Review of Almost Live in Europe submitted on 31st October 2000
Rick Wakeman's live playing on this CD is vivid and energetic, with some snappy drumming and fluid lead guitar as support. But, and its a big but, the songs are ruined by the singing. Ashley Holt is unimaginative and his voice is so raucous I begin to wonder if he was a heavy smoker. With a more reflective, sensitive singer this would have been a lovely momento of a live Rick Wakeman concert. Pity.
Review of Return To The Centre Of The Earth submitted on 31st October 2000
Overall this album has some lovely music and the digital production is outstanding. It is best listened to on a good hi-fi a few times (and not all at once) as it grows on you. The singers are very well matched to their respective songs - I personally like "Mr.Slow" from newcomer Tony Mitchell but among the six songs there's something to appeal to all tastes. Some of the lyrics are provocatively thoughtful. Rick's keyboards are spine-tingling when he enters with his extended solos over the choir and orchestra. The narration, needless to say, from Patrick Stewart, is beautifully spoken accompanied by hushed keyboard textures. My only reservation about this performance is the English Chamber Choir - they acquit themselves well and obviously put a lot of work into it, but they are of the older "big choral society" school. I would have preferred a fresher choir with younger sounding voices. However this is just a small quibble and is really a matter of individual taste. This album should be viewed as a landmark of modern music and is a great achievment for Rick Wakeman - Congratulations.