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Rick Wakeman - Rick Wakeman And The English Rock Ensemble: Live in Buenos Aires (DVD) CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.97 | 18 ratings

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4 stars Journey to the centre of South America

This DVD features a quite stunning performance by Rick and his English Rock Ensemble (a silly name for a great band). The vocalist here is Damian Wilson, known from Prog Metal band Threshold and Neo-Prog band Landmarq. He later did the new album Out There with Wakeman, which is one of Rick's best studio albums ever in my opinion. Too bad none of the Out There songs is present here, but they were not yet written at this time, I believe. I like Damian Wilson's voice very much and I prefer him over Ashley Holt. The rest of the band is equally amazing and all members are allowed to shine. Rick is a very 'democratic' leader of the band here and he does not need to be at the centre of attention all the time. The line up includes Rick's son Adam on extra keyboards, Tony Fernandez on drums, Lee Pomeroy on bass and Ant Glynne of guitars.

I have quite a few of Rick's live albums/videos and I must say that the present one is very special indeed. The nature of the concert is similar to that of the live album Out Of The Blue; identical line up and overlapping set lists. Indeed, I would say that they are something of companion pieces. Both of them feature something that the other one does not. But while both products are great, the CD album is without the few minor mistakes and technical imperfections present here. In that sense the album is preferable (and I did rate that one with the full five stars!), but on the other hand you won't get the visual aspect if you get only the CD and neither do you get the bonus material. Simply get both!

The present concert is a stunning show with strong band chemistry, great passion for music and immense instrumental and vocal skills of all involved. The set list is very interesting with several timeless Wakeman classics performed in new and very interesting arrangements. Rick's very best albums are all represented; Six Wives Of Henry VIII (Catherine Howard/Catherine Of Aragon (fantastic medley) and Catherine Parr), Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (the best arrangement of this song, much improved compared to the original!), The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur... (Lancelot And The Black Knight and Merlin The Magician (with vocals!)).

In contrast to the Out Of The Blue album, there is nothing here from No Earthly Connection. Instead there is 1984 (in a new and very good arrangement!). This song is rather rare live and it benefits greatly from Damian Wilson's vocals and Lee Pomeroy's blistering bass solo. The new arrangement of Journey To the Centre Of The Earth is an even greater improvement over its original version! The sometimes annoying narration of the original version is here removed and more space is left for instrumental workouts. It is slightly edited, but all the important bits are there and stronger than ever.

Buried Alive, originally from the Return To The Centre Of The Earth (a 1999 follow up to the original Journey album), and originally sung by the great Ozzy Osbourne (a personal friend of Rick's, I believe), is also better here than in its studio version. The original version is a little bit too orchestral and bombastic for my taste, while the present version has a much harder edge. The same is true, and even more so, of The Visit. This song was originally from the rather obscure Phantom Power album. While the original album in this case is very weak, in this version the song is great! We are also treated to a Yes classic in the shape of Starship Trooper. Again, what we have here is very different arrangement compared to the original and also incorporating snippets of Heart Of The Sunrise to great effect!

The only thing that could possibly improve such a marvellous set list would be to make it longer; presumably the Buenos Aires concert had a few more songs not included here for some reason (am I right?). It would have been nice to have the whole concert. Something representing the No Earthly Connection would have been nice, but you can't have everything can you? Or can you? As I have already mentioned a couple of times, the Out Of The Blue album does feature a great version of (part of) No Earthly Connection.

To sum up now, if all you know by Rick Wakeman is his early 70's albums you will be surprised by this and, dare I say, blown away! This performance rocks a lot harder than you probably think! Also, this live DVD brings together some of Rick's very best songs and presents them in new fresh ways - just the kind of live performance I like! This makes this both an excellent place to start if you want to discover Wakeman's solo career and an essential purchase for his most devoted fans. They really manage to create a strong band feeling that is often absent on Rick's studio albums and the musical atmosphere benefits greatly from this. For the most part they get things right, however. And all band members have their moments of utter brilliance!

Some imperfections are present, though, for example when Wilson forgets to come in at right moment on one occasion. Some minor faults are the only things that halt me from rating this with the full five stars! If you are looking for a live masterpiece, I would go for the Out Of The Blue live album. But don't miss out on this visual Prog fest!

Very highly recommended!

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


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