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Rick Wakeman - Softsword CD (album) cover

SOFTSWORD

Rick Wakeman

 

Symphonic Prog

3.19 | 26 ratings

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Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars RICK WAKEMAN was the first Prog legend who came to Perú back in September 1991 so there was easy to find information about him in the newspapers and among it I read he had released recently an album called "Softsword - King John and the Magna Charter", the name instantly brought to my memory the early stages of his career after a decade full of New Age releases, so the day I went for my concert tickets also bought the album sadly my first impression was negative.

It's true that the album had some moments but still not in the level of Rick's first albums, but slowly the album started gaining me.

Now I believe I can judge it with a clear perspective and what I see is a musician who had lost the path of his career trying to regain the respect of his fans who had abandoned him, and honestly he did a nice job, the album is at least satisfying.

The opener "Magna Charter is a 12:16 minutes epic that clearly reminds of "Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table", the whole bombasting sound that I loved so much when learning about Prog is back, the track is very solid despite the poor vocals by Chrissie Hammond (Well, Wakeman was never accurate when choosing vocalists) and the programmed percussion, some excellent changes and a coherent atmosphere make of this song a good starting point for the album.

"After Prayers" is a weak point in the album, sounds poppy and artificial, like trying to add Symphonic arrangements to a simple and absolutely in special ballad, the first point against Rick.

"Battle Sonata" reminds me of the sound from "White Rock", still not bad but well charged of cheesy selection of keyboards, despite this fact the performance of Rick makes me forget the flaws in this song.

"The Siege" is a nice change, the distorted guitar intro by David Paton is interesting and a change in Wakeman's music, the song turns cheesy again when Rick makes a terrible selection of keyboards and starts sounding pretty poppy, but when Rick starts with his organ and the heavy riffs by Paton follow him, everything improves a lot, another good track despite the uneven moments.

"Rochester Collage" is a nice dreamy instrumental that again reminds instantly of "Myths and Legends", to be precise to the song "Arthur", this time Wakeman's choice of keys is simply perfect, another very nice track, things are getting better.

"The Story of John (Love)" is terrible, repetitive and absolutely lack of interest, two words come to my mind when listening his track, uninspired and filler, not even the nice guitar by Paton saves the song, I always avoid it.

But again Mr. Wakeman retakes control of the album with another pompous and solid track "March of Time", somebody should have told him that he is good with the overblown music so he had avoided some boring ballads being that only progheads buy his albums and that's not what we normally expect from him. If you have a skip button in your CD player, better press it when "Don't Fly Away" is being played, completely forgettable example of the boring and cheesy ballads the Cape Crusader must avoid at any cost.

"Issabella" is a very nice instrumental, soft and slow but absolutely interesting maybe if hw had reduced it in one minute the result would had been even better, because the next instrumental "Softsword" with it's short 1:45 minutes is perfect as a reliever.

The album ends with "Hymn of Hope" which is simply excellent, Wakeman proves how versatile he is with his synth and organ while again Paton and Sawney make a good job with the guitar and percussion, a great and dramatic closer for an uneven album.

If you are expecting a masterpiece like "Six Wives of Henry the VII" don't buy it, because this is a transitional album after the weakest decade in the life of RICK WAKEMAN; but if you like his music get it because it's a breeze of fresh air after the crimes against music he committed in the 80's and gives hope to the bored fan who expected a resurrection of his idol.

Never the guidelines were so clear as in this case, "Softsword" is by in no way essential album (leave that honor to Journey, Six Wives, Myths & Legends and Criminal Record) but surely a great addition to any Prog collection, so four stars from me.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |

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