars David Paton and Tony Fernandez are also in evidence. There are good shots of Rick playing and although his performance in this show is obviously more restrained than his rock shows, it's good to see him perform in this style. Highlights for me are the charming "Welcome a Star", Rick's great twiddly bits in the style we know and love on "The Baptism", "The Lords Prayer" which Ramon Remedios does brilliantly and "Children of Mine" which combines a terrific melody with great playing by Rick and vocals by Ramon.
Review of The Classical Connection Video submitted on 11th November 2000
This concert was recorded in 1991 and is just Rick and David Paton performing a set that includes some great pieces in a classical style. The set starts with the ever brilliant "Merlin" and goes on to "After the Ball" which Rick introduces with the bowel-loosening story of how he "wrote" it. The brilliant arrangement of "Summertime" is just perfect followed by the lovely "Sea Horses" and then Rick's Prokofiev-style "Eleanor Rigby" which just gets better the more you hear it. David Paton contributes gifted guitar accompaniment throughout but his contribution to "Eleanor" is outstanding. The set finishes with a selection from "1984" including the superb "Hymn" and a great version of "Julia". The blurb on the box promises more of Rick's anecdotes than the video actually delivers, which is a bit of a disappointment if you were expecting to have a laugh as well as hear great music, but the stories he does tell are delivered in his inimitable style. Well worth acquiring, not only for the fantastic music but also for the interesting trousers Rick's wearing!
Review of The Classical Connection 2 submitted on 11th November 2000
This recording contains a selection of Rick Wakeman's compositions and two of his best covers, all performed in a classical style. "Eleanor Rigby" has been arranged by Wakeman in the style of his favourite composer Prokofiev and gives the listener not only a virtuoso performance by the maestro but also a brilliant accompaniment by David Paton on guitar. It's as close to a duet as you can get. The wonderfully gentle "Birdman of Alcatraz" has been rearranged from the now unavailable "Criminal Record". "Summertime" by Gershwin is another triumph of interpretation and is a perfect lazy Summer Sunday afternoon track. "Farandol" was recorded in 1971 during the recording sessions for Wakeman's first solo album "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" and is special because it features Steve Howe on guitar, Chris Squire on bass and Alan White on drums. It's only short but it's a real fun piece. All the tracks are good but one other that stands out for me is "Art and Soul". It's a piano piece with digital orchestral accompaniment, which is just brilliant.